Mark Turner : Recordings by Elton John, Nirvana and Thousands More Lost in Fire – The New York Times

June 13, 2019 09:58 PM

This is astonishing. As an IT guy, I have been responsible for backups. How Universal could be so careless with priceless audio tapes just boggles my mind.

Eleven years ago this month, a fire ripped through a part of Universal Studios Hollywood.

At the time, the company said that the blaze had destroyed the theme park’s “King Kong” attraction and a video vault that contained only copies of old works.

But, according to an article published on Tuesday by The New York Times Magazine, the fire also tore through an archive housing treasured audio recordings, amounting to what the piece described as “the biggest disaster in the history of the music business.”

Source: Recordings by Elton John, Nirvana and Thousands More Lost in Fire – The New York Times

Mark Turner : Don’t Panic about Rare Earth Elements – Scientific American

June 13, 2019 09:55 PM

As trade tensions rise between the U.S. and China, rare earth minerals are once again in the political spotlight. Today Chinese mines and processing facilities provide most of the world’s supply, and Chinese leader Xi Jinping has hinted about using this as political leverage in trade negotiations with U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration. But in the long run, many experts say the global market involving these materials would likely survive even if China completely stopped exporting them.

Source: Don’t Panic about Rare Earth Elements – Scientific American

Mark Turner : Cheap Thoughts: flash magnetism

May 21, 2019 02:42 PM

Wouldn’t it be cool if you could “flash magnetize” ferrous metal? Put a current or magnetic field into something, magnetize it, remove power/field and STILL have it be magnetic? And more importantly, demagnetize it instantly. Passive electromagnetism. I know you can impart magnetism into certain things but how strongly can this be done?

This may all be simple stuff to others, I don’t know. It’s been a while since I’ve played with magnets and motors so I’ve forgotten a lot. Seems useful to have an electromagnet which only uses electricity to change its state.

Update: This is exactly what I need: an Electropermanent magnet. Interesting!

Mark Turner : New teeth – invisible aligners

May 20, 2019 02:56 PM

For the past few years I’ve been getting a chip in my front tooth patched by my dentist. This patch will last anywhere between 8 months to as short as one hour before it pops off and I have to get it done again. I’m not a fan of the look of this chipped tooth but I can’t keep getting it patched, either. My dentist, recommended I get orthodontics to help keep my teeth from smacking together and dislodging the patch.

The orthodontist recommended by my dentist put a hefty price tag on moving my teeth and I just couldn’t justify the cost. I put that on hold before I checked out Smile Direct Club (SDC). SDC would use the same invisible aligners (InvisAlign) that the orthodontist would use but the cost would be less than two-thirds the price. The downside is I wouldn’t receive personal care from an orthodontist. I decided to go for it, since I have had three years of orthodontics experience as a teenager and know what to expect.

So far, it’s been so good. I put in my first aligners a week ago Saturday and began my second one this past Saturday. My teeth ached a bit for most of the first week but by that Wednesday I felt comfortable enough wearing them that I didn’t mind them anymore. There’s no question that my teeth have shifted in the 9 days I’ve worn the aligners, so I have no doubt that they’re working. And I’ve become a bit obsessed with wearing them.

The only downsides are that sometimes the edges of my aligners feel a bit sharp to my tongue. I have to make sure I keep my tongue as still as possible to keep from rubbing it raw. There’s also the mild ache I feel from my shifting teeth. I cannot eat anything or drink anything but water while I’m wearing them. Finally, I have to brush my teeth each time I remove the aligners. Overall, not too difficult to manage.

I had wondered at the start of this if I’d have the discipline to deal with aligners. It turns out I do. I think I’ll be looking back on this in October and feel like it was worth the cost and effort.

I’ll keep y’all posted on how it goes.

Mark Turner : Cat-tastrophe averted

May 14, 2019 09:28 PM

Jupiter came wandering back up to the house around 4 PM today like nothing had happened. I suppose he went on a bender last night and was sleeping it off somewhere. Glad to have our kitty back!

Mark Turner : I fear for my cat

May 14, 2019 05:21 PM

Update 5:28 PM: Jupiter has wandered back home. Yay!

Early this morning I was awakened from a deep sleep by a repetitive noise outside the house. A moment’s reflection in my foggy mind identified the noise as a screaming raccoon. I put on my clothes, grabbed a flashlight, and stepped onto the front porch as quietly as I could.

But I wasn’t quiet enough. The screaming stopped; I was noticed. I wasn’t able to pinpoint where the raccoon was or what was happening. What I do know is that there was no sign of my porch cat, Jupiter. What I also know is that Jupiter would’ve most certainly reacted to the sound of the front door opening, which may have possibly doomed him if he were facing off against a raccoon.

I walked down the street shining my flashlight carefully into backyards, trying not to light up my neighbors’ windows while looking in the bushes for the tell-tale glow of animal eyes. After a few minutes of seeing and hearing nothing, I crawled back into bed.

Just as I did, I heard the faint sound of a meow. Or did I imagine it?

This morning, I would’ve expected his furry face to be glued to the front window, demanding his breakfast. On occasional nights I’ve made a point of putting his food away to keep from attracting raccoons. Last night was one of those nights. The kitter should’ve been famished and yet he was nowhere to be found.

There are other signs from the universe that he may no longer be around, such as Elton John’s “Circle Of Life” popping up unexpectedly on yesterday’s playlist. And my pondering yesterday of the freedom that I’ve always given him: he has always been free to come and go as he pleases. I can’t let him be free to come without also letting him be free to go or it isn’t really freedom.

I hope to see his striped tail hanging off his food table tonight but I am not optimistic. It’s going to be a tense next few days.

Mark Turner : New York Times story focused on Raleigh gentrification | Raleigh News & Observer

May 09, 2019 02:43 PM

Ned Barnett’s opinion piece last week, downplaying the damaging effects of gentrification, was incredibly tone-deaf.

Indeed the Times story called attention to the implication that there is something wrong with downtown neighborhoods gaining new homes and more value as white flight reverses.

Well, yes, yes there is. There is something wrong with it, Ned. Surging property values are great for owners, unless those owners are unable to pay the soaring property taxes. Surging property values aren’t too fun for the renters who get pushed out by skyrocketing rents or by the flipping of homes.

We can improve neighborhoods without pushing out the long-time residents – the people who actually contribute to the character of any neighborhood. The question we should be asking is: how can everyone benefit from prosperity?

Raleigh is now almost blase about being cited in the national media as a city on the rise, but a New York Times report last week cast that growth in a less flattering light. It used Raleigh as exhibit No. 1 of how well-off whites are moving into traditionally black neighborhoods near urban centers and converting longtime nonwhite areas into white enclaves.

The story stressed that Raleigh’s pattern is part of a national trend, but its focus in photos, videos and quotes was on North Carolina’s capital. The theme was that poorer blacks are being pushed out and those who remain feel their neighborhood is being usurped.

The coverage put a spotlight on an issue Raleigh’s leaders know about but have not directly addressed: How much should growth be allowed to displace residents and transform neighborhoods?

Source: New York Times story focused on Raleigh gentrification | Raleigh News & Observer

Mark Turner : Something in the blood – ME/CFS Research Review

May 01, 2019 12:13 AM

Fluge and Mella used an expensive bit of kit called the Seahorse analyser, which measures glycolysis through the lactate production and mitochondrial activity through changes in oxygen levels.

