Collect 2 vouchers – Security Boulevard

If you’ve been following my nonsensical tweets and non-technical blog posts since 2015, you’re probably aware that the 2016 election cycle broke me more than a little, with each subsequent month of the Trump presidency adding a little more break. My brain is constantly trying to make sense of the systems of the world, from the micro (little personal/domestic things) to the macro (worldwide things). There’s a Marvel character (no, it’s not “Cap”), Karnak, whose main ability is that he can see the flaws in all things, and that’s the closest analogy what I can do with how deep the rabbit hole my brain goes with this world systems analysis. There has always been a deep need to grasp the “why” and “how” of all “what” (which, combined with being adept at silicon glowing rectangles, explains the gravitation towards cybersecurity, although all my researchers agree there is this same Columbo-esque desire to get to the bottom of things).

I really thought I knew the histories and trajectories of a decent percentage of the “what” in these world systems, believing that a host of modern day critical events, like Obama’s two-term presidency (to say the least to cite just one), were clear signs of the progress made by society, despite the long list of divisions and manifest inequities that remain. Even though we have lived in rural Maine for many years, I have been blindsided by the overwhelming public support and normalization of hate, largely based on fear. For some reason, it was easy to dismiss partisan games in Congress as just the way things are done in a suboptimal system. It was all too easy to compartmentalize the fact that supposedly decent people like my in-laws were clinging to every word that influencers like Rush Limbaugh and FOX News hosts vomited, thinking it was all about than a marginal element feeding on these contaminated information flows.

When the signs of the then impending pandemic first appeared, I naively thought this was going to be a catalyst for positive change. I thought even someone as narcissistic as Trump and his minions would see the need to unite people under one banner to help ensure we protect as many people as possible from the ravages of Covid, and lead a coordinated global effort to create and distribute treatments and vaccines as quickly as possible. I thought I knew how strong our CDC was and saw so many talented scientists using their skills to model and explain various outcome pathways, depending on how we approached the management of this virus. I knew that Bush had helped orchestrate an early modern pandemic playbook and Obama had built it, and it was actually pretty good.

Then I saw that we collectively don’t care that dozens of people are getting sick and/or dying. I’ve heard so-called leaders say that the economy is more important than human life; heard legitimate citizens say that wearing a piece of cloth or paper over your mouth and nose was too great a sacrifice to make; read countless stories, even from so-called religious leaders, of refraining from large indoor gatherings for a while, and periodically, to ensure we don’t overwhelm our emergency medical systems and crush workers of health there was Nazi-style oppression. And, I saw the last leader of the free world (since we have now permanently ceded that position to random agents of chaos) actively downplaying and subverting the crisis, leading millions to follow his example, which leads ultimately unnecessarily to the impending loss of a million lives.

When these signals appeared in March 2020, the break got a little worse (pictured one of those window or lake ice cracks that spider each other with each additional vibration), as it did with the beating of drum of the terrible event of 2020 (of which there were many).

As I suspect was the case with many readers (assuming there are many readers), I cried (the good kind) when Biden officially won the 2020 election. I foolishly thought , like so many others, that the sinking ship was beginning to be righted, and we would be on a slow journey back to sea again.

Then, January 6, 2021 arrived. Since then, I have seen state after state compete for the top spot of “worst failed state”. I have seen religious leaders and communities give their all to see who can be the worst possible version of themselves. And, I have seen even the most faithful among us declare an end to the pandemic because they no longer have the stamina to care for the least of us and those who provide medical care to our communities.

Talk about being broken.

We have this term in cybersecurity called “fuzzing”. It’s a technique where you send input into an application that it’s not really designed to handle (e.g. imagine sending the entire Webster’s Dictionary in a single date field) and then do it to multiple times to see if you can crash the app, change the expected behavior, or end up in a state where you can compromise it. The events of 2015 until today feel like this has been/is a huge blur against all honest and clear-headed members of society; and my human OS just crashed.

