I'm Now Running Nextcloud


Zog is now coping and seething

Nextcloud is a self-hosted alternative to the google or microsoft cloud ecosystem. You can store files, view and edit documents, and it even includes email and a calendar. So far I've been somewhat disappointed with the email client. It's somewhat slower than the webclient I normally use (for my email associated with this domain). The UI is also a bit less usable. But it's generally worth it not to have gmail on my phone. I'm not sure where the bottleneck is. If you use nextcloud and have no problems, let me know. I've also been unable to import ccontacts from google or my SoGo web client, so I'm considering just hosting calendar and contacts at home, and syncing it to my phone whenever I'm at home. Speaking of which, I recently got a Pinephone, which I'm haven't messed with much yet.

Mon, 07 Mar 2022 19:51:29 -0600

Friendship ENDED With LinkedIn


Today I finally closed my linkedin account. It was the only place left online that really had any info on me that wasn't on a platform I controlled.

The common wisdom is to have a presence on all major social media sites. Carefully posting content on each at regular intervals. You need to be exactly like everyone else, presenting an advertiser-friendly persona and giving your information to tech giants.

I reject this. Which is why I deleted linkedin, and stopped using other SM. It's unhealthy.

While my own site is bereft of content, I look forward to posting more in the future, since I no longer have a "professional" sanitized image to maintain. It is better to neglect the pleasure and regard of other people, while working on your own goals.

Speaking of goals, I've figured out how to surpass a major roadblock in my plans to republish old texts. I've now started work on St. Thomas' Meditations For Lent translated by Phillip Hughes. I can only find facsimiles from "publishers" like Forgotten Books. This will be a true reprint with all-new typesetting available at an affordable price. I will post some progress here until I have a refined final product I feel comfortable selling.

Thu, 10 Feb 2022 00:59:31 +0000

An English Translation of Tuas Libenter


I notice that the letter from Pope Pius IX Tuas Libenter is without an English translation. But vatican.va has an Italian translation of the original Latin, so I took that and put it through deepl.com's translator. Here is that unedited output.