They tested normal healthy muscle cells that had been grown in the lab. But they added to those cells serum taken from either ME/CFS patients or healthy controls. Serum is the fluid left over after blood has clotted and it contains small molecules and other soluble substances.

They have data for 12 people with ME/CFS and 12 healthy controls, a relatively small sample.What they found was, surprisingly, that the muscle cells produced more lactate and burned more oxygen when they were incubated with ME/CFS serum than when incubated in serum from healthy controls. And the effect was particularly strong when the cells were made to work hard.

Source: Something in the blood – ME/CFS Research Review

Mark Turner : The Neighborhood Is Mostly Black. The Home Buyers Are Mostly White. – The New York Times

April 28, 2019 02:24 PM

A sobering read on gentrification of downtown Raleigh from the New York Times.

RALEIGH, N.C. — In the African-American neighborhoods near downtown Raleigh, the playfully painted doors signal what’s coming. Colored in crimson, in coral, in seafoam, the doors accent newly renovated craftsman cottages and boxy modern homes that have replaced vacant lots.

To longtime residents, the doors mean higher home prices ahead, more investors knocking, more white neighbors.

Here, and in the center of cities across the United States, a kind of demographic change most often associated with gentrifying parts of New York and Washington has been accelerating. White residents are increasingly moving into nonwhite neighborhoods, largely African-American ones.

Source: The Neighborhood Is Mostly Black. The Home Buyers Are Mostly White. – The New York Times

Mark Turner : The Final Secret of the USS Scorpion | HistoryNet

April 23, 2019 12:43 PM

The article doesn’t say it but I will: fuck John Walker, Jr.

In 1968 one of the U.S. Navy’s nuclear submarines went missing in the Atlantic. Now, 50 years later, the full story of its disappearance can finally be told.RADIOMEN 2ND CLASS MIKE HANNON WALKED TO WORK WITH A PALPABLE SENSE OF UNEASE on the morning of May 23, 1968. As a communications specialist at Submarine Force Atlantic Headquarters, he was responsible for processing dozens of messages each day from submarines at sea, ranging from routine announcements to top-secret operational dispatches. But hours earlier, when his eight-hour shift had ended at midnight, Hannon feared that one of the submarines on his watch might be in trouble—or worse.

The Norfolk-based USS Scorpion, one of the Atlantic Fleet’s 19 nuclear attack submarines, had been scheduled to transmit a four-word “Check Report”—encrypted to prevent the Soviets from intercepting it—that meant, in essence, “Situation normal, proceeding as planned.” In this instance, the Skipjack-class submarine was returning to Norfolk after a three-month deployment to the Mediterranean Sea. Its standing orders called for a burst transmission every 24 hours that, when decrypted, read: “Check 24. Submarine Scorpion.” But the previous day no message had come clattering out of the secure teletypewriter that Hannon used. As he prepared to leave for the night, Hannon had briefed Radioman 2nd Class Ken Larbes, the petty officer coming on duty, about the overdue message. He then tapped on his supervisor’s office door and asked whether any late word had come in from the Scorpion. Warrant Officer John A. Walker Jr. silently shook his head no. Was this the first hint of an emergency, Hannon wondered, or merely a delayed transmission caused by mechanical problems or stormy weather conditions?

Source: The Final Secret of the USS Scorpion | HistoryNet

Mark Turner : Trump’s Orders Are Routinely Disregarded by His Staff – The Atlantic

April 22, 2019 01:22 AM

It’s been another dizzying few days in Washington, starting with yet another border controversy, as President Donald Trump threatened to bus unauthorized immigrants to sanctuary cities, and ending with the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report, which turned out to be far more damning than advertised by Trump’s attorney general.

These two very different stories have more in common than meets the eye. In each case, there’s a central tension between the president and aides who refuse to execute orders from him that they believe are illegal or foolish. Mueller’s report is packed with incidents in which White House staff not only didn’t do things Trump said, but never had any intention of doing them. In the case of the border, Immigration and Customs Enforcement staff rebuffed Trump’s plan to bus migrants on legal grounds; meanwhile, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan refused to turn away migrants seeking asylum, concluding that it was illegal. (Nielsen was sacked soon after, while McAleenan is now her acting replacement.)

Source: Trump’s Orders Are Routinely Disregarded by His Staff – The Atlantic

Mark Turner : Utility CEO: new renewables will be cheaper than existing coal plants by the early 2020s – Vox

April 13, 2019 12:18 PM

It is difficult to exaggerate just what a sea change has taken place in the discussion of renewable energy in recent years.

Oldsters like me remember when the idea that (unsubsidized) renewable energy would be able to compete directly with fossil fuels was downright utopian. As late as the early 2000s, people were debating whether it would happen this century, or at all.

But the extraordinary progress of renewables in the past two decades has moved that hoped-for future closer and closer. And now, unbelievably, it is right on our doorstep.

It’s one thing for advocates or energy analysts to say that, of course. It’s something else to hear it coming out of the mouths of energy executives. But these days, residents of the C-suite are discussing renewable energy in terms that would have made hippies blush a decade ago.

Source: Utility CEO: new renewables will be cheaper than existing coal plants by the early 2020s – Vox

Mark Turner : Julian Assange Got What He Deserved – The Atlantic

April 13, 2019 12:17 PM


In the end, the man who reportedly smeared feces on the walls of his lodgings, mistreated his kitten, and variously blamed the ills of the world on feminists and bespectacled Jewish writers was pulled from the Ecuadorian embassy looking every inch like a powdered-sugar Saddam Hussein plucked straight from his spider hole. The only camera crew to record this pivotal event belonged to Ruptly, a Berlin-based streaming-online-video service, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of RT, the Russian government’s English-language news channel and the former distributor of Julian Assange’s short-lived chat show.

RT’s tagline is “Question more,” and indeed, one might inquire how it came to pass that the spin-off of a Kremlin propaganda organ and now registered foreign agent in the United States first arrived on the scene. Its camera recorded a team of London’s Metropolitan Police dragging Assange from his Knightsbridge cupboard as he burbled about resistance and toted a worn copy of Gore Vidal’s History of the National Security State.

Source: Julian Assange Got What He Deserved – The Atlantic

Mark Turner : The healthiest people in the world don’t go to the gym — Quartzy

April 13, 2019 01:13 AM

More evidence that our reliance on cars is killing us.

If you want to be as healthy as possible, there are no treadmills or weight machines required. Don’t just take my word for it—look to the longest-lived people in the world for proof.

People in the world’s Blue Zones—the places around the world with the highest life expectancy—don’t pump iron, run marathons or join gyms.

Instead, they live in environments that constantly nudge them into moving without even thinking about it. This means that they grow gardens, walk throughout the day, and minimize mechanical conveniences for house and yard work.

In fact, Blue Zones researchers determined that routine natural movement is one of the most impactful ways to increase your life span, and a common habit among the world’s longest-lived populations.

Source: The healthiest people in the world don’t go to the gym — Quartzy

Mark Turner : Will Uber Survive the Next Decade?

April 09, 2019 10:52 PM

By steamrolling local taxi operations in cities all over the world and cultivating cheerleaders in the business press and among Silicon Valley libertarians, Uber has managed to create an image of inevitability and invincibility. But the company just posted another quarter of jaw-dropping losses — this time over $1 billion, after $4.5 billion of losses in 2017. How much is hype and how much is real?

