Monday, December 10, 2012

Top Ten Movies at The Bengies Drive-In - 2012

Top Ten Movies at The Bengies Drive-In - 2012

The Bengies closed out their 2012 season in November. I missed the last few weeks due to traveling, and though I was hoping for movies up to Thanksgiving it didn't happen.  I put together this list of my favorites from 2012, as I have in prior years.

From tenth to first Countdown

10. Brave

9. Dr. Seuss' The Lorax

8. The Pirates! Band of Misfits

7. Men In Black 3

6. The Dark Knight Rises

5. The Amazing Spider-Man

4. John Carter of Mars

3. Lawless

2. The Avengers

1. The First Annual Bengies Drive-In Scout Camp-in - ParaNorman, The Odd Life Of Timothy Green, Premium Rush

 Yes, the top 1 movie is three movies, but the event was such an experience that I could not resist rating that evening as the best of the season.  It rained like mad before the shows even started. I didn't get much sleep, and neither others in the crowd, and I'm looking forward to the second annual drive-in camp-in.

Also Rans:

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island

Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted
Total Recall

Special Mention:

Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo (during the Labor Day Dusk To Dawn Show)

Links to prior reviews:






Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Spectate this

This past weekend, I attended Order of the Arrow training at Broad Creek. In between sessions, and, yes, sometimes during a session, I looked at email and other online doings. I've followed the twitter account known as "@BaltoSpectator" for over a year, ever since I saw the man's bio listing his occupation as "urban combat correspondent". He's shown himself to be complex, confrontational, and, yes, wanted to make a spectacle of himself.

We had a spirited, intelligent discussion about fire station closings (and site locations) in Baltimore City, after I piped in about computer models used for public service spending decision making. It's not an easy topic, and breaking things down to simply numbers can turn life-and-death decisions into mere budget line items.

Saturday night, @BaltoSpectator used my name to tweet a link to one of his blog posts (see image below), and it was interesting enough that I re-tweeted it. I knew at the time he wasn't just sending this to me, since it came out of the blue, yet as with many memes, it had a great hook. Little did I know how many people got similar messages (nor have I researched it), but apparently his volume of posts during that time window got his account temporarily suspended for violation of Twitter rules.

Not long after my retweet, I got a DM from the good doctor, thanking me for, well, I'm not sure what. I could sense something was happening, but I wasn't clear what.

I'll include a few links below, for those who stumble on this story without the background.  As I occasionally viewed the succession of messages on the topic (searching Twitter, and other web places, while still at camp), I could see the possibility of a bad ending, as we've seen with other cases where a citizen exhibits unpredictable behavior in the context of a police setting. The Doctor is wily, though, so I held out hope he didn't to anything to martyr himself, which one could derive from some of his posts.

"He is reportedly being held without bond." - the Baltimore Afro,0,7174579.htmlpage

Do I feel used?  Yeah, a little.  Do I feel this man should be in jail?  No, I don't think so.

Did he plan a sensational confrontation?  Yes, but it was entertaining.  Not too educational, in my books, but definitely a distraction from life's little problems.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Clever phish, I got away

I saw an email supposedly from LinkedIn today, but it seemed just the tiniest bit odd.  Too odd for me to click through the included link, yet so close to an actual LinkedIn communication.  A very clever forgery.

The first clue was the sender, showing "confirm @".  That didn't seem right.  I had to look at where they normally originate, which was "messages-noreply @".  Then, besides the "click here" baited trap, there was the unusual grammar.

... You have more than one email address, and you need choose one to be your primary email address.

 They left out the "to", for one thing.  The trailer looked different too.  On closer inspection:

The first one is the fake, and just contains my email address.  The second is from LinkedIn, and has my name, most recent title, company, and no obvious email.

