Russians, Cold War

February 16th, 2019

Dear Commissioner Dan, How is life up there in the Ivory Tower paid for with my hard earned money? We are at DEFCON ONE and you probably don’t even know the significance of 477, but that is how many feet the magnetic North Pole is moving toward Russia every single day (according to the National Oceanic Administration), and I seem to be the only taxpayer who cares! I love North Idaho, but it’s just a matter of time before it will be West Idaho if the Ruskies have their way. “GPS” is false security for those who can’t see where this is heading? Once the Reds get their hands on the North Pole, one EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse) will knock out all the GPSs and *POOF!* Santa is never going to find Bonner County in 2019. I’m not some kind of conspiracy nut, this is serious. With no directional abilities, this is the Grinch that stole Christmas, BUT FOR REAL. The children and grandchildren of this county are the voters of tomorrow. Is your legacy going to be that you made them all cry when you lost the cold war, or are you going to use the power of the commissioner’s office to change the direction we’re heading, literally? If I were commissioner, I’d be rallying the resources of the county and moving Santa’s entire workshop to someplace remote like Scotchman Peaks where the staff can continue their efforts. Not only will this bolster county employment and taxes, it will secure my election with all the children, parents, grandparents and grateful elves, who will be voting for me. You need to do this quickly before Trump gets that wall built because elves can’t climb onto a regular couch, much less climb over a giant wall. Pick up the phone and call the North Pole while it’s still “North Pole” or you’ll be getting a lump of coal this Christmas … or not, because I can’t find your house without GPS.
~Thomas (A Concerned Citizen!)


Original Post: 2/16/2019

Substandard Lake Water

January 28th, 2019

Dear Commissioner Dan, I rarely complain in my opinion, but want to talk about the water quality in Lake Pend O’Reille. It hasn’t gone unnoticed that the lake rarely freezes over completely. It’s water, it’s winter, it’s below 32 degrees — yet the lake water remains “water” all winter. Why does the county use substandard H2O that doesn’t freeze properly? The commissioners may be able to save a buck on cheap water, but not having ice skaters and snow mobiles falling through the ice is steeling these cherished childhood memories from the next generation. We pay taxes for a year round experience that includes water that freezes. So, unless you’re going to issue tax refunds, something needs to be done to install water that works properly. Cheap water is not the answer. You’ve fooled the boaters who just assume it’s frozen so they stay home for heaven’s sakes.  But you’re not going to fool me. If I were voted in as commissioner, I would pull together state, federal, international and interstellar support to bring better water to Bonner County. People come from far and wide to see the lake and imagine the look of confusion on their faces when they see a non-frozen lake sitting there. I don’t even invite family at this time of year because I don’t want to explain that we voted people who skimp on water quality into office. The commissioners need to budget better water in 2019.
~Thomas (A Concerned Citizen!)


Originally Posted: 1/28/19

Happy New Year, not.

January 1st, 2019

Dear Commissioner Dan, Happy New Year and remember, my taxes pay for that fancy new snow shovel I saw you buying at Wal-Mart.  I hope that wasn’t a selfish gift for yourself, but rather you were buying something nice for your wife. Anyway, with the new year, the county didn’t waste a minute to start sending out communications with 2019 on them. I’ll be putting 2018 on my checks and letters for about 45 days into the new year. I can’t imagine what it costs to have computer systems that instantly update the year at the stroke of midnight. Nobody’s even in the office and yet we’re paying for them to be tracking time like NORAD. This is wasted tax money in my opinion. You talked in your campaign about having a friendlier office atmosphere. When I was a kid and still today we had paper calendars that required the human touch to flip them so we could see the new month. As a bonus, each new month came with a new pretty picture. That’s much more fun than coming in the office only to discover that the county has paid big bucks for some heartless computer that has done this already – without the pretty picture. I can name a few stores in the area that give away calendars for free. I go early and grab a few dozen for me and my wife so we know the date in every room in the house… plus the shop, woodshed, pump-house, doghouse, outhouse, chicken coop, pickup, and my tree stand. I’ll bet the commissioners never thought of using the free calendars to eliminate bonuses if you just give them to each employee to take home and enjoy for the entire year. It’s a gift that keeps on giving. This is the kind of “out-of-the-box” thinking that I will bring to the office when I’m elected commissioner. In the mean time, I’m giving you permission to use my idea. The commissioners should get those free calendars now and refund the savings to the people of Bonner County who work hard.  You’re welcome.
~Thomas (A Concerned Citizen)


