Sunday, April 28, 2019

Limbic resonance

I think that guys are hardwired to want to adore a pretty woman.

Throughout history, from Adam and Eve, Samson and Delilah, Ahasuerus and Esther, through contemporaries and beyond, men have repeatedly said “I'll do anything you want me to do, as long as you let me love you.”

There are three parts to this:

1) Define “Anything you want me to do”

2) Define “pretty woman”

3) Define “let me love you”

Anything you want me to do

Well, too many guys, including Adam, Samson, Herod, and a bunch of others took this too literally, to their own demise...

I say, anything decent and honorable you want me to do. Eating the fruit or chopping off John's head are not included...

So we won't dwell on it, but yes, there are limits on “anything”...

Pretty woman

Who knows... I think it is defined by A General Theory of Love

in which the psychiatrist authors describe the phenomenon called limbic resonance:

As in all the cited events, two people met, looked into each other's eyes and instantly knew that

“I belong to you, you belong to me, and nothing in the world can change that.”

As the authors describe, reptiles have a brain stem, but not much else. They lay their eggs and wander off, leaving them to be fertilized by some other creature unknown to them.

Mammals on the other hand, have a nodule at the top of the brain stem, called the limbic system, that enables them to instantly recognize their mate and their offspring.

You have only to observe the kittens in a cattery. There are several moms and perhaps a couple of dozen kittens in a pile, all squirming and mewing.

    The mother cat gets fed up and decides to get her kittens out of there. They all look the same to us, but she knows exactly which are hers, and pulls them out of the pile.

    Similarly, I went to get a Siamese boy cat. There was that pile of kittens. One little guy crawled out from under the pile, looked me straight in the eye and yowled: “You belong to me. I belong to you. And nothing in the world can change that.”

And so it was, for fourteen years. Hank was my buddy. Many wonderful (and a few difficult) adventures, but all in all a wonderful experience.

But now we get to humans.

The problem with humans is that they have frontal lobes in addition to the limbic system.

So when faced with another human, with whom they have this natural limbic resonance, the frontal lobes kick in and block the natural response:

“Oh, no, wrong color eyes...”
“Oh, no, too young...”
“Oh, no, too old...”
“Oh, no, my job...”
“Oh, no...” for a host of other equally invalid reasons.

And everybody loses.

We all need to get back to basics:

Recognize limbic resonance when it happens, and respect it for the truth that it offers:

Look: I belong to you, you belong to me. And nothing in the world can change that.
So let's figure out how to make it work.

Certainly, do due diligence, address the concerns, take the time to check it all out.

But please, please, do not pretend that it does not exist. It does exist, and we all lose for denying its existence.

Let me love you

This means just what it says: Let me...

Again, from Adam and Eve onward, the recurring theme from God has been: surrender.

Surrender your will to God and trust that He will care for you.

Surrender your defenses to your soul mate and trust that they will reciprocate.

Surrender means having the courage to open yourself to another, be it God or another human being, and trusting them to reciprocate.

As with the previous, yes we need to do due diligence and check things out. But after a certain amount of examination we need to surrender.

Because without surrendering to each other, neither can obtain the closeness and intimacy that we all crave. It will always be a game of one upmanship.

In which case we all lose.

That does not work.

Sunday, April 14, 2019


Screwtape. A reference to C.S. Lewis' *Screwtape Letters*:

Lewis was paid by the inch, as was Dickens, so I have tried to boil it down.

In short:

Here is a synopsis of the book:

Screwtape is a very senior devil. He is not Satan, but perhaps his prime minister.

His nephew, Wormwood, is trying to be a good little devil by corrupting the souls of men. But every time he tries to corrupt the souls of men he screws up and they go to heaven, not to hell.

So he writes his uncle for advice: "Dear Uncle Screwtape, where did I go wrong?"

Screwtape smacks his forehead and replies: "Oh, my Satan! How could you DO such a thing? HERE is how you corrupt the souls of men..."

He then proceeds to describe how to corrupt the souls of men:

You just toss marbles in their way. They slip and fall and hurt themselves, then lash out against all around them. He screams at the wife, she kicks the dog, the dog bites the cat, the cat scratches the child. And they all sit around in a miserable huddled mass...

Then Screwtape appears, with his arms folded, and they cry out to him: "Did you do this?"

"No", he replies. "I just provided the marbles. The REST was up to you."