Letter Tuas Libenter from Pope Pius IX to the venerable brother Gregory Archbishop of Munich and Freising
Venerable Brother, health and Apostolic Blessing.
We have received with pleasure Your letter of October 7 of this year, in which You informed us of the Congress held in this city of Munich in September by a number of Catholic theologians and scholars from Germany on various subjects, especially the teaching of theological and philosophical subjects. From the letter sent to you, by Our command, by Venerable Brother Matthew, Archbishop of Neocesarea, Nuncio of ours and of this Apostolic See to this Royal House, you have already been able to understand, Venerable Brother, what feelings we had as soon as we heard of the initiative of this Congress and after learning how the aforesaid theologians and scholars were invited and summoned to this Congress. We had no doubt as to the certainly praiseworthy aim that moved the creators and supporters of this Congress, namely, that all doctrinally prepared Catholics, by comparing their positions and uniting their forces, would promote the genuine doctrine of the Catholic Church and would safeguard and defend it from the harmful and extremely dangerous opinions and attacks of so many adversaries. But We, placed, without Our merit, on this sublime Chair of the Prince of Apostles in these most difficult times, in which, more than in others, the authority of those who are at the head of the Church is necessary to safeguard the unity and integrity of Catholic doctrine, (and this must be meekly respected by all), We were not a little surprised to learn that the invitation to this Congress was made and sent out by private persons without in any way involving the initiative, the authority and the mission of the ecclesiastical hierarchy, which alone has the right, by its own and natural right, to supervise and direct the teaching of theological subjects.
This, as I am sure you are aware, is something absolutely new and out of the ordinary in the Church. Therefore, Venerable Brother, we wished to make Our point of view known to you, so that both you and the other Venerable Brothers who are at the head of the Church in Germany might be able to judge the true purpose of the Congress by examining the program, that is, whether it was really such as to be of real benefit to the Church. At the same time we were certain, Venerable Brother, that you, with the pastoral solicitude and zeal which distinguish you, would do everything in your power to ensure that in this Congress neither the integrity of the faith and of Catholic doctrine nor the obedience which all Catholics of whatever degree and whatever condition must give to the authority and magisterium of the Church would be in the least affected. And we cannot conceal the fact that we were greatly concerned, for we feared that by means of this Congress, convened without ecclesiastical authorization, a method of working would gradually be established which would take away something from the rights of ecclesiastical power and of that authentic magisterium which by divine institution belongs to the Roman Pontiff and to the Bishops united and in agreement with the Successor of Saint Peter; and thus, because of the disorder which has entered the Church, the unity and obedience of the faith would be somewhat weakened in some Christians. We also feared that in the same Congress statements would be made and opinions and theories accepted which, especially if put into circulation, would endanger and question the purity of Catholic doctrine and due obedience. With great sorrow of Our soul, We were reminded, Venerable Brother, that by duty, by virtue of its most high office, the Apostolic See in recent times has had to censor and prohibit the works of certain Writers of Germany, who, in order not to renounce the principles and methods of a false science or a fallacious modern philosophy, (perhaps unconsciously, so we hope) have come to affirm and teach doctrines contrary to the true sense and interpretation of some dogmas of our most holy faith; in this way they have reproposed errors already condemned by the Church and have gravely altered the sense and nature of divine revelation and faith. We were also aware, Venerable Brother, that some Catholics who devote themselves to the study of the exact sciences, trusting too much in the capacities of human reason, have not guarded against a dangerous error: that of overstepping, in affirming the ambiguous and not always objective freedom of science, those limits which the obedience due to the Magisterium of the Church - willed by God to preserve the integrity of all revealed data - does not permit. The consequence of this is that these Catholics, miserably misled, side with those who protest against the decrees of this Apostolic See and of Our Congregations, claiming that these decrees impede the free progress of science; thus exposing themselves to the danger of breaking those bonds of obedience by virtue of which they are bound to this Apostolic See, constituted by God Himself as the teacher of truth and charged with its defense.
We were not unaware that in Germany a false opinion had spread against the old school and against the doctrine of those very great Doctors who by their admirable wisdom and holiness of life are venerated by the whole Church. This false opinion calls into question the very authority of the Church, since it is precisely the Church which for so many centuries has uninterruptedly allowed theological science to be taught by the method of those same Doctors and with the principles sanctioned by the common consensus of all Catholic schools, and indeed has very often praised and exalted their theological doctrine, insistently recommending it as a valid defense of the faith and a terrible weapon against its enemies.
These are the concerns that, because of the responsibility deriving from the supreme responsibility of Our Apostolic Ministry and because of the special love that We have for all the Catholics of Germany, a portion of the Lord's flock that is very dear to Us, agitated and anguished Our mind, even though pressed by so many other problems, when, on hearing the news of that Conference, We took care to express Our thoughts to You. But after a very brief message told Us that You, Venerable Brother, adhering to the requests of the promoters of the Congress, granted permission to hold it, celebrated Mass there with a solemn rite, and that the consultations in the Congress were in conformity with the doctrine of the Catholic Church, and that the participants in the Congress, by means of the same message, subsequently implored Our Apostolic Blessing, without further delay, We granted them what they asked for. However, we were anxiously awaiting your letter, Venerable Brother, in order to learn directly from you everything that in any way concerns this Congress. Now that we have learned from You what we were most interested in knowing, we cherish the hope that with God's help, as You declare, this initiative will be of greater use to the Catholic Church in Germany. And since all the participants in the Congress, as You inform us, affirmed that the progress of science and the result of efforts to avoid and refute the errors of this unhappy age of ours depend on intimate adherence to the revealed truths taught by the Catholic Church, they thereby acknowledged and professed that truth which true Catholics, committed to the study and progress of science, have always preserved and transmitted. Founded on this truth, the learned and true Catholics themselves have been able with the greatest confidence to cultivate and explain the sciences, to make them useful, to confirm their certainties. This can be achieved only if the light of human reason, even in the study of those truths which it can attain by its own strength and ability, takes into the greatest account, as is right, the infallible and uncreated light of the divine Mind, which shines forth in a wonderful way in all points of Christian revelation.