Source: Will Uber Survive the Next Decade?

Mark Turner : San Francisco’s Decline: Failed Government Policies and Cultural Paralysis | National Review

April 09, 2019 09:29 PM

A thought-provoking piece on what’s killing San Francisco.

It’s not what celebrants want to hear when the champagne is exploding out of shaken bottles of Dom, the confetti is falling, and their stock is up 8.7 percent at the market’s close, but I have an announcement to make: San Francisco is past its prime and the fires of creation have abated.

With all the millionaires newly minted by Lyft’s IPO, and with those set to be minted by Uber’s and Palantir’s and AirBnB’s, you might expect this enclave to become the next Babylon of American capitalism. While our moralists in the media — Nellie Bowles, Emily Chang, et al. — busily tsk-tsk the greed and the lust and the hypocrisy and the hubris, there is a story here they miss: The city’s current concentration of wealth likely doesn’t represent the beginning of a golden-if-sinful era, but the end.

Source: San Francisco’s Decline: Failed Government Policies and Cultural Paralysis | National Review

Mark Turner : The Water Hawk: in-your-face water stats

March 22, 2019 01:27 AM

The Water Hawk.

Teenagers like to take long showers. They can easily spend 20 minutes in there, idling away their time as well as the family’s hot water. I’d done a few rounds of knocking on the bathroom door. I’d even taped photos of baby Arctic seals on the door to remind the kids of the consequences. Didn’t seem to get the point across.

When one night came where one of the kids drained the hot water from our tank I knew desperate measures were needed. I threatened to switch out the nice Delta showerhead with a miserly spray one, guaranteed to save water at the price of a miserable shower experience. Certainly that would get the point across but I knew I’d soon have to swap it out. You know, the Geneva Convention and all.

I began to ponder how a proper geek might solve the problem. I am a Site Reliability Engineer in my day job and I love gathering metrics on the computers I wrangle. What if there were a way to track my kids’ use of water? Wouldn’t it be great to show them how much water their showers actually use? I began to dream up a product I could create that would do just that but then some clever Googling showed me one was already out there: the Water Hawk.

The Water Hawk is a showerhead with a self-powered display that shows you not only how many gallons have been used but also the temperature of the water. A tiny water-powered generator provides the electricity to light up the display so it needs no batteries. It keeps track of a shower’s usage up to ten minutes after the shower has ended. While I would like some remote way of reading its values, I know I can flip the water on afterwards and get the numbers if I want them.

The cool thing is, though, that since I put in the Water Hawk I haven’t had to get the numbers. My kids have miraculously returned their showers to civil levels – all by themselves! I never had to say a word – they just did it.

The first time my son showered with the Water Hark I was so stunned at how quickly he shut off the water that I thought something must be wrong. Maybe he’s turning off the water to lather up or something, I thought. But no, he was in and out. A shower that used to take 20 minutes was done now in 5. It was the same for my daughter, whose was done in a teenager-respectable time of under 8 minutes. Mission accomplished!

I think that when people know what their habits or activities actually cost, when numbers can be applied to quantify something, it spurs a shift in behavior. I first saw this when we got an eGauge power meter along with our solar panels. The eGauge itself, costing a fraction of the solar panels, was enough to spur better energy conservation in our household, all because we could now see our energy habits as they happened in real time. Water Hawk does the same but with showers.

Now I’ve got the best of both worlds: water conservation and pleasant showers. No longer do I have to bang on the door to tell the kids they’re using too much water – the Water Hawk does that subconsciously. I couldn’t imagine a better solution to my teens’ long shower habits.

Jesse Morgan : proxmox PCI passthrough with windows, Geforce 1070, Ryzen, and B450 Tomahawk

March 21, 2019 12:27 AM

I set up my first Proxmox implementation on my rebuilt gaming PC.  The goal was to run proxmox on bare metal, then run a windows VM with hardware passthrough so I could play Elite Dangerous in windows with only a 1-3% performance loss. This would also give me a platform to work on automation tools and containerization.

So how did I go about doing it? Well, I started by reading this article:

That did most of the heavy lifting, but it was specific to intel processors. Here’s what my final changes looked like:


I needed to enable 3 main things:

  • WHQL for windows 10
  • UEFI Bios
  • enable virtualization under the Overclocking-> CPU Features panel



/etc/default/grub needs to have the following DEFAULT line:

GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT=”quiet amd_iommu=on iommu=pt video=efifb:off”


Modprobe blacklist

/etc/modprobe.d/blacklist.conf needs the following entry:

blacklist radeon
blacklist nouveau
blacklist nvidia
blacklist amdgpu


QEMU Host config



agent: 1 
bios: ovmf 
bootdisk: scsi0 
cores: 8 
cpu: host,hidden=1
hostpci0: 1c:00.0,x-vga=on,pcie=1 
hostpci1: 1c:00.1 
hostpci2: 1d:00.3 
hostpci3: 1e:00.3,pcie=1 
ide2: local:iso/virtio-win-0.1.141.iso,media=cdrom,size=309208K 
machine: q35 
memory: 12000 
name: gamey 
net0: e1000=DE:F7:85:97:FF:22,bridge=vmbr0 
numa: 1 
onboot: 1 
ostype: win10 
scsi0: local-lvm:vm-101-disk-0,size=100G 
scsihw: virtio-scsi-pci 
smbios1: uuid=d0e62ae5-0939-4544-aa2e-7e92f872cc39 
sockets: 1 
usb0: host=1-2 
usb1: host=0c45:7605 
usb2: host=046d:c332 
virtio2: /dev/disk/by-id/ata-CT500MX500SSD1_1817E1395213-part1,size=476937M 
vmgenid: fa74f2e1-46d1-444b-963a-1f0417d18fd0


options vfio-pci ids=10de:1b81,0de:10f0


I apologize that this is super rough and poorly formatted, but I figured that was better than nothing.

Mark Turner : Rivendell in the cloud

March 17, 2019 07:48 PM

I joined up with a Facebook group called Rivendell Open Source Radio Automation Users as a place to trade tips on using Rivendell. A question that comes up frequently is how Rivendell can be run in the cloud. Since I’ve been doing this for eight years or so I have a pretty good understanding of the challenges. I’ve mentioned some of it before but thought I’d go into more detail of my current setup.

I’m running Rivendell 2.19.2, the current version, and presently I’m not actually running it in the cloud though I could easily change this in a few moments. The magic that makes this happen is containerization. I have created my own Docker instance which installs everything I need. This container can be fired up virtually anywhere and it will just work.

Here’s a summery of my setup. In my container, I install CentOS 7. Then I pull in Rivendell from Paravel’s repos with a “yum install rivendell” command. Rivendell needs the JACK audio subsystem to run so I install Jack2 from the CentOS repos, too. To this I add darkice as an encoder, JackEQ for some graphical faders/mixers, a LADSPA-based amplifier module to boost gain, and of course Icecast2 to send the stream to the world.

Now, one of the problems with a CentOS-based setup is that CentOS tends to have fewer of the cool audio tools than distributions like Debian and Ubuntu have. These Debian-based distros are not officially supported with Paravel packages so you either have to hunt for your own Rivendell dpkgs or you build your own. I’ve found a few of these dpkgs mentioned on the Rivendell Developer’s mailing list but I’ve not had the time to make sure they’re up to date and meet my personal needs. Thus, for my personal setup you’ll find a few parts which I have compiled myself, rather than install from a package. A project for me to take on in my Copious Free Time is to create an entirely repo-based Docker container but I’m not there yet.

