Random Musings of a Skeptical Nerd

StarWars Episode 9 and the current events in the United States

Go watch Star Wars Episode 9. There is a subtle but poignant 2A reference at the end of the movie that is key to the entire Star Wars saga.

StarWars episodes 1-3 was about the death of democracy and a total tyranny taking control. A sobering point is the quote from Episode 3 “So this is how liberty dies…with thunderous applause” as the Republic applauds themselves after they handed total control of the galaxy to the now Emperor Palpatine.

“Han Solo” shows us what life under the Empire was like for the average person. The average person who VOLUNTEERED for service in the empire believed that they were doing good in civilizing the galaxy. It also shows that the Empire relied on warlords to keep control in areas.

Rogue One, shows us the true intentions of the Empire and what the cost of fighting it will be.

StarWars episodes 4-6 follows the rebellion as an organized and funded militia comprised of normal people who volunteer for their service. The Empire conscripts soldiers and shows its true evil. Eventually, the Rebellion wins, only to fail to keep control in the long term. This is common throughout history and even our own founding fathers predicted that the same thing was eventually going to happen since it is the natural process of things.

The Mandalorian shows what is left of the galaxy as the new republic struggles to keep control from growing factions of what is left of the empire. Basically warlords control their little fiefdoms that are out of direct control of the Republic and the remnants of the Empire.

Starwars 7-9 shows the effects of proxy warfare. The Republic has lost its taste for war and refuses to directly deal with the growth of the now organized remnant of the Empire, the First Order. This leaves the remaining leadership of the original rebellion to organize and fight again. This time they are not powerful enough and most of the series follows their demise. The Republic eventually is destroyed from this and the Empire is resurrected through the First Order.

Episode 9 reveals who is in true control and results in a final battle that has a very pro 2A theme to it.

Go watch it now, like the infamous Greedo shot first crap, I am sure that this final scene will eventually get rewritten.

Jet Fuel Fun at home!

This winter I am heating my garage with a 75,000 btu multi-fuel forced air heater. These are commonly called torpedo heaters.
For those who are not aware how these devices work, similar fuels like Kerosene. Diesel 1/2, and JP8 (Jet Fuel) is ignited and then injected into a high velocity twisting stream of air in a tunnel. For safety and to add radiant heat to the system, the jet flame is focused on a steel plate at the end which glows cherry red.

I bought my heater used, so I filled it with JP8 ( cheap where I live) to clean it out since Kerosene is too expensive. I am now running it with Diesel in it.
This morning I was adjusting the flame for the diesel mixture that I am going to use for the winter and a few things came to mind.

With a standard wick or surface fire JP8/Diesel1,2/Kerosene burns around 820F. The max temp is around 1500 degrees. In a forced air heater like I have, the heater runs about 1450 degrees.

The steel plate that is in my heater is about an 1/8 of an inch thick and can easily be bent with tools when cold. When my heater it is glowing with a focused 1450F flame. Yet it stays solid, even with repeated heat/cool cycles every day every winter for decades of use.

This had me thinking even more, for that steel plate to become molten it has to reach 2500F which is impossible with JP8 or related fuels. If it could heat to that temp, this type of heater would not be safe. A $200 mixed fuel torpedo heater clearly demonstrates this every time it turns on.

This makes one have to think about 9/11 and also Epstein did not kill himself.

Are 190 children worth giving up our liberty for safety and security?

The liberal masses are chanting that we must have red flag laws and join all of the other nations of the world that have banned firearms for civilian use. The driver for this demand is the perception that people are in some kind of major danger and that this problem is something that we must focus serious time, money, and sacrifice liberty to address.

This article is not going to address the gun issue, but let us take a look at the statistics.

Recently, Washinton Post updated a 2018 article with the recent Dayton and El Paso shooting statistics to show how bad things are starting to get. They include all kinds of statistics and data about shootings from 1966 to 2019. Take a moment to read the article, the link is at the bottom of this page. It has some really cool shiny infographics and it is designed to make you think that mass shootings have become a real problem.

