I’m doing an anti-pattern on privacy for the this month, going full Google with email and browser. People who go to ProtonMail for privacy make me giggle given that over 1 billion people a month are using Gmail. Unless you’re just emailing other people using ProtonMail your email is being “scanned” by Google. Silly people.

Mission to Paris (Night Soldiers, #12) – a review 📚

I’m posting some old reviews I put up on Goodreads years ago. I wanted to have them on my own blog.

This was my first Alan Furst novel. I tried reading one before (Night Soldiers) and only was able to make it through a portion because it was, well, boring and not my thing. I kept reading good reviews of his novels though and decided to give the latest in the “Night Soldiers” series a go.

Good choice. Furst is a fantastic writer and one of the few (Stephen King and J. K. Rowling do the same) that I’ve read that writes in a such a way you get a clear vision in your mind of what he is writing about. You can actually see the scenes he’s painting with words.

Set on the eve of the start of World War II the book follows an actor, Frederic Stahl, on a trip to France to make a film for Paramount. One of the things that struck me about this novel is how great Furst is at generating emotion. The book is very good at giving a sense of foreboding over the coming war and fall of France. You get a very palpable sense of the storm that is coming to Europe. I always had a sense of unease while reading as if I was living in that time and experiencing things with Stahl.

Furst is also very good at dialog. It feels very authentic and real. I also found it interesting the heavy use of italics to help impart certain meaning and emotion to the words. I have not seen this used quite as heavily by other authors but it really gives a wonderful sense of the sub context going on under what is being said.

And the guy just has a way of turning a phrase. Here is an example:

They lay together on a deck chair, she in formal gown, he in tuxedo, the warmth of her body welcome on the chilly night, the soft weight of her breast, resting gently against him, a promise that wouldn’t be kept but a sweet promise just the same.

The one thing I didn’t like was the overuse of sexual situations in the story. I’m no prude but the guy goes a bit overboard with the descriptions. If I wanted a romance novel I’d read one. This stuff doesn’t belong in a period spy novel. I felt the same way about the “Foundation” series by Isaac Asimov. The first novels, written in the 1950’s, were pure hard sci-fi. The later novels had far too much sex and it just didn’t fit.

Mission to Paris was a good read. Enjoyable characters and fantastic writing. What isn’t there to like?

Silence is important

Came across this interesting (if old) article today on Pocket about silence. What I find amusing sometimes is when people do research into the obvious. It should be obvious to everyone that sometimes silence is necessary for healing, recovery, or just plain keeping our sanity.

This article felt so timely though because this year I’m volunteering again at a gymnastics meet soon and this year I’m prepared. Last year the whole idea of silence being necessary for us to be healthy came into sharp focus when I spent a whole weekend volunteering at the same gymnastics meet. 12 hour days of constant, loud, noise. Loud music, lots of people cheering, clapping, etc. It was a constant wall of noise. At one point I couldn’t take it anymore and went out to my car. I sat there in silence for 15 minutes and I was shocked at how refreshing it was. I was able to get through the rest of the day without losing it.

This year I’m planning on taking multiple breaks as part of the goal to keep myself healthy over that long weekend. Silence truly is golden!

Photo by Conor Luddy on Unsplash

Android leading the way to mobile, password-less logins

This was an interesting read on Wired. FIDO2 support on a huge platform like Android will hopefully get Apple off it’s butt for iOS support of this standard. I hope it also pushes a lot more websites to support U2F. It would go a long way to making the web a much safer place.

I have a YubiKey which is a fantastic security tool when used with websites that support U2F. Unfortunately Chrome is the only browser that fully supports it out of the box. Firefox 57+ also supports U2F but it is not turned on by default. Most unfortunate is the lack of websites that support U2F. TOTP is security theater. It’s much better than SMS-based codes but not by much as it’s still very easy to spoof someone into giving up the right code. You’re still better off just using strong passwords.

Interesting take in The Atlantic (“Stop Trusting Viral Videos“) about the events involving the Black Hebrew Israelites, teenagers from the Catholic school in Kentucky, and Nathan Phillips in Washington DC this past weekend. It is interesting how video can influence what we think about a situation and almost makes the facts irrelevant as people jump to conclusions about what they’ve seen.