In fact, although the natural sciences are based on their own rational principles, nevertheless Catholics who devote themselves to them must always keep before their eyes, as a guiding star, divine revelation, in the light of which they will be able to avoid pitfalls and errors whenever in their research or studies they perceive the danger of arriving at affirmations more or less contrary to the infallible truth of what has been revealed by God. Therefore we do not wish to doubt that, knowing and affirming the above truth, the participants in the Congress at the same time decisively rejected and condemned that recent and unacceptable philosophical theory which, while admitting divine revelation as a historical fact, subjects the ineffable truths proposed by it to the research and method of human reason, as if these truths were subject to human reason, or as if human reason, with its potentialities and principles, could attain to the intelligence and knowledge of all the heavenly truths of our most holy faith and its mysteries, which, however, so far exceed human reason that the latter, with its strength alone and relying on natural principles, will never be able to understand or demonstrate them. On the other hand, a well-deserved praise is due to the participants of the Congress for the fact that, rejecting, as we believe, the false distinction between philosopher and philosophy - which we have dealt with in another Letter sent to you - they recognized and declared that all Catholics, in their learned discussions, must in conscience adhere to the infallible dogmatic definitions of the Catholic Church. But while we give them due praise for having professed the truth that necessarily flows from obedience to the Catholic faith, we are intimately convinced that that obedience, to which Catholic teachers and writers are bound, does not concern only those truths that are proposed to all the faithful by the infallible Magisterium of the Church as dogmas of faith. And therefore we are also intimately convinced that they did not intend to declare that perfect adherence to revealed truths, which they acknowledged to be absolutely necessary for the true progress of the sciences and for the refutation of errors, can be had if one lends faith and obedience only to dogmas expressly defined by the Church. For even if it were a question of that obedience which is concretely due to divine faith, this obedience should not be limited to truths expressly defined by decrees of ecumenical Councils or of the Roman Pontiffs and of this Apostolic See, but must extend also to truths which by the ordinary Magisterium of the Church, spread throughout the world, are transmitted as divinely revealed, and therefore by the common and universal consent of Catholic theologians are held to be matters of faith.
But since it is a question of that obedience to which all Catholics who dedicate themselves to the speculative sciences in order to make new contributions to the Church through their writings are bound in conscience, the participants in the Conference must admit that it is not sufficient for Catholic scholars to accept with veneration the dogmas of the Church, but it is also necessary for them to adhere both to the decisions which in doctrinal matters are taken by the Pontifical Congregations and to those points of doctrine which are considered by the common consensus of Catholics to be theological truths and certain conclusions, to the point that opinions contrary to them, even if they cannot be called heretical, are nevertheless theologically censurable. We therefore believe that the participants in the above-mentioned Congress of Munich were in no way able or willing to contradict the doctrine set forth above, which is constantly professed in the Church as deriving from the principles of authentic theology; on the contrary, we have firm confidence that they will scrupulously conform to the norms of this doctrine in the study of the exact sciences. This confidence is based on the Letter which they have sent us through you, Venerable Brother.
Indeed, in that letter they declare, to Our consolation, that they never had even the slightest intention of arrogating to themselves an authority that belongs exclusively to the Church, and at the same time they attest that they did not wish to close the Congress without first manifesting the full respect, obedience and filial piety that they nurture towards Us and towards this Chair of Peter, the center of Catholic unity. Since, therefore, in this way they acknowledge the power and authority of Us and of this Apostolic See, and since they realize at the same time the very grave duty entrusted to Us by Christ the Lord Himself - that of governing and governing His universal Church, of feeding all His flock with pastures of sound doctrine and of keeping constant vigilance so that the most holy faith and its doctrine may not be altered - we are confident that they, engaged in the study and teaching of the exact sciences and in the defense of sound doctrine, at the same time recognize that they must religiously submit to the rules always reaffirmed by the Church and obey all the prescriptions that in doctrinal matters are issued by Our Supreme Pontifical Authority. We communicate all this to you because we earnestly desire that you make it known to all those who participated in the aforesaid Congress; and we do not exclude to make later, if it seems opportune to us, other communications on the subject, to you and to the Venerable Brothers who have responsibility for the Church in Germany, after we have known your opinion and that of the Bishops concerning the advisability of such Conferences.
Once again we insistently appeal to Your pastoral solicitude and Your vigilance, urging You to put every care and effort, together with the other Venerable Bishops of Germany, into defending and tirelessly propagating sound doctrine. And try to make it clear to all that they must carefully avoid all profane novelties, and that they must not allow themselves to be deceived by those who extol the ambiguous freedom of science and who boast as progress not only the true achievements but also the errors of science. With equal solicitude and insistence, do not tire of exhorting everyone to seek, with the greatest commitment and interest, Christian and Catholic wisdom; to cherish very much the true and solid progress of science which, in the light and under the guidance of the most holy and divine faith, has been achieved in Catholic schools; to devote themselves above all to theological subjects according to the principles and the constant doctrinal lines by which the most enlightened Doctors have been unanimously inspired, procuring for themselves immortal glory, and for the Church and science the greatest usefulness and splendor. In this way Catholics, devoting themselves to the study of the sciences, will be able with God's help, day by day, as far as human nature allows, to know, develop and explain that wealth of truth which God has placed in the works of nature and grace, so that man, having known these truths by the light of reason and by the light of faith, and having sought to conform his life to them, may contemplate without veil, in the splendor of eternal glory, the supreme truth, that is, God, and enjoy and delight in Him in eternal happiness.
We gladly take this opportunity to attest and confirm to you once again Our esteem and Our affection. And may the Apostolic Blessing which we impart to you, Venerable Brother, and to the flock entrusted to your pastoral care be a sign of this.
Given at Rome, at Saint Peter's, on 21 December 1863, in the tenth and eighth year of Our Pontificate.
Fri, 19 Feb 2021 19:00:42 +0000