Rivendell needs a MySQL/MariaDB database to store its data. I rely on a non-containerized instance of MariaDB in my setup because I already use the database for other projects and didn’t want to create an instance solely for Rivendell.

So here’s how it all works.

Once Rivendell and JACK packages are installed, you’ll need to get Jack running first. Here’s the command line I use in my container for running jack:
/usr/bin/jackd -r -t2000 -ddummy -r48000 -p1024

For ease of connecting, you should run all audio parts under the same Linux user. I usually create an “rduser” user under Linux to take this role. Do not use the root user for this as anyone exploiting any flaws in Rivendell would have total control of your system! Good UNIX philosophy calls for only giving processes the minimum permissions needed to carry out their tasks.

IF you’ve started JACK as the rduser user, log into a terminal as that user and perform the “jack_lsp” command. This will show you the JACK channels that are available. Starting Rivendell using the “service rivendell start” or “systemctl start rivendell” should populate the JACK channel listing with the Rivendell channels. Make sure you edit the Rivendell config file at /etc/rd.conf to get Rivendell to start under the rduser user so that Rivendell and JACK can talk to each other.

Once you see Rivendell’s talking to JACK, you need to connect these virtual JACK channels so that your audio gets somewhere useful. In my case, I want to take the following path: Rivendell -> JACK -> JackEQ (with amp plugin) -> JACK -> darkice -> Icecast2 -> cloud-hosted Icecast2 on my VPS.

I connect Rivendell output channels to JackEQ’s inputs:

You should see the VU meter in JackEQ’s channel 1 light up with audio from Rivendell. JackEQ’s master channel should also light up with audio. You can raise the levels here in JackEQ and your audio gain should be boosted. While you could theoretically pipe the Rivendell output straight to darkice through JACK, I’ve found in a virtual or dummy sound card Rivendell setup that the levels are too low and need a boost. If you try this and find that you need to boost it even further, check out the “Jack Rack” set of audio plugins for Linux. Several plugins are available to create a very professional sound. I highly recommend it.

So now that we’ve got the audio in JackEQ and nicely boosted, we need to connect it using JACK to our encoder, Darkice. I looked at many encoders when I was first getting started but few seemed to be as flexible and efficient as Darkice. As far as I know, no ready-built packages exist for Darkice. Fortunately it’s not difficult to compile once you have rounded up all the audio libraries needed for your particular setup. I use Ogg Vorbis and AAC+ streams for my stations and Darkice supports them well.

Here’s what my JackEQ – Darkice links look like in JACK (via the “jack_lsp -c” command):


Here’s an edited version of my darkice.cfg file:

# sample DarkIce configuration file, edit for your needs before using
# see the darkice.cfg man page for details

# this section describes general aspects of the live streaming session
duration = 0 # duration of encoding, in seconds. 0 means forever
bufferSecs = 5 # size of internal slip buffer, in seconds
reconnect = yes # reconnect to the server(s) if disconnected

# this section describes the audio input that will be streamed
device = jack # OSS DSP soundcard device for the audio input
sampleRate = 48000 # sample rate in Hz. try 11025, 22050 or 44100
bitsPerSample = 16 # bits per sample. try 16
channel = 2 # channels. 1 = mono, 2 = stereo

# this section describes a streaming connection to an IceCast2 server
# there may be up to 8 of these sections, named [icecast2-0] … [icecast2-7]
# these can be mixed with [icecast-x] and [shoutcast-x] sections
bitrateMode = abr # average bit rate
format = vorbis # format of the stream: ogg vorbis
bitrate = 96 # bitrate of the stream sent to the server
server = <my_icecast_server>
# host name of the server
port = 8000 # port of the IceCast2 server, usually 8000
name = Neuse Radio OGG 96Kbps
# name of the stream
description = Let the music flow!
# description of the stream
url = http://<my_webserver>
# URL related to the stream
genre = Alternative # genre of the stream
public = yes # advertise this stream?
#localDumpFile = /tmp/dump.ogg # local dump file

# aacp low stream
## aac high stream
#bitrateMode = abr # average bit rate
#format = aac # format of the stream: ogg vorbis
#bitrate = 64 # bitrate of the stream sent to the server
#server = <my_icecast_server>
# # host name of the server
#port = 8000 # port of the IceCast2 server, usually 8000
#name = Neuse Radio – AAC
# # name of the stream
#description = Let the music flow!
# # description of the stream
#url = http://<my_webserver>
# # URL related to the stream
#genre = alternative # genre of the stream
#public = yes # advertise this stream?

## mp3 low stream
#bitrateMode = abr # average bit rate
#format = mp3 # format of the stream: ogg vorbis
#bitrate = 64 # bitrate of the stream sent to the server
#server = <my_icecast_server>
# # host name of the server
#port = 8000 # port of the IceCast2 server, usually 8000
#name = Neuse Radio medium mp3
# # name of the stream
#description = Let the music flow!
# # description of the stream
#url = http://<my_webserver>
# # URL related to the stream
#genre = alternative # genre of the stream
#public = no # advertise this stream?
##localDumpFile = /tmp/dump.mp3 # local dump file

## mp3 hi stream
#bitrateMode = abr # average bit rate
#format = mp3 # format of the stream: ogg vorbis
#bitrate = 128 # bitrate of the stream sent to the server
#server = <my_icecast_server>
# # host name of the server
#port = 8000 # port of the IceCast2 server, usually 8000
#name = Neuse Radio – Alternative MP3
# # name of the stream
#description = Let the music flow!
# # description of the stream
#url = http://<my_webserver>
# # URL related to the stream
#genre = Alternative # genre of the stream
#public = yes # advertise this stream?
##localDumpFile = /tmp/dump-high.mp3 # local dump file

As you can see, you can define as many encoded streams as you wish. Just increment the name of the Icecast2-x sections as you go.

Now that you’ve got darkice configured, you’ll need to set up Icecast2 to distribute the stream darkice creates. Put your Icecast address and service password in your /etc/darkice.cfg file. I tried sending darkice connections from my local computer to an Icecast server on my hosted server but I found that darkice is really finicky about latency. If for some reason your Icecast server hiccups and darkice can’t send out the packets is creates then darkice begins to act really squirrely and eventually will crash. The best workaround for this is to run darkice and Icecast on the same machine, then have Icecast do the sending! If Icecast is set up to relay to a hosted Icecast instance you will avoid any latency issues with darkice.

After hosting my Rivendell in the cloud for a few years I opted to host it on a home server instead. I wanted to listen to my stream while I’m around the house but only send packets over my Internet connection when I have to. Thus, I have my hosted Icecast instance set up to pull a steam from my home Icecast server only upon demand. Here’s a snippet from my hosted Icecast server which shows how relaying is configured:


My Docker container has no display of its own and any server in the cloud won’t have one, either. So how do you manage Rivendell when it’s headless? You create a virtual display in the form of VNC. I install a lightweight display manager called ICEWM, the Ice Window Manager. It’s not fancy but it works well for a virtual environment. You could now access your desktop by installing something like the tigervncserver but I prefer for security reasons only to run VNC when I need it. Thus, I ssh into my container and run the “x11vnc” command from the command line. I then port-forward my ssh session so that it connects with x11vnc on my container using the localhost:5900 port. Now I can manipulate Rivendell remotely! It’s nearly as good as running it locally but any latency you have between you and your hosted server will make audio editing challenging at best and impossible at worst.