Originally Posted: 1/1/2019

Water Quality

December 27th, 2018

Dear Commissioner Dan, Where is the fairness that results in paying our taxes? With the Christmas festivities underway it occurred to me that there’s a disparity of fairness in products sold in Bonner County. The commissioners need to address the fact that the water in this county has almost no flavor or calories, while eggnog sold in private stores has an abundance of both. This is a perfect example of government services doing poorly compared to private enterprises. I think that the county needs to step up to the challenge of providing better liquid refreshments, if it’s going to be in that business. I pay more in annual county taxes than I’ve ever budgeted for my annual eggnog purchases and yet the eggnog is so much better. When I’m commissioner of Bonner County, I’ll pull the resources of the county together to upgrade the rainfall to include gumdrops, lollipops, cats and dogs, pet rocks, and other items much more fun and flavorful than water. Until then, the flavor of snow around here could be improved greatly and distributed in more places than around fire hydrants and trees.
~Thomas (A Concerned Citizen!)


Original Post: 12/27/2018

Standing Up For The Opposition

December 12th, 2018

Dear Commissioner Dan, Your opponent would have thought of this but he’s not around (MIA) so I’m here to help.

We pay a lot of money in taxes to deal with snow, Commissioner Dan! And what do we get for it? I noticed that the county is just pushing the snow to the side of the roads. It’s happening everywhere! If snow costs the county so much money, why fritter it away by leaving it just sit on the side of the road to melt? Why aren’t the commissioners working on a program to recover this valuable commodity and get some kind of return for our tax dollars? We could employ a lot of heavy equipment operators to haul that stuff to market where the hard working people of our community could get a return on their investment. Then we could afford to buy things like sand, glycol and daylight without paying more taxes. In heavy winters, tax payers could get a huge refund. This is the kind of “out-of-the-box” thinking I’m going to bring to the office when I run for commissioner.
~Thomas (A Concerned Citizen)

Commissioner Dan’s Response: Thomas, what the plows do is of course collect the snow and put it in a more concentrated form. Once that is complete, we have a special crew of gnomes that carefully transport the snow using tablespoons to an area where the County converts it to sunshine. Unfortunately, the time it take for collection and conversion is months so we don’t realize the positive affects of the County’s snow-to-shine conversion until about June however, that collected snow provides the extra daylight we all enjoy during the summer months. It’s a secret so please don’t share this info but we cleverly hide this top secret program by telling folks that the days are longer in the summer due to the earth’s tipping at it’s axis. To date, we have been able to keep this secret and fool the public in every County in this country so again, promise me you won’t let this leak out.

This is but one secret program all the Counties in the US operation right under the noses of the citizens without them suspecting anything. I wish I could divulge the secret about ocean tides and the real reason pizza boxes are square when the pizza is round but, well you know, I took an oath.


Originally Posted: 12/12/2018

Cutting Back On Daylight

December 3rd, 2018

Dear Commissioner Dan, We work hard and pay our taxes. And yet the commissioners continue to cut back on daylight. It’s just not fair. If you don’t fix this by December 21st, you will lose my vote. So there!

Commissioner Dan’s Response: We will have it fixed by the 21st of December. Expect to start seeing gradually longer days after that date.
~Thomas (A Concerned Citizen)


Originally Posted: 12/3/2018

Brand New Neighbors

June 11th, 2014

Today we rejoice in God’s creation. Our newest neighbors were a welcomed sight walking by my office window this morning.



Observations of Small Town Living (OOSTL)

June 9th, 2014

Out in the sticks where speed limits are generally higher, and critters are more plentiful, no amount of window cleaner can keep up with the bugs. The camera actually did a good job at hiding the opacity of the bug juice on the windshield.
2014-06-08 18.24.23

Be yourself… or not?

June 9th, 2014

These two signs are in our local public school. The underlying message is that you can be whomever you want to be. That’s fine, but the Bible says that the heart of man is wicked!

2014-06-08 11.12.36

Be yourself… or not?

2014-06-08 11.12.25


Observations of Small Town Living (OOSTL)

June 2nd, 2014

When the North Idaho Federated Republican Women were brainstorming for ideas of who will be their next speaker, I have a feeling the same folks who named the organization came up with this one, “Hey, let’s get the country coroners to come in and tell stories and highlights of their jobs.” I really do think the topic will be very interesting and only wish I were a member for NIRFW.



Observations of Small Town Living (OOSTL)

June 2nd, 2014

Upon entering church today we were greeted by this display of beautiful tomato plants. I know that people all over the world share stuff, but in small towns there’s a prominence of agricultural items. These are from one of the most experienced and successful (when measured in plant growth) gardeners I’ve ever met. Thank you Marilyn!


