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An Open Letter To Missouri Governor Mike Parson & Staff

October 15, 2021 Featured, Missouri, Politics/Policy, Site Info Comments Off on An Open Letter To Missouri Governor Mike Parson & Staff
Missouri Governor Mike Parson

Dear Governor:
This post is in response to a Post-Dispatch story pointing out an error in a department website.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson is vowing to prosecute the staff of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch after the newspaper says it uncovered security vulnerabilities on a state agency website.

The governor is characterizing the paper’s actions as a hacking that the state will investigate. He said it could cost taxpayers $50 million.

“Not only are we going to hold this individual accountable, but we will also be holding accountable all those who aided this individual and the media corporation that employs them,” Parson said at a news conference on Thursday. (NPR)

The paper ran the story only after the department corrected their mistake, but you’ve repeatedly described it as “hacking.” I hope this letter will help educate you and your staff.

I’m not a cybersecurity expert, but I’ve been blogging for two weeks shy of 17 years. I’ve never had a class in HTML, nor have I bought a book on the subject. I’m self taught. I’m also 54, so this didn’t come naturally as it seemingly does for younger folks. Speaking of age, yours isn’t an excuse — my oldest brother is 5 years older than you and he gets this stuff without having been a web designer.

Since I just used an acronym above that’s likely foreign to you this may help:

The HyperText Markup Language, or HTML is the standard markup language for documents designed to be displayed in a web browser. It can be assisted by technologies such as Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and scripting languages such as JavaScript.

Web browsers receive HTML documents from a web server or from local storage and render the documents into multimedia web pages. HTML describes the structure of a web page semantically and originally included cues for the appearance of the document.

HTML elements are the building blocks of HTML pages. With HTML constructs, images and other objects such as interactive forms may be embedded into the rendered page. HTML provides a means to create structured documents by denoting structural semantics for text such as headings, paragraphs, lists, links, quotes and other items. HTML elements are delineated by tags, written using angle brackets. Tags such as <img /> and <input /> directly introduce content into the page. Other tags such as <p> surround and provide information about document text and may include other tags as sub-elements. Browsers do not display the HTML tags, but use them to interpret the content of the page. (Wikipedia)

All the <blah blah blah> stuff reminded me of high school & college in the 1980s. The college professor that ran our architecture computer lab liked the word processing application WordStar. It was the DOS days so we had to type things like <B> before and after a word or phrase we wanted to appear as bold on the printed page — it never appeared bold on the screen. Apple’s Mackintosh eliminated this simple coding by doing that in the background. Microsoft’s Windows operating system adopted this as well. The younger members of your staff may not remember DOS or WordStar.

Owning a Mac and using a Mac/Windows at various jobs I thought I’d left coding behind. I had until I began blogging on October 31, 2004. Early on I used 2 different HTML platforms to create my blog & posts before settling on WordPress.  These all do the heavy lifting behind the scenes, but I’ve had to go into the source code over the years to fix problems with how something appears. I’ve also liked how others displayed information on webpages so I’ve looked at their source code to learn. Emails and digital photos also have code. Again, it’s not visible unless someone taps a few buttons or clicks to see it.

Source code is easily viewed by anyone. Hacking is entirely different. This is where someone attempts to gain entry into a computer network or application. There’s always someone attempting to hack into my blog ever week.

I least once per week I get an email from a plugin on my blog letting me know someone (or a bot) repeatedly attempted to login using the default “admin” username. I’m not an amateur, the admin username was removed years ago.

I’d like to think at least one person on your staff understands the Post-Dispatch pointed out the mistake made by the state agency so it could be fixed.  Someone around you knows the Post-Dispatch helped the state by preventing social security numbers of teachers — numbers that shouldn’t have been in publically accessible source code. The other possibility is your entire office is clueless how websites work.

To simplify this I’ll use your own state website as an example:

This is your full bio on the state page, found at https://governor.mo.gov/about-governor/full (click image to view)
This is a screen shot of the source code. I found this by going to the Develop>Show Page Source in my browser (Safari)

I didn’t hack the website. I selected a menu item from a regular web browser — this code is necessary so browsers will display the website as desired. In more complicated databases sometimes it is set up incorrectly so that information that shouldn’t be shown is displayed here.

Someone is attempting to cover their own ass, or protect someone else. Leaders admit when mistakes are make, not try to shift the blame onto those privately bring mistakes to the state’s attention. Yes, an investigation is necessary to get to the bottom of this — an investigation of how social security numbers were displayed in easily accessible source code and why so much hot air to deflect the blame.

Where there’s smoke, there’ fire.