The problem is the actual numbers. They are statistically insignificant. While horrible and this problem needs to be addressed, there are much worse problems out there that affect many more people, however, the media and politicians are focusing on this issue instead of things like inner-city violence, medical mistakes and malpractice, Big Pharma, and other things that kill and harm far more people.

Since the cry of a liberal is “Think of the children,” the article focuses on that of 1196 victims of “mass” shootings since 1966, “190 were children and teenagers.” This sounds horrible and the intention is to have a kneejerk response, however as a skeptic, this number does not even sound statistically relevant. Recently Neil deGrasse Tyson pointed out this fact, and he was condemned for it. The problem is that people are intellectually lazy and will not take the time to understand basic statistics. The math is simple and any sixth-grader has the needed math and analysis skills. The media and politicians exploit this laziness for their own agendas.

The 190 child death statistic needs to be put into perspective. Let us first estimate the number of children and teenagers that have been in existence in the United States since 1966. The quickest way to accomplish this is to take census data from 1950 ( this is the first year that attempts were made to make annual birthrate tracking.) Children born in 1950 would be 16 years old in 1966. Based on the provided US Census and CDC data and then estimating for the gaps in the data there are an estimated 268,123,113 children and teenagers in the US from 1966 to today.

According to the article, 190 children have died due to mass shootings since 1966. That is 7.08629e-5 % or 0.0000709% of all children affected.

Another way of looking at this is that the number is 1 child out of 1,411,174 kids have died since 1966 from a mass shooting.

According to the CDC the average number of children (0-19) who die from accidents each year is 12,175 based on a 50 year sample. To compare this to mass shooting deaths, this means that an estimated 645,275 children have died from accidents since 1966. That is 0.240663% or 1 out of 416 kids and teenagers have died from an accident from 1966 to the present.

So what should we be worried about? Taking guns from law-abiding citizens and all of the unintended consequences to save 1 out of 1.4 million kids, or paying a little more attention when driving down the road, locking the gate to your swimming pool, teaching safety courses and maybe we could reduce the child accident rate down a little bit from 1 out of 416?

-The Technical Skeptic



  1. Washington Post 4 AUG 2019 – “The Terrible Numbers  that grow with each mass shooting.” Bonnie Berkowitz, Chris Alcantara and Denise Lu – https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2018/national/mass-shootings-in-america/?noredirect=on
  2. Neil deGrasse Tyson Comments – https://www.cbsnews.com/news/neil-degrasse-tyson-mass-shooting-tweet-about-guns-causes-backlash-for-astrophysicist-on-twitter/
  3. Census data – https://www.infoplease.com/us/births/live-births-and-birth-rates-year
  4. Census Data – https://www.census.gov/topics/health/births-deaths.html
  5. Census Data – https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data_access/ftp_data.htm
  6. CDC Child accident death rates – https://www.cdc.gov/safechild/child_injury_data.html

Birthrates based on US Census data – The rows that I labeled EST – I used the previous year data since it was not available on the surface level searches of the US Census site. The CDC has much more data on this however, after checking about 15 points, the numbers was close enough to the US Census and the infoplease data. This type of data is fairly predictable unless there is a major event that impacts the population like war and famine.

YearBirths Birthrate per 1000

Can Google manipulate an election?

In current news, Google is being accused of manipulating public opinion by altering search results based on the political agenda of the company. Of course, Google denies that they manipulate search results. They also claim that it is impossible to manipulate public opinion via their platform.

Ok. Let’s test this.

Love him or hate him, Alex Jones is responsible for the creation of the alternative media movement, primarily through his website infowars.com and radio show Infowars. It is estimated that his content is responsible for influencing 3-5% of the voting public in the United States. This number alone is enough to decide a presidential election.

I am writing this article on 11 August 2019. I am going to enter the search term “Alex Jones” into several search engines to compare results.

Search 1 – Bing.com

The first result is the link to infowars.com and a neutral bio of Jones.

Search 2 – Aol.com

Aol has similar results as bing.com. This is not surprising since AOL uses Bing’s search engine.

Search 3 – Yahoo.com

Yahoo.com is a mirror copy of AOL. Thus we can assume that they use Bing’s engine.