How do you import audio? I use scp to copy my audio files to a folder on my hosted system. Then I open an ssh session there and run “rdimport” from there. Then I delete the uploaded audio once it’s imported.

How do you get around the latency issue so you can edit audio? This is best done by running a local Rivendell instance and setting up both instances to share the same /var/snd directory and the same MariaDB database. You can use NFS or SAMBA to share the /var/snd directory ,or if you are feeling extra geeky, you can make S3 buckets look like a filesystem using the fuse-s3 package. As for the database, you can either connect to the same database instance for both Rivendell instances or you can set up database servers on either end and configure them to replicate. Setting up MariaDB for replication is beyond the scope of this article but there are several good resources on the Internet that show how to do this.

How to connect between your home and your hosted server? I use a one-way VPN to get to my hosted server. WireGuard is my VPN of choice at the moment.

So there you go. Below is the Dockerfile I’m using. Note that you’ll have to supply your own binaries for the parts not already packaged, like the LADSPA plugin and JackEQ. Hopefully this is enough to get you going! I’ll refine this process further and post a followup someday. Enjoy!

FROM centos:7
ENV container docker
RUN (cd /lib/systemd/system/; for i in *; do [ $i == \
systemd-tmpfiles-setup.service ] || rm -f $i; done); \
rm -f /lib/systemd/system/*;\
rm -f /etc/systemd/system/*.wants/*;\
rm -f /lib/systemd/system/*; \
rm -f /lib/systemd/system/*udev*; \
rm -f /lib/systemd/system/*initctl*; \
rm -f /lib/systemd/system/*;\
rm -f /lib/systemd/system/*;
VOLUME [ “/sys/fs/cgroup” ]
CMD [“/usr/sbin/init”]

# Create rduser (password is rduser)
RUN adduser –create-home –groups wheel,audio rduser ; \
echo “rduser:rduser” | chpasswd ;\
mkdir -m 0750 /etc/sudoers.d && \
echo “rduser ALL=(root) NOPASSWD:ALL” >/etc/sudoers.d/rduser && \
chmod 0440 /etc/sudoers.d/rduser

# locale-gen en

# Install EPEL repos
RUN yum install -y epel-release; \
yum-config-manager –enable epel-testing

# Get repo GPG keys
RUN rpm –import

# Install rivendell stuffs
RUN yum-config-manager –add-repo ; \
yum install -y rivendell sudo lame faac libaacplus twolame libmad id3lib icewm jackd x11vnc openssh-server tigervnc-server-minimal tigervnc-server supervisor cronie ghostscript-fonts less; \

#COPY rdmysql.conf /etc/mysql/conf.d/rdmysql.cnf
#COPY rd.icecast.conf /etc/rd.icecast.conf
COPY rd.conf /etc/rd.conf
COPY supervisord.conf /etc/supervisord.d/supervisord.conf

# copy darkice binary and config
COPY darkice /usr/local/bin
COPY darkice.cfg /etc
COPY rlm_icecast2.conf /etc

USER rduser
COPY /home/rduser/
COPY icewm /home/rduser/.icewm
COPY xstartup /home/rduser/.vnc/xstartup

RUN sudo chown -R rduser.rduser /home/rduser ; \
echo ‘rduser’ | vncpasswd -f > /home/rduser/.vnc/passwd ; \
chmod 700 /home/rduser/.vnc ; \
chmod 600 /home/rduser/.vnc/passwd ; \
chmod +x /home/rduser/ /home/rduser/.vnc/xstartup
USER root

COPY start /start
RUN chmod +x /start

#set proper timezone
RUN sudo rm /etc/localtime && sudo ln -s /usr/share/zoneinfo/America/New_York /etc/localtime

# Expose ssh, vnc
# Set boot command
CMD /start

# Set permissions on /var/snd
RUN chown rduser /var/snd

# Add fftw-3.3.3* and libaacplus*.rpm to get darkice running (and cfg file, too)
#RUN mkdir /usr/local/src/rpms; chown rduser /var/snd
#COPY rpms/libaacplus-2.0.2-1.el7.centos.x86_64.rpm rpms/fftw*.rpm /usr/local/src/rpms/
#RUN sudo yum install -y /usr/local/src/rpms/*.x86_64.rpm
RUN mkdir /usr/local/src/rpms
COPY rpms/*.x86_64.rpm /usr/local/src/rpms/
RUN sudo yum install -y /usr/local/src/rpms/*.rpm && rm -rf /usr/local/src/rpms/*.x86_64.rpm

# add cron job to generate logs
COPY cron.rduser /var/spool/cron
RUN mv /var/spool/cron/cron.rduser /var/spool/cron/rduser && chown rduser.rduser /var/spool/cron/rduser && chmod 600 /var/spool/cron/rduser

# copy jackeq bin, oggimport and library
COPY jackeq /usr/local/bin/jackeq
COPY oggimport /usr/local/bin/oggimport
COPY /usr/local/lib/ladspa/

#Copy asound.conf for using alsa apps (linphone) with JACK
COPY asound.conf /etc/

# mount music dir
RUN mkdir /mnt/music

Ben Reed : About San Juan…

March 16, 2019 02:09 PM

So now we’re back on land and I want to talk about an epic thing that happened on JoCoCruise. Of course, epic things happen routinely on the nerd boat but this one, especially, got me.

For the last few years we now have an entire boat for our group/themed cruise. There was a lot of concern when we got big enough that we would no longer fit in a single cruise ship auditorium for the main stage shows, and a fear that the inside jokes and “feel” would be lost. One concession to this is that on one of our stops, we had a giant festival concert where everyone could attend together. While things would never be the same, this was an awesome experience that once again showed how hard The Home Office works to make things great every year.

This year, that concert was to be in San Juan, Puerto Rico, with headliner They Might Be Giants. In true JoCo Cruise fashion, the cruise raised $80,000 for relief efforts in PR on top of all the OTHER logistical stuff that goes into running a full week themed cruise AND a concert festival. It is mind-boggling.

There was no rain in the forecast, but a sprinkling here or there happened as each of the acts played. Then we got a bigger dump of rain that backed off again pretty quickly. Jonathan Coulton did his set and things were pretty OK but starting to pick up.

Then the deluge began.

They delayed as long as they could, but sometime after 10:00 they announced they would not be allowed to turn anything on the stage back on and would have to give up hope.


They said they were working with TMBG to get them on the boat to attempt to do a quick, stripped-down show on the main stage for anyone that could get to it. We were all disappointed but understood and started walking back — soaked — from the festival grounds to the boat.

We had every right to be angry, frustrated, sad, the whole gamut. A bunch of newcomers to the cruise this year literally signed up specifically because TMBG was going to be performing.

And yet…

The magic of the culture this crazy cruise experiment we’ve built was that everyone was laughing, telling stories, talking about how crazy it is, talking about how they’ll tell this story, SINGING AT THE TOP OF OUR LUNGS, and generally just amusing ourselves as Holland America had to process almost 2000 wet sea monkeys all at once. People jumped in to help move equipment back to the boat double-time, as they set off the fireworks that were supposed to be at the end of the show because hey, why not?