Stop wasting our time and money simply because you’re to shallow to admit you were wrong!  The world already knows it, we just want to hear you say it. Additionally the Post-Dispatch deserves an apology from you. They did exactly what they should have, but you managed to turn a yawn of a subject into national news. Congrats on briefly jumping ahead of DeSantis & Abbott.

— Steve Patterson (a regular Missouri voter for 30+ years)

 

 

I’m Fully Vaccinated, Will Continue Wearing A Mask In Public

May 20, 2021 Featured, Steve Patterson Comments Off on I’m Fully Vaccinated, Will Continue Wearing A Mask In Public
Federal rules still require masks on buses, trains, boats and planes

The CDC says since I’m fully vaccinated I can go into public buildings without needing to wear a mask. Well, that’s the big overview leaving out important details. I’ll get to those but first a quick review of how we got to this point.

On Friday March 21, 2020 St. Louis Health Commissioner Dr. Frederick Echols  issued a stay at home order for the City of St. Louis, effective Monday March 23, 2020. A similar order was issued in St. Louis County. At this point masks weren’t required, but in hindsight they should’ve been.

On the day the stay at home order began St. Louis announced the first Covid-related death. On Friday the 27th and Monday 30th I had CT/Bone scans & cancer treatment at the Center for Advanced Medicine, respectively. Masks still weren’t required by Metro, BJC/Wash U, or the city.

On Friday April 3, 2020 the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommended the voluntary use of masks in public. The following Monday we received some homemade masks from my sister-in-law in California.  The next day, Tuesday April 7, 2020, I had minor outpatient surgery at the new Park Tower to install a power port in my chest to make my intravenous cancer treatments easier, masks were required. My husband wasn’t allowed to come back before and after the surgery even with a mask.

The following Saturday (4/11/2020) St. Louis first recommended the use of masks in public.  On July 1, 2020 St. Louis city & county issued a mask mandate.

I still don’t like masks, they pull on my ears and I have to remove my glasses as they fog over. However, I’m used to it now. We’ve eaten out numerous times during the pandemic, which we’ve enjoyed.

Last month the CDC said small groups of vaccinated people could gather, maskless. We got to visit and hug a friend on April 25, 2021, we hadn’t seen her in a over a year. A week ago today the CDC made a big announcement on masks.

People fully vaccinated against Covid-19 do not need to wear masks or practice social distancing indoors or outdoors, except under certain circumstances, the director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday.  (CNN)

States, cities, and businesses began dropping their mask requirements — for fully vaccinated people. Masks are still required for public transportation (planes, trains, buses, etc), healthcare facilities, and such.

On Saturday we went to Costco in south county, some customers weren’t wearing masks. We were. Yesterday I went to Schnucks downtown, same thing. It feels weird being indoors with my unmasked strangers.

Just over 34 percent of St. Louis County residents are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19. That’s an increase of 2.5 percent in the past week.

In St. Louis City, more than 26.5 percent of people have finished their vaccinations. This is a jump of over 2 percent. (Fox2)

With such a low percentage fully vaccinated I wonder if non-vaccinated are using this as a way to shop without wearing a mask. I know the science says I’m still highly protected, but it’s not 100% guaranteed. I’m not immune compromised, but my immune system needs to stay focused on keeping my tumors from growing. For me it’s just not worth the risk, putting on a mask for a quick trip into a store is no big deal to me at this point. Most of the time when I leave home I take MetroLink to Siteman Cancer Center, so masks are required anyway.

If you’re not vaccinated please get the vaccine, it’s easy. I felt bad the day after my 2nd Pfizer shot, but that’s a small price to pay for peace of mind. I get if you’re hesitant, a friend in her early 70s who’s fearful of the vaccine. My brother-in-law doesn’t want to be a government “lab rat.”

I look forward to the day I can ride the bus, or get treatment without needing a mask.

— Steve Patterson

 

Thinking of Marti Frumhoff While Accepting My Own Mortality

May 16, 2021 Featured, Steve Patterson Comments Off on Thinking of Marti Frumhoff While Accepting My Own Mortality
Marti Frumhoff, 1957-2007

Fourteen years ago today St  louis booster Marti Frumhoff died unexpectedly. Three months earlier we’d celebrated our birthdays at the sushi restaurant that used to be at Grand & Arsenal. Our birthdays were ten years and 5 days apart — she turned 50 just five days before I turned 40.

Ms. Frumhoff also became an advocate for the revitalization of St. Louis. She organized and founded several groups that educate agents and prospective home buyers about city living.

She founded the St. Louis Rehabbers Club in 2000. The organization helps people network and share information about renovations and remodeling in the city.