In the spirit of “I can do this all day”, I may have been/be broken, but I didn’t just stay that way.

  • I have read more tomes than you would think if I had to list them.
  • I listened to so many podcasts that I expected Apple’s Health app to tell me, maybe, to turn off all audio devices for a month or two.

  • I filled my RSS reader with feeds of exceptionally gifted humans who, too, tried to make sense of what happened and where we are going.

  • (I also prayed, walked, cycled (bicycled), scouted, took a sabbatical, read more fiction than ever before, and stepped up healthy cooking/eating to try to balance out all the bad entries.)

I did all of this because I felt compelled not only to understand (in fact, need to understand), but also help to solve this situation in which we find ourselves. Selfishly, a big part of this desire to leave behind a better world for my children and our new grandson.

Lately, I’ve seen most of my input sources morph into the same thing: telling the end of America as most modern people know it. They have gone from working to understand why/how we got here and what can be done about it to doing the same thing we all did pretty much in 2016-2019: shaking our heads at every bad news and writing down how crazy bat guano the individual behind the bad news was. Not really hopeful. In fact, I could sum things up with two lines from Matchbox 20’s “Back 2 Good”


“And everyone here is to blame
And everyone here is caught up in the pleasure of pain”

A recent entry in the aforementioned tomes was Jeremy W. Peters’ book Insurrection: How Republicans Lost Their Party and Got Everything They Wanted. I was a little more demanding in the “January 6” analysis tomes that I throw a coin at, and I was appalled – another reporter was pulling out a book, but I listened to the little voice and I dropped an Audible credit on it and I was a literal godsend.

One of the main reasons for it to keep crashing is that many system components (keys) were missing. You can’t identify failure modes without seeing the complete system, and Jeremy was able to close (most of) those gaps. It did an amazing job of going far enough back and going through the event trees thoroughly enough that I could actually feel the puzzle pieces fitting together. Where there were once clouds, there are now clear skies. Objects with chasms between them now have bridges.

The functional and almost complete documentation of the systems was extremely therapeutic. It is amazing how many personal mental processing cores have been dedicated to this problem. It’s also amazing to have to regain certain faculties of the cognitive processor to do things like code for fun, again.

As this is not a book review (or the book itself), I will not go into every item that has been clarified. That’s not really the purpose of this post.

I guess the first point is if 2015-2022 also somehow broke you, realize you’re not alone. I don’t think anyone was fully (or even partially) prepared for what we all ended up going through and are still going through. Hopefully knowing that you are normal, and that there are so many broken people out there, will help quell at least that part of being broken.

The second point is that there was a rhyme and a reason to how we got to where we are now. It may be more crude limerick than poetic rhyme, and the reasons aren’t great, but the events weren’t random and they didn’t come out of nowhere.

The third and final point is that knowing that there are ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ to the ‘what’ means, it is possible to work to forge compensating controls (i.e. it can there are concrete actions we can take to improve things and put up hedges to prevent us from following similar chaotic paths). We’re still not on a great collective path, and there’s no magic wand we can wave to make things better. But we can all make individual and incremental progress in our own way. For some, like me, it can mean getting out of certain comfort zones to do things you wouldn’t normally do. For others, it may be applying aligned talents to sorted areas, doing what you can to improve even the smallest thing. We are not going to bomb A to get out of this conflict. This is going to take a long period of gradual and positive changes.

If you’re still trying to figure out what went wrong, I highly recommend Jeremy’s book. You can also reach out if you need personal reassurance that all is not, in fact, lost. Unlike the hopeless ending of the aforementioned Matchbox 20 song, I actually believe there is a way to “get back to good” and, for me, that journey begins now.

I close by thanking you from the bottom of my heart for the patience and kindness many people have shown and expressed during this time. You have done more than you can imagine.

*** This is a syndicated blog from the Security Bloggers Network of rud.east written by hrbrmstr. Read the original post at: https://rud.is/b/2022/02/13/getting-back-2-good/


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