We got on the boat, went to our rooms to hang up our wet clothes and then heard the announcement. If you can get there, go to the main stage right now! TMBG will be playing until the last possible minute. They also arranged to have the show broadcast to the in-room TVs and other locations around the ship.

Holland America allowed John Linnell onto the ship as a visitor (since he did not sail with the rest of the band) and he had to get off BEFORE MIDNIGHT because the visitor pass runs out and we needed to leave the dock by 1am.

They Might Be Giants played an amazing frantic electrifying 50-ish minute set that blew us away, and then got the hell out of there in time for us to get back out to sea.

The logistics involved in putting an emergency concert together in about an hour are beyond comprehension, but they made it work. The thing that gets me, though, is that I did not hear a single complaint about a short set, or them not doing the “real” show at the outdoor venue. All I heard was thanks to The Home Office for making it possible, and an energy that can’t be replicated for all of us being a part of it.

The next day we went to a get-together for folks who have done the JoCo Cruise a lot, and the folks involved in running it were beside themselves with emotion at how everyone came together to make it happen and to support them, when it would have been so easy to let everything fall apart and be awful and wallow in the failure.

*That* is JoCo Cruise, to me, in a nutshell.

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Tarus Balog : Meeting Owl

March 14, 2019 06:54 PM

One of the cool things I get to do working at OpenNMS is to visit customer sites. It is always fun to visit our clients and to work with them to get the most out of the application.

But over the last year I’ve seen a decline in requests for on-site work. This is odd because general interest in OpenNMS is way up, and it finally dawned on me why – fewer and fewer people work in an office.

For example, we work with a large bank in Chicago. However, their monitoring guy moved to Seattle. Rather than lose a great employee, they let him work from home. When I went out for a few days of consulting, we ended up finding a co-working space in which to meet.

Even within our own organization we are distributed. There is the main office in Apex, NC, our Canadian branch in Ottawa, Ontario, our IT guy in Connecticut and our team in Europe (spread out across Germany, Italy and the UK). We tend to communicate via some form of video chat, but that can be a pain if a lot of people are in one room on one end of the conference.

When I was visiting our partner in Australia, R-Group, I got to use this really cool setup they have using Polycom equipment. Video consisted of two cameras. One didn’t move and was focused on the whole room, but the other would move and zoom in on whoever was talking. The view would switch depending on the situation. It really improved the video conferencing experience.

I checked into it when I got back to the United States, and unfortunately it looked real expensive, way more than I could afford to pay. However, in my research I came across something called a Meeting Owl. We bought one for the Apex office and it worked out so well we got another one for Ottawa.

The Meeting Owl consists of a cylindrical speaker topped with a 360° camera. It attaches to any device that can accept a USB camera input. The picture displays a band across the top that shows the whole panorama, but then software “zooms” in on the person talking. The bottom of the screen will split to show up to three people (the last three people who have spoken).

It’s a great solution at a good price, but it had one problem. In the usual setup, the Owl is placed in the center of the conference table, and usually there is a monitor on one side. When the people at the table are listening to someone remote (either via their camera or another Owl), the people seated along the sides end up looking at the large monitor. This means the Owl is pretty much showing everyone’s ear.

It bothers me.

Now, the perfect solution would be to augment the Owl to project a picture as a hologram above the unit so that people could both see the remote person as well as look at the Owl’s camera at the same time.

Barring that, I decided to come up with another solution.

Looking on Amazon I found an inexpensive HDMI signal splitter. This unit will take one HDMI input and split it into four duplicate outputs. I then bought three small 1080p monitors (I wanted the resolution to match the 1080p main screen we already had) which I could then place around the Owl. I set the Owl on the splitter to give it a little height.

Meeting Owl with Three Monitors

Now when someone remote, such as Antonio, is talking, we can look at the small monitors on the table instead of the big one on the side wall. I found that three does a pretty good job of giving everyone a decent view, and if someone is presenting their screen everyone can look at the big monitor in order to make out detail.

Meeting Owl in Call

We tried it this morning and it worked out great. Just thought I’d share in case anyone else is looking for a similar solution.

Mark Turner : Choosing Trade School Over College – The Atlantic

March 09, 2019 01:48 PM

My plumber has a beach house. Just saying.

Toren Reesman knew from a young age that he and his brothers were expected to attend college and obtain a high level degree. As the children of a radiologist—a profession that requires 12 years of schooling—his father made clear what he wanted for his boys: “Keep your grades up, get into a good college, get a good degree,” as Reesman recalls it. Of the four Reesman children, one brother has followed this path so far, going to school for dentistry. Reesman attempted to meet this expectation as well. He enrolled in college after graduating high school. With his good grades, he got into West Virginia University—but he began his freshman year with dread. He had spent his summers in high school working for his pastor at a custom cabinetry company. He looked forward each year to honing his woodworking skills and took joy in creating beautiful things. Schooling did not excite him in the same way. After his first year of college he decided not to return.

He says pursuing custom woodworking as his lifelong trade was disappointing to his father, but Reesman stood firm in his decision, and became a cabinetmaker. He says his father is now proud and supportive, but breaking with family expectations in order to pursue his passion was a difficult choice for Reesman—one that many young people are facing in the changing job market.

Source: Choosing Trade School Over College – The Atlantic

Mark Turner : Russia’s passive-aggressive reaction to SpaceX may mask a deeper truth | Ars Technica

March 09, 2019 01:41 PM

Interesting analysis of Russian reaction to SpaceX’s successful docking and return of it’s CrewDragon spacecraft.

One of the big questions surrounding the first launch of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft was how the Russians would react. They have held considerable sway in the International Space Station partnership by controlling access to the orbiting laboratory since the 2011 retirement of NASA’s Space Shuttle. So far, the Russian response has been one of throwing small bits of shade here and there but trying not to be too obvious about it.

On Sunday, when SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft docked with the International Space Station, the Russian space corporation sequestered cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko in the Russian segment of the station. This was, Roscosmos said, so that Kononenko could take emergency action in case the Dragon became uncontrollable and crashed into the space station.

After the successful docking, Roscosmos tweeted a Russian language congratulation to NASA, but underscored the fact “that flight safety must be above reproach.” An hour later it published a rare tweet in English, sending “its sincere compliments to the colleagues from NASA,” but without the emphasis on vehicle safety. Neither tweet mentioned SpaceX. (Later, Roscosmos said NASA ordered the ship and, therefore, deserved the congratulations.)

Source: Russia’s passive-aggressive reaction to SpaceX may mask a deeper truth | Ars Technica

Mark Turner : What Happens Now That China Won’t Take U.S. Recycling – The Atlantic

March 09, 2019 01:39 PM

China’s refusal to accept American recycling could lead to a drastic change in consumer habits. Perhaps we will finally have a discussion about our throwaway society.

For decades, we were sending the bulk of our recycling to China—tons and tons of it, sent over on ships to be made into goods such as shoes and bags and new plastic products. But last year, the country restricted imports of certain recyclables, including mixed paper—magazines, office paper, junk mail—and most plastics. Waste-management companies across the country are telling towns, cities, and counties that there is no longer a market for their recycling. These municipalities have two choices: pay much higher rates to get rid of recycling, or throw it all away.

