Computers and Internet


She was in prison – a dungeon almost unfathomably bad by your standards – 3 times. Each time was for speaking up, protesting war & practicing a religion that was at best frowned upon by an extremely oppressive government that was deeply enmeshed with the established church. He was a shoemaker, the son of a shoemaker, who was the son of a rural peasant who spelled his last name differently the few times he ever wrote it down.

Together they lived in a disease-ridden slum next door to huge pits of unmarked graves. This, they knew, was the ultimate future they could look forward to. But it was better than where they had lived before – a small town in the countryside they left to escape the severe religious and social persecution they were facing. A place where an errant blasphemy could lead to the misery of having your “tongue bored throug with a hot iron” or even death.

This society was not forgiving of the different.

At some point, huddled together at the kitchen table, they decided they’d had enough. There was no room for them in this terrible country. This was no place to raise a family. The best their children could hope for would be more of exactly the same. Most of their children would die before adulthood and if they were extremely lucky those that lived would be shoemakers or wives. When they died? Perhaps they’d get a headstone. Perhaps not.

You can’t escape fate by staying put.

So they left. They got on a ship with what little they had and departed for a new beginning. They were refugees, fleeing oppression and religious persecution, casting their lot into an unknown that simply had to better than what they had known so far.

Together they went to America. A few generations after arriving, a grandson grew up to not be a shoemaker, nor a rural peasant: he became the president of a national bank. A few generations after that another family son created this blog.

Who do we think we are trying to keep out of this wonderful country?

Computers and Internet

Cory on the Truecrypt meltdown

“Truecrypt’s own warning suggests that users try Bitlocker, the proprietary Microsoft full-disk encryption tool that relies on the on-board Trusted Computing Module to attain a high degree of security. Microsoft itself has a deservedly poor reputation for standing up to government demands to weaken its products’ security, but Peter Biddle, one of the architects of Trusted Computing and Bitlocker, has previously told me that he was repeatedly approached by frustrated federal agents who couldn’t decrypt Bitlocker partitions, and I believe him, based on my personal knowledge of his character and work.” 

Thanks Cory! 

Computers and Internet

A beginners guide to infusions

So, you’re getting an infusion. Chances are that’s because you’re pretty gosh darn sick – you may have cancer, or Spondylitis (that’s what I have) or something else chronic. That probably sucks. But going to the infusion center doesn’t have to completely suck.

Here are some pointers I’ve learned over the past 9 months of infusions of Remicaid. I’m going to focus on the practical things you can do to make your experience and the experiences of those around as nice as possible.

Good nurses should rule the world
Whatever you do, you must be polite to your caretakers. The nurses in the infusion clinic are among the best, most elite caregivers on the planet. They must combine the precision engineering of phlebotomy, the care taking of oncology and the harsh reality of hospice and they crank through dozens or even hundreds of patients a week. They are a blessing and you should treat them as such, even in the rare cases when they are not as good as you’d like. Which leads me to…

Beware the substitute nurses for blood draws
Look at your nurses name tag. It should say something like “infusion” on it. If it says something like “general nursing” feel free to ask if they are infusion nurses or phlebotomists. Infusion nurses run a lot of IVs. That means they are good at that. Yes, newer nurses need practice but you don’t have to be the one they practice on it you don’t want to. They only rally bad IV I’ve gotten here at the Polyclinic was from a general nurse who missed my vein, panicked and called for help.

Pump management
My treatments take about 3 hours. I usually have to pee at least once during this time. To do this, you can ask for help, or just do what I do. First tidy up your IV line and hold it (loosely for gods sake!) in your left hand. Unplug the machine from the wall with your right and drape the cord on the giant thumbscrews on the pump so it doesn’t drag on the floor or tangle with your IV line. You might need to drape it twice if the cord isn’t velcroed up. Your IV pump has a battery so don’t worry!


You can ask for as many pillows as you want. I take two. Also ice water, as much as you want! Woooooo hoo! But the best thing (other than kick ass nurses) are the heated cotton blankets. They are great, and when they cool off, you can get another one.

