Christmas at the Ranch

What's the opposite of a noisy, crowded, hurried Christmas?  It's Christmas at the ranch.   If you're a fan of that last couple of minutes at the end of CBS Sunday Morning, where they have a moment of nature, you're going to really enjoy this video.

It's 6 minute video taken with my new HD camera that shows a really quiet, peaceful scene of the horses, some Sandhill Cranes and my dog, Nellie.


Bill Maher's a Hero

It sad that some people think Bill Maher's not funny.

He's a comedian and comedian's are known for exposing hypocrisy. On Christmas eve he tweeted,  "Wow, Jesus just fXXX #TimTebow bad! And on Xmas Eve! Somewhere in hell Satan is tebowing, saying to Hitler 'Hey, Buffalo's killing them'."

Now a bunch of religious conservatives are calling for a boycott of HBO, the network Maher appears on.  Most religious conservatives probably don't watch HBO anyway and religious conservatives who are hypocrites probably do and won't stop.  Maher doesn't have to worry. He's safe at HBO.

My gag reflex kicks in whenever someone tries to tell me what to watch, read, listen to, etc.  Maher is funny and smart and I'll continue to watch him whenever I can.  Our society will certainly survive Maher's tweets and Tebow's religious zeal.

More at Chicago Tribune.


Dying at Christmas

Of all times of the year to die, why do people have to die at Christmas time?

The fact that people die at what's commonly believed to be the most joyous time of year is proof positive that there is no God.

Christmas is set aside as a time for most people in our country to at least pretend or attempt to be a little happier then other times of the year. Life is hard. Especially with the poor economy and chronic unemployment it's easy to feel depressed, downtrodden.  We go full speed all year, sweating and toiling;  trying to stay alive. Life is gray and difficult.

Then Christmas comes. A happy time. A time of parties and good food and gift giving. Then someone has to go and die and ruin all the good tidings.

I lost two good friends at Christmas.  Steve Stover was a kid I grew up with in Ohio. We met when I was about 12 years old. We were in the same classes and graduated high school together.  Afterward, he went off to the Navy and I  drifted in and out of college but we kept in close touch. We did a cross-country trip together in 1981.  He died of complication from pancreatic cancer the  day after Christmas in 1997.  He had just turned 41.

Just last year my friend Danny Smith died the day before Christmas Eve.  Between 1975 and 1982 we were as close as two friends could be.

Now just 8 days before Christmas Eve I learn that the incredibly gifted writer Christopher Hitchens has died. I tried to read everything he wrote. I certainly loved to see him take apart some feeble-minded, right-wing believer in a debate.  I could only hope to be half as smart as Hitchens.

It's certainly sad when anyone dies, anytime of the year.  There's something extra sad about having someone you love die during the holiday season.  Dying at Christmas makes it seem as though reality is mocking our childish beliefs about joy and peace and goodwill towards men. Of course it's not true but it sure seems that way to me.


Protect Yourself

Sure, in 1995 all I had was one Yahoo email address, so all I had to remember was one username and password.

But now I have at least 5 email accounts, Facebook,  online banking, insurance and more. In all I have about 100 online accounts. Up until a couple of years ago I used the same username and password for them all and then it dawned on me.  If someone guessed that one password, they could take over my life.

It's impossible to remember more then a few unique passwords. To be really secure online you should have a different password for each online account you have. The strength of a password is a function of length, complexity, and unpredictability.

I looked around for a solution and found Keepass Password Safe. This little program has been the best thing I've ever done to help protect myself online. KeePass is a free open source password manager. You put all your passwords in one database, which is locked with one master key or a key file. So you only have to remember one single master password file to unlock the whole database. The database is encrypted using the most secure encryption algorithms currently known. So all I have to remember is one password which I use to unlock my a file that contains all my other passwords.

With Keepass I make passwords that are 15-20 charaters long, with upper and lower case letters, numbers and special characters like ?>!%. I never have to remember any of them.

I would highly recommend everyone who is online to get some sort of password manager. Hackers are out there looking for a way to take over your online accounts. Don't make it easy for them.

Keepass Password Safe is available for every operating system known to mankind. I use a portable version installed on a flash drive I can take with me wherever I go. Check them out on their website at: Keepass Password Safe.