So, when this happens to me, I recognize it and stop:

“Aha! A Screwtape moment!”

And recognize it for what it is, and refuse to allow it to proceed.

In any case, TBTG, I have learned that lesson, so whenever faced with sudden adversity, I stop, look around for Screwtape, and if too many blinking lights just go in a different direction. I've come to call these "Screwtape Moments"...

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Make KDE Plasma Activities work for you!

KDE Plasma “Activities” are a great idea. The idea is that you can collect a number of applications and files in a group, present them together, and not be distracted by a host of other objects irrelevant to that Activity.
They are a superset of “Desktops”,in that they can contain a number of Desktop configurations.

We define a number of different activities with a nickname and keyboard shortcut, create the activities, and populate each Activity with a shell script stack and control the individual application instances with the KDE Window Rules system settings.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Transition Evolution to a new installation

I'm moving technology posts to

We recently converted the operating system from openSUSE Leap 42.2 to Linux Mint (8) KDE. Doing so required transfering our Evolution data to the new OS.
Details at

Friday, February 24, 2017

Chromium video playback [Solved]

We were unable to view video in Chromium
     Version 54.0.2840.100 (64-bit)
     Linux openSUSE 42.1.
The solution is here:
     in Chromium.

     Override software rendering list Mac, Windows, Linux, Chrome OS,
     AndroidOverrides the built-in software rendering list and 
     enables GPU-acceleration on unsupported system configurations.
Restart Chromium.
Problem solved.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Missing Cat

This happens all the time. It just happened again in the neighborhood. 

After having provided this information several times in the past to others, it suddenly occurred to me: why not just blog it? Then I can simply provide the URL and we all win.


So sorry, I feel your pain. My little buddy went missing for a month.

Finally found him: curiosity almost killed the cat:

There was a family moving out a few houses up the street, so the basement covers were open, and curious Hank went in. As they had just finished loading the truck they slammed the covers shut and left, trapping Hank inside. 

The out-of-town owner returned a month later to prep for the next set of renters and heard Hank yowling (Siamese). He had seen my posters, so knew who to call.

Hank had lost five of ten pounds. The only thing that kept him alive was a leaking pipe, so he wasn't dehydrated. 

All's well that ends well and he lived another seven years. 

So in the meantime, some tips:

1. Report this to the local authorities (
e.g., Police, Potter League, Newport Animal Hospital), and other veterinarians and animal shelters. People often turn in lost animals, and like it or not (reality): there are some nasty people out there (some of whom I met in my ordeal) who will simply snatch a pet out of jealousy or just plain meanness.

2. Register with

3. Offer a reward. (The finder refused. Thank you.)

4. Make posters and put them up around the neighborhood. Many owners are out of town and don't read the local social media. For example:

5. Go around knocking door to door.

6. Read up on "Pet Detectives". Google is your friend:

I went with Carl:

At the time he offered a DIY paper with all the considerations for $30 (as I recall), I can't find that now, sorry.

There is a whole culture out there about this problem: they hide in storm drains, get disoriented and can't find their way home, especially if hurt or scared, etc. etc. etc.

7. When you find him, erect an invisible fence so it won't happen again:
     Moriarty in Portsmouth or Warwick:

They are designed for dogs, but work equally as well for cats. I'd put the collar on him and let him out in the yard, so he could do his cat thing of lying in the sun and chasing birds and other critters, but if he tried even approaching the fence within a foot or so he got a nasty shock. So no way to jump the fence. Tough love.

Again, so sorry, but there is much you can do beyond social media. 

I hope you find your buddy.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Easy when you know how: Let's Encrypt open source "automated" TLS/SSL certificates and keys

We recently renewed our StartCom certs for our vhost domains.

The sites immediately failed SSL:
     Chromium reported

     Firefox reported

          Trusted No NOT TRUSTED

It turns out that Apple, Mozilla, Google no longer trust StartCom:
so the CA (Certifying Authority) cert(ificate) was not being accepted.

So, what to do? We decided to go with Let's Encrypt:

Easy when you know how, except we didn't. But we do now. After working through this tutorial you shall also. 
This post provides a top level of the gotchas we found along the path.


The system is a bit short on concise documentation (hence this post) but there is a helpful wiki:
and, as always, Google is your friend. 