Digging into basic debunking tools, I looked at the message headers carefully.  Here's a few fields from the junk mail:

X-Forefront-Antispam-Report: CIP:;KIP:(null);UIP:(null);IPV:NLI;;;EFVD:NLI
X-SpamScore: 21
Received: from (
Content-Type: text/html; charset="us-ascii"
Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit

And fields from a legitimate email from LinkedIn:

DomainKey-Signature: q=dns; a=rsa-sha1; c=nofws;
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: multipart/alternative;
X-LinkedIn-Template: tickle_yphanj
X-LinkedIn-Class: TIK

An email purportedly from an address in Belgium (".be"), transferred through another server in Brazil (".br").  Um, not thanks, not today.

The links in the email didn't go to the right place either.

Later, phish.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

It's very plane.

I was looking for a local restaurant (OK, the closest with Indian food) and checked out directions with Google maps. That's the place up in the top left corner (or northwest) with the "A" symbol. Not too hard to get too, though once I got there all the buildings looked the same.

But what caught my eye was a silhouette of an airplane, seemingly parked right next to Interstate 95. I've been on that road (Cowenton Avenue) many times, and if there was an airplane sitting on the someone's driveway I certainly missed it. Perhaps it was because of the winding roads, or maybe it was a recent acquisition of some eccentric neighbor. I don't know, and I needed to find out more.

As I zoomed in closer, virtually speaking, I realized this plane was not parked, it was in flight. The ground surface showed trees beneath it, and if a plane had been pushed or dropped there somehow, it probably would have made the local news. I was curious as to how that happened, with the Google satellite imagery capturing an airplane at some lower altitude. Perhaps someone with better fuselage recognition and good math skills could compute the height of the plane during this photo capture. I'd say it was probably on descent, most likely to BWI, not Martin State Airport.

The highest zoom level shows interesting color gradations on the wings and tails. I've somewhat morphed them by shrinking the number of colors to get the image as small as possible for blog viewing under network bandwidth conservation rules.

Since Google regularly updates imagery with new versions, I've included a couple links below so you can see if the plane shot is still in the catalog or not. The first is an embedded Panoramio clip, with someone else's shot from I-95 of the nearby Joppa Road overpass in the center. That was a fairly simple way of grabbing the closest coordinates to the image.

<iframe height="450px" src="" width="450px"></iframe>,-77.236966&sspn=2.114625,3.213501&vpsrc=0&t=h&ie=UTF8&z=17

39° 23' 51.52" N  76° 25' 50.85" W 
Finally, if you look at the first shot above, you'll see the same plane is visible twice. At least, I hope it's the same plane, and not some kind of airplane game of tag. It's in the ballfield near "Autumn Glow Way." No, not that kind of glow.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Eye Pad Candy

Eye Pad Apps


3/1/1 : Google Maps. Useful, though Apple provides a similar tool in the base distribution. I use the maps on my phone or home PC more often than this one.

3/1/2 : Time zones. Basically a short cut to the site. "Never warp your brain with time zone math again."

3/1/3 : Twitter. Yah. It works, though this implementation has some strange quirks. The swiping takes getting used to.

3/1/4 : Netflix. Good enough for most movies, and the Instant Queue search picks can rapidly appear on my larger screen unit.

3/1/5 : Kindle Reader. Was better when the catalog could be seen directly on the eye pad. Have gotten used to getting free tomes via Amazon, and from Project Gutenberg /

3/2/1 : Dropbox. Pretty slick, especially for moving eye pad screen shots onto other places, given the standard claustrophobic Apple approach. I used it for these screens.

3/2/2 : AccuWeather. Last update made it harder, not easier to use, but still a fast short cut to forecasts.

3/2/3 : Google Earth. Works, as long as the connection speed is good. Dismal in copying data for use anywhere else, compared to the PC edition.

3/2/4 : Google+. The last big update made the interface "slicker" in the sense of slippery, not functionally. It's tied for #2 with FB, behind Twitter.

3/2/5 : Skype. Again, a recent upgrade moved stuff around, and you can see more ads creeping in. But it does what it is supposed to.