Be respectful
The people around are sick, they are tired, they may be near the end of their rope. Some of them are almost certainly far sicker than you. The last thing they want to hear is you talking too damn loud on your cel phone. They don’t want you to unplug the headphones from your TV so your friend can listen to Judge Judy too (FFS!). We are all in this together, in spite of the curtains. Be nice, be thoughtful.

You’re here to heal. Hopefully – fingers and toes crossed – you’re not going to have to get really good at getting infusions because you’ll be better soon.


Computers and Internet


This article reminded me of my one of my restaurant jobs in the late 80s.

On Sunday’s I used to help grind fresh horseradish when I worked prep at the original Jake O’Shaugnessey’s restaurant (now closed and replaced entirely by the building complex containing the Metropolitan Market on Queen Anne in Seattle – I’ve searched the web and can’t find a single photo of the place, which is frustrating!). Horseradish root is fairly benign in small quantities but sticking many pounds of the stuff it into a 2 horsepower grinder aerosolizes the juice, which in turn creates a mild form of mustard gas, which I’m sure you remember from the history of World War 1 is Not A Good Thing.

Generally speaking you can’t afford to have your restaurant patrons nerve-gassed so we used 500 foot roles of commercial plastic wrap to contain the evil inside multiple air-gapped spaces. I helped on the kitchen setup and did the peeling and prep to get the horseradish roots ready to go. We then started out building up our containment system by wrapping the entire floor-mounted Hobart completely and cut out the feed hole. This is the kind of machine we were using:


We plastic wrapped a small room-within-a-room around that containing the horse, the chef and the Hobart. We also plastic wrapped the doors in the kitchen and then turned on all the hoods on high. After that the only person inside the entire restaurant was the head chef, who wore a hazmat suit, arm-pit length heavy rubber gloves, a gasmask and knee-high muck boots.

Fresh horseradish isn’t actually nearly as hot as the powdered stuff, so we liked to to power it up. For that we had a small brown bottle labelled with a skull and cross bones which actually said “POISON” on it. I have no idea exactly what it was an extract of but we were so wary of the stuff we kept it in the restaurant safe. According to the head chef the bottle was many years old and he couldn’t buy it anymore. He put a bit into every huge batch of horse we made and the bottle was still half full, which should give you an approximate idea of how powerful it was.

We left the restaurant until it was over and waited awhile for the air to clear via the hoods after he was done, hosed down all the contaminated surfaces as we pulled off the plastic and finally mopped the floor.

We then served the resulting horse-radish, ground through a meat grinder so that we’d get a rougher texture than a puree, to our patrons every night. Bon appetit!


Computers and Internet

Picnic on the Space Needle

I’m heading to Emerald City Comic Con (ECCC) later today and I’ll be there at various times throughout the w’end. In celebration of this event I’m making up the first ever ECCC Totally Bogus Theoretical (not)Death Match.


Team Number One: Tom Douglas & The Incredibles


Team Number Two: Teen Titans & Nathan Myhrvold


Game: Picnic on the Space Needle – each team must cook a meal in the Space Needle restaurant and then serve it to 4 tables situated on the observation deck. Diners consist of Emerald City Comic Con attendees who will be teleported to their seats randomly.


  • Meals must consist of any four of the dishes in the first ten dishes listed here on Buzzfeed
  • Ingredients are not supplied however each team has a budget of $1000
  • direct interference between teams is NOT allowed
  • environmental interference IS allowed – eg teams can disable the elevators, cut the power, make it rain or snow on the other team, etc.
  • any fatality results in a forfeit by the other side
  • physics and laws of nature are a combination of both universes, any absolute contradictions eliminate both factors
  • ties are broken by rock paper scissors between the chefs (fatality rule still applies)
  • winning = dinner served successfully first to all diners

So – who’s gonna win?