Mental Prayer: Catholicism's Best Kept Secret


Catholics Reclaim Your Tradition!

What comes to mind when you hear the word "meditation"? More likely than not, it conjures to mind imagery reminiscent of New Ageism, or Eastern paganism. It probably did not cause a recall of St Teresa of Avila and her mansions of the soul, or St John of the Cross and his Dark Night. Nor perhaps did appear the Carthusian in his cell, or the layman seeking to empower her active apostolate. And yet it is all these people who carry on the ancient and necessary tradition of Christian prayer which is more effective at pleasing God and uniting the soul to Him, and at bringing all those petitions to Him which we so often make.

Sadly, in the minds of many, meditation is not the Christian way, but the way of the secularist, or the pagan. Yes, we may often hear of the health benefits of "emptying your mind" and we may have even tried it at one time or another. Yet the danger of such a practice is clear, for in the 12th chapter of St. Matthew's Gospel, Christ teaches us:

And when an unclean spirit is gone out of a man he walketh through dry places seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith: I will return into my house from whence I came out. And coming he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then he goeth, and taketh with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is made worse than the first. So shall it be also to this wicked generation.

When our mind is emptied, and it is not filled with the things of God, we open ourselves to evil. Hence, the true meditation of a Christian is this very plenitude of God in the mind. Indeed, the Saints tell us that meditation, also called mental prayer, is the very means by which we attain the perfection God demands of us.

Mental prayer is defined by Dom Lehodey simply as "interior and silent prayer, by which the soul raises itself to God without aid of words or formulas." But why is this way of prayer so crucial and necessary? What makes it superior to praying vocally? St. Alphonsus Ligouri answers that "Mental Prayer is morally necessary for Salvation" and that:

St. Teresa used to say that he who neglects mental prayer needs not a devil to carry him to Hell, but that he brings himself there with his own hands.