3/3/1 : Vtok. Nice, free, multifarious comm app. Fills in the gap of G Mail not working so hot with Safari. A bit crash prone, but it's free.

3/3/2 : Briefing. A leftover SAP Mobile Demo. Close to useless.

3/3/3 : Public Radio. Dead simple interface to bring in what it says. Easy bookmarking of favorites.

3/3/4 : FTP Client Pro. The second app I bought. Works well, except for odd limits. Recommended if you need it.

After filling the first (really the third) panel with apps, I tried to split 3 and 4 between most used and less used, though I may revise which are where again.

4/1/1 : LOL banner generator. Good when meetings run too long.

4/1/2 : TIOD. Um, I forget.

4/1/3 : Speed Test. Every electrician should test their circuits regularly. Use this one at home and on the road.

4/1/4 : Free Ping. Simpler version of Speed Test. Does what it says.

4/1/5 : Spreadsheet. Used when showing youth how computers work. Won't replace Excel or OpenOffice, but has basic elegance.

4/2/1 : Quick Sketch. Lke the above, does basic drawing. Good for quick signs, etc.

4/2/2 : MW Dictionary. It sits there.

4/2/3 : Timer+. A countdown clock. Handy for filming SCNotties 30 second videos. Not so handy for boiling eggs.

4/2/4 : NSLookup. Again, does what it says. Handy when you're in a strange network and unsure which way is up.

4/2/5 : Calculator. One more basic app a computer should not be without.

4/3/1 : VNCViewer. The first app I bought. Using more now, but without a 3-button mouse and a decent keyboard, it's like building a ship in a bottle.

4/3/2 : Adobe Viewer. Guess I can live without this one.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Beads, Service, Awards, Reports

Once in a while I like to publish a "how-to" blog. Almost no one will need to know how to do what follows, but if you do, then my work here is done.

We've been working on "digitizing" service records in OA LodgeMaster. Here's one way to look at the content to check the progress and completeness.

Wimachtendienk Wingolauchsik Witahemui

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Optimistic attitude; optimism with an attitude

My friend said, "I read an article related to optimism at work" and "if someone asks 'How are you', instead of saying 'good', 'fine' etc., reply 'I am terrific' , 'Never felt the same before'". Does this work? Do I do this? Instead of replying privately, I'm setting this out in public. I don't get a lot of blog comments here, but that's okay, I'm still able to share the URL.

First, what does it say about your mental and emotional state if you answer with the standard response ("fine.")? Are you in a rut? Is it simply a meaningless human interchange, similar to a parade wave, non-specific, uninteresting and ritualistic? How often do people really want to know how you're feeling? How often do you want to know many details of colleagues lives when you pass them in the hallway? I like to think I don't always say "fine." I heard that enough from my then-middle-schooler ("How was school?" / "Fine"). I also like to think I don't just ask "How are you" for no reason, or any other alternate version ("how you doing, how's life treating you, what's new?). What are my standard answers? "Peachy keen" is one that gets a laugh. People know from that answer I'm feeling good, spunky, chirpy. And if things aren't going well (you'd have to be a total dreamer to think everything is fine all of the time), then "Meh" or other guttural responses are called for ("Ugh, Bleah, Blech, etc.) Any of these must be followed immediately with some detail, otherwise, just say 'fine."

Second, does your answer depend on who asks the question and how receptive to significant details they are? Yes, of course. There are people who I know that care more about me than others do. I'm not likely to either spend a lot of energy on someone who is unreceptive, nor share burdens with them if they have shown little empathy in the past. That social "check list" of who deserves more openness and honesty is mere human nature. Should we change the menu sometimes and share randomly with those who don't normally listen? Sure, but only with the assumption that you'll get no response.

Third. Do you like winding up total strangers? In the same vein, do you treat every random person equally? I'm not talking about commercial transactions like chatting with store clerks or service people. I'm talking about the man in the street, person on the bus, anyone you stand near in a public place. I'm not always open and communicative, but I think I could and would speak to nearly anyone. Asking how their day is going, and expecting to hear a fully qualified answer, instead of "hi, how you doing, later" is extra-personal.