Search 4 – Webcrawler.com

Again a neutral search response with infowars.com first (after the paid promoted links.) Then Jones’s bio and IMDb results.

Search 5 – wow.com

This page has similar results to webcrawler. It is obvious that all of these sites share info and use a common source.

Search 6 – DuckDuckGo.com

DuckDuckGo is a little different than all of the other sites. It is a privately funded pet project where the owner does not care about making any money from the site. Thus their goal is to be as unbiased as possible and they claim to take users privacy very seriously.

The interesting thing is that their main backend is Google’s search engine.

Note that like the other sites so far, the results resemble bing.com’s neutral search results.

Search 7 – Google.com

Note that Google has something completely different than the other search sites. Not only is infowars.com not listed, but the biography is also very biased, and even the listed pictures are quite different.

All of the links go to sites that have negative information about him and I went as far as 10 pages in and did not find anything positive or a link to Infowars.

Now let us look at this from another viewpoint, the number of sites found in the results.

According to Google, there 509 million+ search results, and not a single positive to neutral link to him is popular enough to make the first page (or first 10)?

However, Bing and the other sites returned a much lower number of sites, around 1.2 million with infowars.com, Wikipedia, and IMDb links as the most popular results.

Final Thoughts

It is obvious that Google is manipulating the results for this search. How many other search terms does this happen to? Add to this that the major social media sites have openly admitted to banning any discussion about people like Alex Jones. Thus it is quite difficult for people to talk about this phenomenon.

However, things are actually even worse than this, google.com is the default search engine on the Chrome and Safari browsers. This also applies to Google’s Android phones and Apple’s iDevices.

This means for almost all internet users in the US, all search results that they receive is Google based. Most users do not know or care to either run another browser, operating system, or even to change the default search engine on their device. Thus they rely on google’s results, and most people do not know any different.

This brings us back to the question, Can Google manipulate an election?

–The Technical Skeptic

The Technical Skeptic 2.0

About three months ago, I decided it was time to buckle down and learn kubernetes. For me the best way to learn things is to build something in my lab, break it, repeat. Once that is stable, I then bring my home application stack over to it. The hard part is that I am a infosec guy with a systems background. I have a CS degree and worked as a developer for a little bit and decided that I liked systems admin much more. The problem with kubernetes is that all of the documentation and tips is from a developer’s mindset, thus it is a big jump to grok it. To show my age, think of the jump from a procedural language like the original home computer basic to pascal or c. While at the same time, going OO.

It took a few months, but I got there. I will outline that in later posts.

I have ran a blog off and on from time to time. This time around I decided to try again is because I can now host it myself in kubernetes, complete with TLS. So here I am.

Rules of Operation That My Elmer Taught Me

Originally Published on 13 January 2016 on my old blog.

As I get older in this hobby, I am finding lessons that were taught to me as a teenager by my elmer ( SK W0NAZ) are repeated as I am now assuming the role as an elmer.

When I was first entering the hobby, there were digital modes but the due to the cost of a tnc and a computer with a serial port, CW was my only option.

Today we are seeing a revival of the hobby since the barrier of entry to the hobby has been decreased with affordable and easy to use technology.

A common question I see asked is what mode do we use, how do we use it, and when do we use it?

This is where I always end up repeating the rules of operation that my elmer taught me.

The rules are simple since there are not that many.

1. Follow the FCC rules and laws. 
2. Learn how to use your radio!
3. Listen before you transmit.
4. Use the modes common to that frequency (aka a band plan) 
5. Ask if the frequency is in use. 
6. Use only the amount of power that you need.
7. Monitor your signal, if you can’t, ask someone about your signal while saving up to buy the equipment needed to monitor your signal.
8. Ask someone about your signal.
9. Give time in-between transmissions to let other people talk. 
10. Yield control of the frequency to those who need it more than you do.
11. If someone needs the frequency more than you do, ask them how you can help.

This is how my elmer taught me to operate and it has served me well over the years no matter how much the technology has changed.

73  de KB0FHF aka TechnicalSkeptic