Signing off for now

Work has increased rather significantly for me because the Senate continues to sit on Bob Rossiter’s nomination to become a federal district judge in Nebraska despite the fact that there is no opposition and his nomination has been sent to the floor where it languishes. Since we are allowed only 3 active district judge spots, this means that 1/3rd of our active district judge workforce has been adversely impacted. Indeed, we have now been formally designated a court that is confronting a “judicial emergency.

Additionally, I have taken on some other duties having to do with what is called the “pro se” docket. Moreover, I start a month-long and extremely complex jury trial in June. Still further, I have a continuing obligation to blog weekly at Fault Lines, a criminal justice site.

So, at least for now, I am signing off from Wednesdays With The Decently Profane.


Cutting off your nose to spite your face and scientific bias


A long time ago, I spent much effort trying to understand scientists like hydrologists. For example, I tried to learn about computer models of precipitation over very long periods of time. I was interested in knowing how much water was likely to flow in the Platte River.

Since I only understood four function math, it was hard for me to grasp the mathematics underlying the models. With precipitation, it is especially hard to predict what would happen because there were so many variables that appeared to be random.  So, one had to understand about probabilities rather than certainties.  That’s when I learned the word “stochastic.

This brings me to something more fundamental. There is bias in science. From my prior experience with computer modelling of precipitation and stream flow, I know that good scientists can be blinded by their own preconceived notions.  It isn’t so much intentional as it is emotional.

For example, to protect bird life which might, in turn, be dependent upon stream flow, precipitation models might end up predicting extremely low precipitation numbers so more mountain snow runoff would be kept in the river rather than using it for irrigation.

Now, I want to broaden the focus even more. Let’s take global warming and nuclear power. Folks to the right seem to be more skeptical about global warming than folks to the left. On the other hand, folks to the left seem to be more skeptical of nuclear power than folks to the right. Those predispositions can also cloud the vision of scientists and the policymakers who depend on upon the scientists.

Sometimes our preconceived notions can cause us to “cut off our noses to spite our faces.”  The same thing is true of scientists. In this regard, I suggest you read the excellent article written by Eduardo Porter, Liberal Biases, Too, May Block Progress on Climate Change, New York Times (April 19, 2016). If you are open minded, it will cause you think.


2FA, serial sevens and me


My job as a federal judge sometimes requires me to work at home.  Actually “requires” is too strong a word. To be more accurate, it is sometimes more convenient to work at home.

When I say “work,” I really mean access a computer because everything, and I mean everything, I do as a judge requires a computer. As I am employed by the government, I have been given (loaned) a Windows Surface Pro. That device is basically a small laptop computer with a real keyboard. I love that little machine, although this is not an ad for Microsoft.

My Surface Pro is connected to the Internet via WiFi.  The WiFi comes through an expensive router that is, in turn, hooked to a cable modem. The WiFi signal is encrypted. So far, so good.

To work on the Surface Pro, assuming that it has latched on to the encrypted WiFi signal, the past practice required that I do a minimum of two things. First, I had to access the Surface Pro. That required an eight digit password to open the operating system. To access the desktop for the Surface Pro, I then had to input a second password that was 10 digits long.

Once I did the foregoing, the little machine would buzz and buzz and suddenly I could work at home with access to my work files and my work e-mail together with a whole bunch of other applications like our computerized docketing system and computerized calendar. To access this stuff, other passwords were also required. Thank goodness those had been preprogrammed into a “password keeper” that spared me the task of putting even more additional passwords into the computer.

But paranoia abounds. No doubt you have read all about our government’s computers being hacked by the Chinese and others. I suppose it is not paranoid if they really are out to get you. But, computer security can induce a sort of obsessive compulsive disorder where enough is never enough.

So, recently, my little Surface Pro was rendered useless unless I began to use 2FA.  What is 2FA? That is an abbreviation for two-factor authentication.

Now, if I want to use the Surface Pro I must: (1) start the operating system for the computer with an eight digit password; (2) input a special username plus an additional special password that changes every 90 days; and (3) use a separate device (I would have to kill you if I told you what that device was) to obtain a randomly generated number that in turn must be input into the Surface Pro. If I go through all that I should be able to e-mail (encrypted, of course) the people at work via the Surface Pro to tell them that I’ll be late to work.*

Pay attention, here is the important segue.

As I near 70, I have begun to memorize serial 7s (counting backward from 100 by 7) so I can pass the cognitive tests I have volunteered to undergo at 75 to remain a judge. For some reason, the only thing I can remember is 2FA. Go figure.


*Below see what I did when I tried to log in last evening and the “password keeper” disappeared after I got to the desktop. Thus, I was unable to use the e-mail. That failure is probably not attributable to 2FA as I was able to make it to the desktop.  But, who really knows. Back to IT, I will go in the morning.

scream. (1)


The loss of a dog is a gut wrenching event. But going to the shelter and starting anew is life-affirming. Our oldest and her husband went through this cycle of life recently.

Meet Molly.


Molly, dear Molly, welcome! You don’t know it, but you will give far more than you will receive.


You may think you know but you don’t

If you are a gardener, you probably think you know what the following photo depicts, but I would bet you’re wrong. They are blooming right now ’cause Joanie decided to replant a bit late, and I am so glad she did. On bleak days in March, the plants lighten my spirits considerably.


Amaryllis belladonna, is a native of the Western Cape region of South Africa, particularly the rocky southwest area between the Olifants River Valley to Knysna. The foregoing are not Amaryllis. What you see is two Hippeastrum. That plant grows in South America. They look for all the world like Amaryllis, but they aren’t. Indeed, the definition debate among taxonomists was not resolved until the 14th International Botanical Congress in 1987.

No matter the name, the petals growing from the bulbs in our kitchen while reaching for the sunlight showing through our patio door are beauteous. Or, as The Bard of Avon tells us, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Act II, Scene II, Romeo and Juliet.