First, Let's Encrypt is a system put in place by the EFF (Electronic Frontier  Foundation) to provide free TLS/SSL certificates:

The objective of Let’s Encrypt and the ACME protocol is to make it possible to set up an HTTPS server and have it automatically obtain a browser-trusted certificate, without any human intervention. This is accomplished by running a certificate management agent on the web server.

The agent operates under the ACME (Automatic Certificate Management Environment) protocol. Any number of clients for the ACME server exist: the protocol is open source, so anyone can write a client for it and many have. recommends we use their “official” client CertBot:
Certbot is an easy-to-use automatic client that fetches and deploys SSL/TLS certificates for your webserver. Certbot was developed by EFF.
Certbot is part of EFF’s larger effort to encrypt the entire Internet. Websites need to use HTTPS to secure the web.

Except that we were unable to get it to work under openSUSE. It is not in the normal repositories. We found several ymp packages but all failed either to install or installed but failed to run: fails to run after installation. clones a git installation. It runs, but only checks its installation:
     certbot-auto certonly --webroot -w /srv/www/htdocs/gvhl \ -d
Bootstrapping dependencies for openSUSE-based OSes...
Loading repository data...
Reading installed packages..

xxx is already installed...
Nothing to do. lists a huge number of alternative. But which? suggests GetSSL:
     GetSSL is designed so you can also run it from a different server, providing you have SSH / SFTP to the server you want to place the certs on if needed, for servers / devices where you couldn't run most other clients.

Ultimately we went with Dehydrated:

We found
and it just runs. But it needs configuration.

Configuring Dehydrated

To begin please note that, unlike StartCom, CertBot, and GetSSL, you need to install and run Dehydrated on the target server machine, not a proxy.

These are the steps:
1. Install Dehydrated
2. Set the Staging
3. Create domains.txt
4. Create well-known
5. Create /etc/dehydrated/config

6. Configure Apache2
7. Start it:
     # dehydrated -c -f /etc/dehydrated/config
Now: Success!
8. Reverse the Staging and reexecute
9. Get the CA certs
10. Link the /etc/dehydrated/certs files to /etc/apache2/ssl.crt and ...key
11. Amend the apache .conf files to address these.
12. Now check the certs.
13. Go to production.

1. Install

openSUSE installation requires that you add the repository with yast
on the server:

Then use yast sw_single to install:

2. Staging
Let’s Encrypt has stringent rate limits in place.
If you start testing using the production endpoint (which is the default), you will quickly hit these limits and find yourself locked out.
To avoid this, please set the CA property to the Let’s Encrypt staging server URL in your
config file:
That means you issued those certificates against the staging server (possibly with --test-cert or --dry-run). You should reissue against the production server by removing those flags from your client invocation, if present.

Once you've gotten things working mostly, comment out these to get actual (not fake) certs:
Once your testing is done against the test certificate authority server (happy hacker fake CA) you need to edit the script to point to the production certificate authority server to generate a valid certificate. Edit the script and look for the variable at the top called "CA=" and uncomment out the "official server" and comment the "testing server". For example:
# The Lets Encrypt certificate authority URL
#CA="" # testing server, high rate limits. "happy hacker fake CA"
CA="" # official server, rate limited to 5 certs per 7 days

DO NOT delete the staging certs: it will break apache! Just let letsencrypt replace them when you go to production.

After all the testing is done you will need to run it with the -x option, since you will have created test certificates and it will refuse to regenerate actual certificates unless forced to do so:
     dehydrated -c -x -f /etc/dehydrated/config

3. domains.txt
Create /etc/dehydrated/domains.txt on the server:
Dehydrated uses the file domains.txt as a configuration file for which certificates should be requested.

4. well-known
n the server machine:

     # cd /var     
     # mkdir www     
     # mkdir www/dehydrated
     # mkdir www/dehydrated/.well-known
     # mkdir www/dehydrated/.well-known/acme-challenge
     # touch www/dehydrated/.well-known/acme-challenge/m4g1C-t0k3n

Change the owner and group
     # cd /var/www/dehydrated
     # chown -R wwwrun:www .well-known

Change the mod from 0755 to 0775

     # chmod -R 0775 .well-known

Copy it to each :

     # cp -R .well-known /srv/www/htdocs/
     # cp -R .well-known /srv/www/htdocs/gvhl

     # cp -R .well-known /srv/www/htdocs/nptbeyond
     # cp -R .well-known /srv/www/htdocs/privustech
     # cp -R .well-known /srv/www/htdocs/truthcourage


5. config file
is mostly commented out, showing the default values.