St. John of the Cross says:

Without the aid of mental prayer, the soul cannot triumph over the forces of the demon.

Now, when the Saints speak, we of the Church Militant would do well to listen, just as an amateur athlete ought to listen to a champion. How much more so should we take the words to heart when they come from the agreement of the Doctors of the Church?

Now, often we see times when the world comes near to the truth, and is almost correct in its conclusions. Usually this is just because it is taking, knowingly or not, something from the Catholic traditions and twisting it to make it more palatable to the non-Catholic. That the world will say you will reap benefits from taking a few minutes out of your day to sit, breath, and empty your mind is one such example of a mark missed, but not by a lot. But this small difference is also that between the narrow way of God and the broad way of evil.

So, Christian soul, if you would fulfill your vocation to Sainthood, pick up a new good habit this year and start spending just 15 minutes a day in mental prayer. Here I hope I have answered the "why" of mental prayer sufficiently to entice the soul to action. For the "how" and "what" I would only repeat what the Saints and spiritual authors say. So here is a brief reading list that should give the reader a good foundation for this most admirable practice. All of these are ones I would consider must-reads for every Christian, but it is not exhaustive.

Beyond these I would include anything by Saints John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, and Alphonsus Ligouri. All of whom are referenced also in the above listed works.

A final note for everyone ready to jump straight into meditation. Take your time, and pray in the way that best lifts your heart and mind to God. There are no hard and fast rules to this, aside from the need to do it, and some people are better suited to certain methods than others. Different methods are shown in those works, so that the reader can find what best works for him or her.

Sun, 24 Jan 2021 19:18:11 +0000

Recover Your Reading Ability


When I was younger, I was an avid reader. I tore through children's and young adult fantasy novels in middle school and some of high school. However, eventually I lost interest in reading for pleasure, and when I tried to return to an old favorite or a new series, it seemed an impossible task. Does this sound familiar?

I am certain that there is a inverse relationship between smartphone use and reading ability. The scientific data for why is treated of better elsewhere. Simply speaking from my own experience, the best way to start reading more is to stop using a smartphone so often. This can be done in many ways. The best success I've had is an app FocusMe which can schedule times to block apps and websites. I can't edit the hosts file on my android, so this is a good alternative. Some success was also found with Actuflow and Keep Me Out. It's also helpful to turn on the battery saver at the highest level, so that most of the apps are unusable. One could also switch to a dumb phone or another alternative.

The other necessary task is, of course, to read more. It's best to find a book that you want to read, and is the type to For me, being unable to put down The Hobbit was what gave me the confidence to try harder to read more and use my smartphone less. After that I moved on to tackling the long list of books I had planned on reading. This is still paying dividends.

I'm not sure the benefits of reducing or outright discontinuing smartphone use can be overstated. On their own, I see no intrinsic detriment. But software made for smartphones is engineered for addiction, and for nearly every utility of a smartphone, there exists some alternative. More often than not, that alternative does require some extra effort or time, but it is almost invariably worth it.

Tue, 05 Jan 2021 19:41:07 +0000

TryHackMe Inclusion Writeup


This is a walkthrough of the TryHackMe room “Inclusion.” If you haven’t already completed the challenge, do so here

This room is meant to be a beginner’s introduction to local file inclusion, a vulnerability which occurs when some webapp includes files from its own local directories without any kind of sanitization.

Like any good hack, we start with enumeration. Run “nmap -sV” to get the services running on open ports and their versions.

As expected, HTTP is open. SSH is as well, which we’ll use later.

When we connect to our machine, we’re greeted with a few articles.

Click on the middle article and you’ll be treated to an excerpt from the Acunetix blog. What concerns us is the URL for this article.

Our metaknowledge about this machine tells us that “lfiattack” is a local file that the web server is just throwing up. If you read the article, it gives us a handy tip for exploiting this. It’s called a directory traversal attack, and it can be accomplished here by replacing the file name with “../../../../etc/passwd.” There’s no upper limit on the double dots as going to “/..” just takes you back to “/”. You just need enough to get to root.