Ms. Frumhoff was also a member of the “We Love the City” Realtors Breakfast Club. The “Big, Big Tour,” an annual tour of city neighborhoods highlighting homes for sale in various price ranges, grew out of that group.

Ms. Frumhoff was a board member of Metropolis St. Louis and a member of Save the Century, an effort to prevent the demolition of the Century Building downtown. (Findagrave)

Marti was home alone, likely had a heart attack. I’m not a fan of death rituals, but I liked how the huge crowd at the Jewish cemetary took turns shoveling dirt onto the casket.

A month before my 41st birthday I had a massive stroke, also while home along. At the time I was certain I’d die. It was 15-16 hours before a worried friend found me, but at least I was still alive.  I came back home from the 3rd therapy hospital three months later, barely able to walk.

I’d think about Marti as I wrote about issues facing St. Louis, asking myself “what would Marti do?” Had she lived no doubt she’d be involved in fighting to improve the city, and region.

In the Fall of 2019 I was diagnosed with stage IV renal cell carcinoma (aka kidney cancer). Stage IV means the cancer has metastasized — spread to other parts of the body. I’ve had twenty immunotherapy treatments so far, my scans still show the tumors as “stable”, though there’s now evidence it has spread to my bones. Another drug will be injected along with my regular intravenous drug to stop the spread in my bones, the downside is a high risk of osteoporosis.

For a while now I’ve been working on getting my affairs in order while also trying to enjoy the present. It’s a very weird balance. When my husband and I recently visited the Missouri Botanical Gardens it was a lovely day but I was thinking it could well be my last time there, same with other non-daily activities.

A few days ago a friend of more than two decades had a second stroke in a week, only a few knew about the first mini-stroke. He died at home, alone.

Hopefully I still have a few more years left before my time is up. Although it’s weird to know I’ll die sooner rather than later I’m very grateful to have time with my husband until then. Not a day goes by I don’t think about the luxury of having time to keep enjoying life, too many don’t get any advance notice.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

So Long 2020: Too Much Death

December 30, 2020 Featured, Steve Patterson Comments Off on So Long 2020: Too Much Death
Didn’t have a dumpster fire photo, so this October 16th McKee warehouse fire will have to do representing 2020.

Most agree 2020 was, overall, an awful year. So much death. Not just from COVID-19, murders in St. Louis also set records. As of December 24th 254 people had been murdered in the city.

St. Louis has seen a nearly 25% increase in the number of homicides over the same period in 2019.

This year is the deadliest year in St. Louis’ history on a per capita basis. In 1993, 267 people were fatally shot, but the city had about 80,000 more residents. (KSDK)

There’s no vaccine to keep our murder rate from going up, no treatment has been found to lower it permanently.

When 2020 began I wasn’t sure if I’d make it to 2021. In December 2019 I received my first two immunotherapy treatments stage 4 kidney cancer. My to do list for 2020 included checking off bucket list items and making final arrangements should the treatment not work.

In early February I got the first news — the treatments prevented the tumors from growing! I was very happy and thought this was going to be a good year. I began thinking about making a 2-week solo trip to Chicago in April. As I was about to buy a round trip ticket on Amtrak everything went into lockdown.

In April, instead of a trip to Chicago, I had surgery to install a power port in my chest. I inherited my mom’s tricky veins, so this little device is connected to a jugular vein making blood draws and intravenous treatments much easier. We’d received homemade masks from my sister-in-law the day before my surgery.

Unlike so many, I’m still here. I’m actually optimistic I’ll see at least 2022. At some point in the 2nd half of 2021 it’ll be less risky to travel, eat out, etc. Unfortunately I’m not optimistic about crime in St. Louis being substantially reduced.

— Steve Patterson

 

POLL: Should Missouri’s Governor Mandate Masks?

November 22, 2020 Featured, Missouri, Sunday Poll Comments Off on POLL: Should Missouri’s Governor Mandate Masks?
Please vote below

The COVID-19 pandemic continues, but the response hasn’t been static since the start:

The number of states with statewide mask mandates has risen since the summer, when roughly half of states had statewide mandates in place. Today, almost three-fourths of states have a statewide mandate in place. (ABC News)

Missouri is among the states without a mask mandate, but earlier this month one group sought to change that.

The Missouri Hospital Association sent a letter to Governor Mike Parson urging him to implement a statewide mask mandate as hospitals become increasingly overwhelmed with record numbers of coronavirus patients, many requiring specialized intensive care unit beds that are quickly becoming scarce.

Governor Parson has largely been a proponent of encouraging, but not mandating, mask-wearing. (KRCG)

This is the subject of  today’s poll, the three answers are presented in random order.

After you’ve voted you can continue to see my thoughts on the matter of mask mandates.

… Continue Reading

 

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