Source: What Happens Now That China Won’t Take U.S. Recycling – The Atlantic

Mark Turner : How to revive stale bread

March 09, 2019 01:37 PM

I was pondering the chemistry of stale bread the other day when I decided to see what science I could find on it. This excellent article popped up.

A fresh-baked loaf of bread is one of life’s great pleasures. The soft interior is open and airy, each bite yielding with just a touch of resistance. The exterior is all crust, a crisp and crackly delight contrasting in both texture and flavor. This balance is fleeting, though. Straight from the oven it’s at its best, but with every minute that passes, that loaf moves one step further toward crouton, hard-tack, and hockey puck. Why must nature be so cruel? Why does all bread go stale?

It’s tempting to believe that stale bread is simply dry bread and that efforts to keep it moist can stave off this sad fate. The real culprit, though, is a subtle chemical change that alters the food’s structure on a molecular level. This process—called starch retrogradation—turns bread’s texture leathery and gritty, and it makes the loaf taste dry (whether the moisture has really evaporated or not). Though this can’t be stopped completely, it can sometimes be slowed or reversed. Let’s look a little deeper.

Source: How to revive stale bread

Mark Turner : This Is Silicon Valley – OneZero

March 09, 2019 01:35 PM

Interesting commentary on Silicon Valley. I was there for a week earlier this winter and it’s kind of a weird place with a touch of Disneyland-like detachment.

I am privileged to live in Silicon Valley. I was born here, I grew up here, and now I work here as a product manager at Google. The weather is lovely, the crime rate is low, and the schools are well funded. The adults have cushy jobs and the kids have endless resources. People feast on $15 sushirritos and $6 Blue Bottle coffees. The streets are filled with Teslas and self-driving cars.

It’s a place of opportunity. Many new graduates, myself included, are making six-figure salaries straight out of college, plus equity, bonuses, and benefits on top of that. I get unlimited free food at work?—?three full meals a day and as many snacks as I want in between. There’s a place to do laundry and get a haircut. There’s even a bowling alley and a bouldering wall.

This is Silicon Valley. Who wouldn’t want to live here?

Source: This Is Silicon Valley – OneZero

Mark Turner : The secret lives of Facebook moderators in America – The Verge

March 08, 2019 06:24 PM

You couldn’t pay me enough to do this job.

For this portion of her education, Chloe will have to moderate a Facebook post in front of her fellow trainees. When it’s her turn, she walks to the front of the room, where a monitor displays a video that has been posted to the world’s largest social network. None of the trainees have seen it before, Chloe included. She presses play.

The video depicts a man being murdered. Someone is stabbing him, dozens of times, while he screams and begs for his life. Chloe’s job is to tell the room whether this post should be removed. She knows that section 13 of the Facebook community standards prohibits videos that depict the murder of one or more people. When Chloe explains this to the class, she hears her voice shaking.

Returning to her seat, Chloe feels an overpowering urge to sob. Another trainee has gone up to review the next post, but Chloe cannot concentrate. She leaves the room, and begins to cry so hard that she has trouble breathing.No one tries to comfort her. This is the job she was hired to do. And for the 1,000 people like Chloe moderating content for Facebook at the Phoenix site, and for 15,000 content reviewers around the world, today is just another day at the office.

Source: The secret lives of Facebook moderators in America – The Verge

Mark Turner : At 28, my brain was already fizzling out

March 06, 2019 01:32 AM

I was searching for stuff on my computer tonight when I came across a diary entry I created back on my 28th birthday, 21 Jan 1997. I had started journaling then mainly because I had started having trouble with my memory. It is also why I began this blog, as I’ve said before.

This entry is from a time when I was young, single, fit, and supposedly at the top of my game, yet I was deeply concerned about my future. I post it today to remind myself of just how long I’ve been dealing with Gulf War Illness.

It has been three decades of pain and frustration but I am still here.

Looking at the old clock on the wall I see that I’ve just turned 28 years old. Here I am sitting at my keyboard on my 28th birthday, all alone save for a lazy cat. I didn’t feel like staying at the party because I’m feeling down, so I guess I really didn’t have to be alone. I can’t talk to those guys about what’s bothering me because they couldn’t relate. There are very few people who could. But the party was getting my down because I couldn’t seem to jump-start myself into the conversation, and I became alarmed at this inability to speak.

I had been reading the email from the Gulf War mailing list and the stories from vets with similar problems as I have really began to scare me. That list has provided me with more information than I could ever expect to gain from traditional news sources. I thank God for the Internet. If you’ve got a problem, you can use the Net to find another schmuck with the same problem and commiserate together. The Internet was born from the concept of
Misery Loves Company, whether it be lonely computer geeks or sick veterans who are feeling their consciousness slip slowly away.

The thought that this illness may turn me into a permanent wallflower scared me so much that I was actually on the verge of bursting into tears at Jeff’s place tonight. Boy, would I have some explaining to do! I wasn’t the one who got fired today and I’m the one who’d bawl. Sheesh. I’ve always been shy but always took for granted that I could speak up when I had to. Now I can’t muster the will or ability to do that even among my longtime friends. It kills me. It really does. The frustration is unbearable.

I really blame the lack of short-term memory. I’ve become convinced that that goddamn PB pill I was forced to take has really fucked up my brain. I never thought one fucking little pill could cause years or potentially a lifetime of misery. I never doubted the decision I made to serve my country until this winter, when all the news stories caught the Pentagon in its lie. They knew all fucking along that we were on our way to vegetable-land. I love my country as much as I ever did. But I have grown to despise those cowards in Washington who are covering their asses as fast as they can.

Goddamn it! Be a fucking man and admit you were wrong and let’s get on with it! I will never take anything said by any government or military official at face value ever again. I put my trust in them and they don’t give a shit. Some fucking leadership. Powell, Schwarzkopf and the rest of them, back-pedaling as fast as the can. So fucking easy to call the shots when you’re manning a desk back in the U.S. of A. Smile for those cameras, Generals!

Today I noticed that damn rash appearing on my arms again. It turned out to be mild this time. In fact, it doesn’t seem to be anywhere other than on my forearms this time. As I look at it now I can barely see it. Just a few patches on my inner forearm now. I still don’t really have a guess how or what causes it. I have ruled out a contact allergy (overruling my dermatologist in fact. But I’ll stand my ground until he can provide some evidence of what I am allergic to).

Mark Turner : Behind Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Masterful Interrogation Of Michael Cohen | HuffPost

March 02, 2019 03:48 PM

This may be the most striking thing I’ve seen in national politics over the last few years (emphasis mine):

Ocasio-Cortez’s star power has undoubtedly contributed to the exposure her committee exchanges have gotten. At age 29, she is the youngest woman ever to serve in Congress, and as a democratic socialist who unseated one of the House’s most powerful Democrats, the congresswoman is an object of extraordinary fascination for the media.

One advantage Ocasio-Cortez has over some colleagues is that she consistently attends even the most mundane committee hearings, since she does not spend any of her day calling donors for money. Her online presence is strong enough that she has chosen to rely on it exclusively to raise contributions in smaller increments.

I’ve long wondered how fulfilling it might be to serve in public office, particularly at the Federal level. The horror stories of “call time” really turn me off on the process – the trade-offs are ugly.