Two values must be uncommented and corrected:
     # E-mail to use during the registration (default: )

6. Configure Apache2

We must add a dehydrated.conf file in /etc/apache2/sysconfig.d:
Edit /etc/apache2/httpd.conf to add
     Include /etc/apache2/sysconfig.d/dehydrated.conf

Create /etc/apache2/sysconfig.d/dehydrated.conf to read:
     Alias /.well-known/acme-challenge /var/www/dehydrated     
     Options None

     AllowOverride None
     # Apache 2.x     
     Order allow,deny

     Allow from all
     # Apache 2.4     
     Require all granted

The #Apache 2.x section is deprecated so we delete it.

Restart the server.

7. Start it

The first time you run it it will be in the Staging mode.
     # dehydrated -c -f /etc/dehydrated/config
Now: Success!

8. Reverse the Staging and reexecute

9. Get the CA certs

LetsEncrypt keeps their root offline, so we need to use the active Intermediate as the CA cert. But which? They have a number of different intermediate certs:
     Our intermediate “Let’s Encrypt Authority X3” represents a single public/private key pair. The private key of that pair generates the signature for all end-entity certificates (also known as leaf certificates), i.e. the certificates we issue for use on your server.

The one that works for us is the cross-signed cert:

So we would expect that cert to verify the leaf cert:
lavarre:/etc/apache2/ssl.crt # openssl verify -verbose -CAfile lets-encrypt-x3-cross-signed.pem OK

And indeed, it does. Woohoo!

10. Links

Link the /etc/dehydrated/certs files to /etc/apache2/ssl.crt and ...key

Link to the CA cert:
# cd /etc/apache2/ssl.crt
# ln -s lets-encrypt-x3-cross-signed.pem letsencrypt_CA.pem

Link to the Domain Certificates and Keys Link to each cert in /etc/apache2/ssl.crt.
Link to each key in /etc/apache2/ssl.key.
We wrote a BASH script tldr_link that automates this:
     for DOMAIN_TLDR in {,}
     cd /etc/apache2/ssl.crt
      ln -s /etc/dehydrated/certs/$DOMAIN_TLDR/cet.pem $DOMAIN_TLDR.pem
     ln -s /etc/dehydrated/certs/$DOMAIN_TLDR/chain.pem $DOMAIN_TLDR_chain.pem
     ln -s /etc/dehydrated/certs/$DOMAIN_TLDR/fullchain.pem $DOMAIN_TLDR_fullchain.pem
     cd /etc/apache2/ssl.key
     ln -s /etc/dehydrated/certs/$DOMAIN_TLDR/privkey.pem $DOMAIN_TLDR_key.pem

11. Amend the apache.conf files

Amend the apache .conf files to address these. entities.

We check configuration files. Different files have different server names CA cert files. So we make them all point to
     SSLCACertificatePath /etc/ssl/certs
     SSLCACertificateFile /etc/ssl/certs/letsencrypt_CA.pem

Update all of these

12.Check the certs
Now you should find a folder /etc/dehydrated/certs/ with a folder for each of your domain set in your domains.txt file.
In each of those folders, you’ll find two important symbolic links that you need to use in all your application that rely on that certificate-key pair.
fullchain.pem :  /etc/dehydrated/certs/
privkey.pem :  /etc/dehydrated/certs/
The first one is your certificate will the different root certificates prepended to it, in other words, the one you need to set for your service. The second one is the private key of the certificate.

1. Verify the key-cert pairs (If more than one hash is displayed, they don't match):
# (openssl x509 -noout -modulus -in /etc/apache2/ssl.crt/ | openssl md5;openssl rsa -noout -modulus -in /etc/apache2/ssl.key/example1.com_key.pem | openssl md5) | uniq
(stdin)= 6b93be29e02041403ad7b0903bd8acc4

2. Verify the chain
# openssl verify -verbose -CAfile example1.com_chain.pem OK

3. Check the dates
# openssl x509 -startdate -enddate -noout -in
notBefore=Jan 23 20:17:30
2017 GMT
notAfter=Jan 23 20:17:30
2020 GMT

13. Go to production

Reverse the Staging in /etc/dehydrated/config and run
dehydrated -c -x -f /etc/dehydrated/config

Restart the server:
     service apache2 restart
and check your site(s) in a browser.
https:// is working!

So much for "automatic". But easy when you know how. We all now do. :-)