Sende in the Dronnes


On March 4th 2014 Janes Defence reports that the UK government has Released To Service (RTS) the new UK-built Watchkeeper Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS). The Watchkeeper was intended for service in Afghanistan as early as 2007 however the RTS process has brought on extensive delays – brought on in no small part because of concerns over civilian safety.

The RTS greenlighting of the Watchkeeper means that it is now considered safe enough to be used over civilian populations in the UK.

“These delays largely result from the Watchkeeper being the first UAS to go through the RTS process, which follows the MoD’s rigorous safety and airworthiness reviews to ensure the system can be safely operated over the UK and beyond, with certification to the same safety standard as manned aircraft.” 

The Watchkeeper is a UK-built drone derived from the Israeli-made Elbit System Hermes 450 which the UK has used in deployment in Afghanistan since 2007. The Hermes and the Watchkeeper share some components including the air-frame, two sensor mounts and two mounts for fuel tanks under the wings.

The two sensor arrays on the Watchkeeper are a synthetic aperture radar/ground-moving target indicator (SAR/GMTI) radar and a rear-mounted electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) turret. SAR/GMTI is an active radar system (meaning it transmits radio waves and reads the reflection) that can be used to find and identify stationary and moving targets. This is a pic of what things on the ground might look like to a Watchkeeper operator via that radar:


The turret is a passive system that uses infrared heat signatures to differentiate between objects and is particularly optimized for finding warm things like people. This is what things look like through a similar FLIR system:


As currently specified the Watchkeeper can track targets for continued surveillance and can also “paint” them with a laser designator for targeting by weapons launched from somewhere else. The Israelis are rumored to have outfitted the Hermes 450 with Hellfire missiles (one slung under each wing from the fuel-tank mounts) although they have never publicly admitted to this configuration. Presumably the Watchkeeper could be configured the same way however there’s no indication that the UK plans to do this.

The British Army has logged over 86,000 flight hours with the Hermes 450 and has confirmed that they have crashed 8, which is likely one of the reasons that the UK decided to build their own derivation. Two documented Hermes 450 crashes in Afghanistan – one at the Bastion air base and one near Sangin (crash-landing in a mine-field no less) and another crash in Israel were all due to engine failure. The Watchkeeper has a new fuel-injected rotax engine built in France which should make it more reliable, especially at higher altitudes.

One crash per 10K hours of flight time is abysmally bad. While the British public doesn’t seem to mind terribly about surveillance in the UK nor about drone strikes elsewhere, they would likely be more upset if drones were raining out of the sky at a rate of 1 per 10K hours of flight time.


The extensive analysis of the crash at Bastion also finds a number of supporting problem areas involving training and logistics and notes that “most of the identified factors were driven by the fact that the H450 aviation system was an Urgent Operational Requirement (UOR)”. When the Hermes 450 was initially chosen the UK felt that they desperately needed a sustained-duration surveillance drone in Afghanistan so they deployed the 450 under a UOR. This means the minimum amount of testing needed for the military to feel confident that it the equipment will work (at least as well as the Israelis no doubt promised it would) but not any more, and a lack of experience in the army (as opposed to the RAF) with UORs for aircraft is noted in the report as an issue.

Another interesting observation from the MAA report is that the operators issued a command to the 450 so that it would go into a specific mode and got an unexpected (to them) response, causing the the UAS to perform a “non authorized manoeuvre at low altitude”. This meant that when the engine finally died of overheating the 450 went into a fail-safe circular glide pattern roughly where the failure happened. It didn’t try to land (which likely would have been possible) it just glided into the tarmac.

Its unclear if the UK government plans to use the Watchkeeper domestically for surveillance or if they will be flown over the UK for training only. It is clear that they felt that they needed to spend over half a decade testing and tweaking the design so that it would be suitably safe for sustained flight over the territorial UK. This could simply be a responsible government doing the necessaries to ensure that a critical piece of war materiel is safe to operate incidentally over civilians. That’s obviously true. It could additionally presage future Watchkeepers – possibly even a future armed variant – patrolling domestic UK skies but only time will tell on that account.