Going to our malicious URL will display the linux file containing the password information for the users on the machine. Like salt and pepper, the passwd and shadow files go together. Normally we might wget both of them and attack them with John, which is what I did at first. Instead, simply make note of the password listed for user “falconfeast” and use those credentials to SSH in.

Congrats! You have user-level access to the target. The flag is present in the home directory. But we’re not done yet, we want root access. For that, I must admit, I am in new territory. I have a copy of Jay McGuerty’s Network Field Survival Guide, which has a hermeneutic for privilege escalation that I referenced for this. But anyone could’ve found such steps anywhere online. What works for us here is “sudo -l”. This will display the following:

It just so happens that socat has some features which will allow us to get root access. I simply looked up “socat privilege escalation” and found this guide. Socat will basically allow us to pipe STDIN from our host to /bin/bash on the remote host. If that doesn’t make sense I made this diagram:

The command we run for this on the target is “sudo socat tcp4-listen:,reuseaddr EXEC:/bin/sh”. The port can be you want, other than 80 or 22.

Now, from a terminal on your local machine, run “socat — tcp4::” and that’s it!

It’s not quite a normal shell. If you look at the remote shell, you’ll see that “hello” is not a command. You’ll find the flag in root.txt

This was a quick and simple room, perfect for the beginner. MuirlandOracle has a neat shortcut on his blog that takes advantage of the fact that the webserver is already running as root. But the intended method is best for someone looking to understand the demonstrated vulnerability.

Fri, 14 Aug 2020 20:18:44 +0000

New Analytics!


The title may come as a surprise, given what I say on my homepage, but I learned about this from the online degoogle community

For the next 30 days from the posting of this blog, I'll be using Plausible Analytics, a privacy-respecting analytics platform.

I don't expect to pay for it afterwards, and for now I don't particularly care to see who visits my site from where, aside from reader mail.

What I hope to do is spread a bit of awareness of this platform, so that if someone happens upon my blog, they see this post and decide they want their analytics to respect users' privacy, too.

Fri, 14 Aug 2020 20:17:59 +0000

Beginning A Homelab


I started building a Homelab in earnest this past summer. I had been wanting to do something with my ancient hand-me-down Acer Aspire because 1) it's thrifty and 2) waste not want not! At the moment it's been put on hold, but in the brief time I spent on it I concluded its a very worthwhile pursuit, not just for those interested in cybersecurity.

At First I wanted my laptop as a sort of convenient, versatile, always-online box that I could just put whatever I wanted. That's the very essence of a server isn't it? I figured some good starting points would be a plex server so I don't have to lug my PS4 wherever I wanted watch blu-rays, and instead could lug my somewhat lighter thinkpad. I also wanted to make a seedbox (for old books!) just so it was doing something. But a big reason was to have a machine dedicated to hosting virtual machines, so I can do challenges from VulnHub and others. All this also led to me trying to have that laptop at home accessible anywhere (again mostly for plex), but that quickly turned into a big security hole for my whole house, so I axed that. So far a literal "Home"lab has not panned out and I figure I'll just get a raspberry pi or stick to using VPS's on Vultr (non-referral link here

I've been recommended by peers and the internet to use Azure or AWS for an online homelab, but if you know me you'll know why I prefer Vultr or literally anything else. If you don't, here's why: I dislike both Microsoft and Amazon as companies in general, and I find their cloud services to just be too big and bloated for my use cases. I shouldn't need a tool that has training certificates just to ssh to a remote server I pay for.

This ties into my beliefs on simplicity and how it pertains to technology. I like Vultr in this way because it's nothing but setting up a server and getting an address to connect to. This website is actually hosted on a Vultr server.

In the near future I'll certainly get to work on vulnerable virtual boxes, so look forward to those writeups coming soon. Until then I'll be busy finishing my internship, moving back to and starting up school, and going back to my part-time job.

Mon, 10 Aug 2020 21:31:25 +0000