Fourth: "have you replied like this to anyone before?" (meaning "I'm terrific" not "fine"). Sure, not much lately, but I think I've used the word "awesome" and others instead of bland answers a lot of times. Probably more than others have said it to me, or maybe that's just my spin,

In conclusion:

'Jim, how are you'?

Spectacular. You?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Are you the one?

My friend and net compatriot Susan Scrupski posted a blog with the same title as this one recently. With her permission, I'm reposting it with minor changes that should be obvious, and some not so obvious.

I've experimented with on-line dating. It's mostly humiliating or weird (sometimes both). It occurred to me that via my various social networks, I'm connected to millions of people. Rather than try to push my lame profile and faux image out to strangers, I thought I'd try to take a more direct or "pull" approach.

If you've landed here, you probably know me. Or at least are curious enough to read my personal blog. If the following candidate profile fits you and you are available (emotionally and legally), please reach out. I'm not shy and neither should you be.

You are a woman (sorry boys). You're not a lesbian or conflicted about your sexual preference. You're not an addict. You're intelligent, funny, fairly self-confident, educated (either self-educated or formally) and you've achieved a level of success that satisfies you. You value individuals and relationships on a deeper plane. Less of the "what can you do for me?" and more of the "I value who we are together."

You are savvy with technology (probably a must). You prefer Linux, NetBSD or that ilk. You are politically aware. You have some strong opinions about politics and society, but respect others who do not agree with you and are equally as dedicated. You have faith in humanity and are not dogmatic. You love the arts and science, and your curiosity knows no bounds. You are a music lover. You love to travel and know your English. You're generous in thought and deed, but have a healthy respect for financial conservatism.

You love family and friends, and people who know you love to be around you. You're not judgmental and you can be trusted. You like animals and are not uncomfortable outdoors. You hate liars. You're not an elitist.

Your life has not been perfect. You've taken a long while to come to terms with experiences that led you to become the person you are. You have sometimes made bad choices, but have no regrets. You are generally optimistic and have no fears about the future.

You're looking for a man who doesn't need you. A man who chooses to be with you because he "gets" you, and isn't interested in changing anything about you. You're looking for a man who knows how to love.

So, are you the one? Send me a note on any social platform. If you know someone (referrals count!) who fits this description, kindly pass it on.

Be sure to thank Susan for making my day, and follow her on ITSinsider. And pass on notes to Susan if you read her post on Relationship+.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Academic Achievement in 2011

For the first time in years, Mom and the four Spath children attended the Md Workforce and Technology Center annual awards ceremony. The weather cooperated - no ice, snow or rain.

I always look forward to the event with some pride and a bit of trepidation. At times like this I miss my Dad the most, thinking about what he accomplished for the Center, and how happy he was talking about his early work on computer aided learning for the disabled. Each year, a new award winner, as well as the graduates of each curriculum impress me with their attitudes and demeanor.

This year's award recipient is again a model student. Patricia Flint is studying for her GED while facing obstacles of impaired vision and hearing.

Her "DORS" counselor writes: 'Ms. Flint has accomplished far more than "just wanting something to do.: Ms. Flint reminds me that a focused determination and a kind disposition can co-exist quite nicely in the same person.'

It was a great pleasure meeting her, as well as seeing her daughter and grandchildren attend the ceremonies. Despite her vision problems, she said to me "I see you have a beard." How cool is that?

Sadly, my video that should have recorded the introduction of the award was interrupted shortly after after the start when my phone rang. Since I had been warned not to talk on a call under threat of everyone stopping and listening to the conversation, I didn't answer it. If I had known someone would call just then I might have found a way to avert that foul-up, or recorded with another device.

The second video is around 7 minutes. Forgive the hand-held blurriness!

Part 1

Part 2