What to do with social media?

So I’ve been thinking a lot as of late about what to do with what remains of my social media accounts. I dropped Facebook a long time ago. I was using it very infrequently already but more of the people I cared about keeping in contact with on that platform slowly started dropping off, tired of the low signal-to-noise ratio. The fact that I was unhappy with their business practices made the decision that much easier but now I’m wondering, what about Twitter, Instagram, and Reddit?

Twitter can be a real cesspool to be sure but it can very useful. The way I use it now is probably 95% as a news source and I tweet occasionally. I also use, and completely adore, Instagram. I post much more there and it’s a fabulous platform to follow the food websites and publications I love. Also found my favorite pair of boots there (Jack Boot in green). But as we all know Instagram is owned by Facebook and that gives me pause these days. Reddit? Well, Reddit provides almost zero value and I’ve already deleted my account twice there. But I keep getting pulled back there to argue over stupid stuff.

I’ve been asking myself lately just how much value are these apps adding to my life? The pull to them during any moment of boredom is very strong. It was strong enough that I took Twitter off my phone. Instagram is useless without the app installed. Reddit I can say with certainty that I’ve answered the question of usefulness multiple times. So where does that leave this conversation?

My Twitter account is almost 11 years old. I’ve tried deleting it multiple times only to come back before it was truly deleted. Funny how they make that work isn’t it? Are you really sure? Hey, we’ll hold the account for 30 days just in case you change your mind! They make it far too easy. 30 days is a long time and my (lack of) willpower and fear of losing my Twitter name and early join date has always brought me back. I’ve made some really juicy rationalizations in why I should keep Twitter but I also keep coming back to the question: should I keep Twitter?

Instagram is a much harder question to answer and I’m pretty sure at this point, Facebook ownership or not, that I’m keeping Instagram. So far from a privacy angle I just don’t see the same problems for Instagram that Facebook is having. There is no doubt that they track what I look at there but I don’t think there are the same privacy implications there as with Facebook. Ultimately I find it very useful and I don’t find that I keep asking myself if I should delete it.

Reddit? I don’t think there is any question on that one: forgetit.

The Simple Art of Brewing a Cup of Coffee

The red Melitta brewer has been sitting patiently in a drawer waiting to be put back to use. The #2 paper cone filters have been biding their time in another drawer, certain that one day they’d be called upon again to brew a cup of coffee, one cup at a time.

But sitting in drawers they have been because, I hate to say this, in the last several years I’ve been lured by the promise of speed and efficiency. Drawn toward the more quickly acquired cup of coffee I bought a one cup Keurig machine (also red. is there a pattern here?). Never mind the flaws, it is as easy as it gets. Put in water. Put in a coffee pod. Hit brew. Done in a flash.

Before the Keurig I used to do a cup at a time using the pour-over method. Sinfully delicious coffee and cleanup was very easy. But the amount of time. It just took too long and kept me from rushing out the door in the morning to get to a fully-rushed day. But this weekend, my mind demanding that I start to slow things down a bit, I rediscovered the joy of the pour-over, and oddly enough, that it really doesn’t take much time. And did I mention the wonderful ritual? Or the fact that the coffee simply tastes better?

Steps to the perfect cup of coffee

  1. If you like sugar in your coffee put in whatever amount you prefer in the bottom of the cup. The mixing happens automatically as the coffee drains into the cup.
  2. Fill up your favorite kettle with water and start the water heating.
  3. Put the single cup brewer on top of your cup.
  4. Put a filter into the brewer.
  5. Put two heaping tablespoons of your favorite coffee grounds into the filter.
  6. When the water is finished boiling let it rest for about 1 minute to bring the temperature down a bit.
  7. Now slowly pour the water over the grounds. Make sure to get them all wet.
  8. As the water drains keep it moving by continually slowly pouring more water over the grounds in a circular motion and keeping them all in play. Enjoy the smells coming up out of the cup.
  9. Put the brewer in the sink to finish draining once you’re near the top of the cup.
  10. Enjoy the best cup of coffee you’ll ever have.