Observations of Small Town Living (OOSTL)

March 24th, 2014

Trees grow like weeds in most places around here. I guess technically they are weeds when they grow where you don’t want them to. However, they’re a little more difficult to get rid than your average suburban dandelion. (Click images to enlarge)

Enter, The Biggest Weed Whacker In The World! This beast eats trees and turns them into mulch.

wacker.01 wacker.02


Here’s a shot of a street near home. You can what this beast can do by comparing the two sides of the street. wacker.03


A very bad day.

March 17th, 2014

People often ask me what I do for a living. Here’s a day in my life.

Another day, another program.

Another day, another program.

A server migration is a very stressful process. In an effort to make some dramatic improvements, you have to move hundreds of websites, email, databases, software and other stuff off of one server and install all of this onto another. No matter how much planning you do, something, somewhere, at some time, is going to break, but you won’t know what until after the fact. Sometimes weeks later. Sometimes the issues trickle in. That’s good. Sometimes, it’s a firestorm of angry clients. That would be really bad and something you want to avoid. So, you do a lot of planning, documenting, testing and more testing… for weeks. You get little sleep and no matter how many hours you work in a month, it’s never enough.

During the actual migration, there are thousands of moving parts being juggled in the air. If one is dropped, bad things happen. The stress level and amount of information overload is so high that you must have notes of the simplest processes. I have notes that sound like, “Press the A key, breath in, press the B key and read the line the comes up on the screen. Now exhale.”

Because I run a small company, I’m also multitasking and answering phones, and technical support requests from clients while all this is going on.

In the middle of this, one of the servers I’m working on got hacked.

I got a notice that email was being sent out from one of the servers I received as part of a company purchase. This server is managed by a software package called DirectAdmin. Until a month ago, I’d never even heard of DirectAdmin. Now I’m running a company with it and I’m still learning how it works. I logged in expecting the usual experience of tracking down and stopping the spammer without breaking a sweat. Boy was I wrong.

At first it looked like an email box was compromised and that I had to just change the password on that box to stop this guy. Then it dawned on me that there were dozens of accounts on dozens of domains that were sending spam. It wasn’t going to be a typical spammer day. The hunt turned up some logs that showed that someone with admin level access was creating email boxes all over the server. I changed the password for “admin” to stop this person from doing further damage.

To stop the hemorrhaging I shut down the mail server only to find it started up again a minute later. I rightly assumed DirectAdmin was turning the mail server back on. Without the time to try to figure out how to stop that, I did the next best thing. I wrote a script that killed the mail server every 15 seconds. I then cleared the mail queue of thousands of emails.

Now the problem was, how to figure out the names of all the bogus email accounts this person had created. It didn’t take too long to figure out that he was using a bot to create the email addresses and, thankfully, that he wasn’t very creative. He only used about 12 different email box names across many accounts. The good news is that he used names that were uniquely misspelled such as “servises” and “ofice”. Now I had to find out where DirectAdmin stored these addresses and if there was a way for me to stop this guy from logging into them. With a little help from the previous owner I found the password files and set about a script that would delete only the unique users from these files.

What should have been a straight forward script turns out to be quite a challenge when your heart is racing at 100 miles per hour. A few quick tests of the script to debut it and I let it loose on the accounts. It deleted over 900 email boxes. I was able to turn the mail server back on and there was no more spam leaving the server. It wasn’t over yet.

I started getting some tickets requesting help from clients who couldn’t access their email boxes. Upon review I found that the password files had zero bytes in them. My script had a bug in it that deleted all the user’s email boxes from the password file. Very thankful that I followed the system administration rule number 1 that says, before you delete something from a file, back it up first. I was able remove the bug and get email flowing properly again using the backup files.

I have to give credit to the hacker. The hacker was really good in how this all worked. Without the modest programming skills this would have taken about 15 hours to fix. As it was, it took less than 2. I give God the glory for encouraging me to learn some programming.

Shortly after this I get back to focusing on the migration only to hear from our migrations team that they are having trouble moving certain clients to the new server.

The moments that I get to stop and breath are often spent in prayer.

First Spring Robin – there’s hope!

March 6th, 2014

I know spring is coming when I see my first robin. To me this means that winter is on the wane.


Observations Of Small Town Living (OOSTL)

February 24th, 2014

I suppose people in cities and suburbs talk a lot about traffic. In rural America, we do to… kind of. Here’s a text conversation I had with my wife last week. She starts the conversation by telling me she won’t be home when I arrive as she’s heading to town. And then the traffic reports begin. (note: please excuse the typos. The cause of which is not the operator’s fault.)


When I got to the aforementioned location of the road block I found this young moose at the end of our driveway.


I doubt that moose are often mentioned in traffic conversations unless you live in a small town in rural America.