But imagine if every member of Congress were freed from the burden of constantly raising money. Imagine how much more effective our representation would be. What AOC does isn’t magic; she just has the kind of following that allows her to bypass the D.C. money game.

It’s possible that bypassing the big media (and big money) game and going to the people via social media is the answer. Other representatives, willing to put themselves out there, might also achieve this level of independence. Or if we as a people were willing to front the cost through public financing of campaigns – expanding the public funding of presidential campaigns to cover all elections to federal office.

Quite possibly ideas like this could save our democracy.

Source: Behind Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Masterful Interrogation Of Michael Cohen | HuffPost

Mark Turner : PG&E Details Damage to Power Lines in Area Where Camp Fire Began | The California Report | KQED News

March 02, 2019 02:13 PM

I went down the rabbit hole this morning, finding all about the origins of last year’s Camp Fire, the most destructive fire in California’s history. The cause has been traced to faulty equipment on a high-voltage transmission tower. Being a geek, I wanted to learn more about the technical aspects of this part, so I dug up some informative articles.

First, here’s the start of an informative story on the disaster itself:

PG&E has released new details of damage to its electrical equipment in the area where Butte County’s catastrophic Camp Fire began last month — including a broken power pole “with bullets and bullet holes at the break point.”

The new information is included in a letter updating the California Public Utilities Commission on a pair of electrical incidents that occurred Nov. 8 about the same time the fire started and began to race toward the town of Paradise.

One of the incidents occurred at 6:15 a.m. on a major electrical transmission line suspended on a series of high steel towers on a steep slope above the North Fork of the Feather River. PG&E’s new letter suggests that a large steel hook connecting high-voltage equipment to a tower near the utility’s Poe Dam failed, causing the equipment to arc.

Source: PG&E Details Damage to Power Lines in Area Where Camp Fire Began | The California Report | KQED News

Next, there’s this ArsTechnica story that got me going:

“Although the cause of the 2018 Camp Fire is still under investigation, based on the information currently known to the company and reported to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and other agencies, the company believes it is probable that its equipment will be determined to be an ignition point of the 2018 Camp Fire,” PG&E told investors.

The utility goes on to state that its Caribou-Palermo 115 kilovolt (kV) transmission line deenergized approximately 15 minutes before a PG&E employee observed a fire in the vicinity of a tower on the line. In addition, “a suspension insulator supporting a transposition jumper had separated from an arm” on the tower in question.

Here’s a link to a lawsuit against PG&E [PDF] which includes photographs of the damaged equipment.

Here’s a fantastic look from at the insulators used with high-voltage power lines:

Suspension insulators
As it is already mentioned above, pin insulators become too bulky an uneconomical beyond 33 kV. So, for voltages higher than 33 kV, suspension insulators are used. A suspension insulator consists of a number of porcelain discs connected to each other with metal links in the form of a string. Line conductor is suspended at the bottom end of the suspension string which is secured to cross-arm of the tower. Each disc in a suspension insulator string is designed for a low voltage, say 11 kV. The number of discs in a string depends on the working voltage. Suspension insulators are preferred for transmission lines.

The San Jose Mercury News has a fantastic, fact-filled story on the failure of the tower:

Now a month after the blaze first roared to life along the North Fork of the Feather River, near the resort town of Pulga, sources familiar with a Cal Fire probe say investigators are zeroing in on this “transpositional” tower that helps switch power among transmission lines on the Caribou-Palermo circuit, originally built in 1919. The focus is on whether a tiny O-ring that holds up rows of disc-shaped insulators, or possibly fatigued steel from one of the tower’s arms, caused the accident.

Caribou-Palermo Transpositional tower. The red arrows point to the remnants of “jumper cables,” which transfer power from line to another. (photo by Dario de Ghetaldi)

“It’s there that the likely (O-ring) connection failed,” said Dario de Ghetaldi, an attorney suing PG&E on behalf of dozens of residents who lost their homes in the Camp Fire. “It could also be corrosion on the support extension. This is high in the mountains, you get very strong winds and they had extreme winds that night.”

Mark Turner : Vacant Position – how can I resist?

February 19, 2019 08:18 PM

Got this great job opportunity through CareerBuilder today. This is what a scam looks like. Little to no detail on the company or work.

Dear Mark Turner!

Our HR Department has found your resume on CareerBuilder. Our company is an innovative company working in exploration of gas and oil. We are looking for a responsible Assistant Manager to assist a higher-level manager. Your work will be critical in ensuring the team meets its goals of efficiency and customer satisfaction. Interpersonal and mediation skills will be very useful, since you’ll often be acting as a point of contact between manager, employees and customers. The goal is to secure the effective operation of our business and the satisfaction of our clients.

Vacancy: Assistant Manager
Type of position: Permanent
Salary: $3050 per month during the trial period; $4450 per month (after trial)
Timetable: Mon-Fri, 9 AM – 5 PM, full time (with paid breaks)
Qualifying period: 3 weeks of paid training and qualifying

– Assist the manager in organizing, planning and implementing strategy
– Communicate with clients and evaluate their needs and specifications
– Create reports
– Monitor operating costs, budgets and resources
– Ensure schedules and objectives are met
– Participation in meetings
– Process data entry with high level accuracy
– Maintain a positive representation of the company

– Must have great attention to detail
– Must be a team player
– Must have strong communications skills
– Must be personable and comfortable interacting with customers daily
– Desire to participate in professional development and take on new responsibilities
– Self-motivated and comfortable working both independently and as part of a team
– Ability to perform at a high level in a fast paced environment

Our coworkers also enjoy a total rewards package that includes:
– Competitive wages
– Merit based advancement
– Uncapped bonuses & incentive plan
– Paid sick/personal days
– 401 (k) plan

Our internal training and certification programs help expand your skills and income earning potential. We are looking for hardworking team player who is looking for a career.
We expect that you’ll take this job offer and look forward to welcoming you at our company. Should you be interested in this job offer, please provide your contact details, such as phone and e-mail.

IMPORTANT: This information should/will not be disclosed to third parties.

With best regards,
HR Department

Mark Turner : Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: Counting Carbon | International Council on Clean Transportation

February 19, 2019 02:51 PM

A good analysis on which mode of transportation is the greenest.

One question we’ve fielded lately with the release of our US airline efficiency ranking is how the fuel efficiency, and therefore carbon intensity, of aircraft compare to other modes of transportation. Vehicles meet a variety of transport needs, in terms of what is transported (people vs. goods), distance traveled (short intercity trips vs. transoceanic transport), and speed (12 mph on a bike vs. Mach 0.85 in a long-haul aircraft). Typically, travelers choose between different transport modes based upon a variety of criteria—cost, speed, comfort, even safety—with carbon footprint generally only a secondary consideration. But, for those relative few who would consider planning a trip with carbon dioxide emissions in mind, here are some preliminary thoughts.

Source: Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: Counting Carbon | International Council on Clean Transportation

Mark Turner : Incredible Footage of Rage Against the Machine Performing at Berkeley Square in November 1992

February 19, 2019 02:33 PM

On November 7, 1992, a really passionate Rage Against the Machine performed an incredible show at Berkeley Square in Berkeley, California. This powerful set included some of their now iconic songs such as “Bombtrack”, “Fistful Of Steel”, “Wake Up”, “Settle For Nothing” , “Killing In The Name”, “Bullet In The Head” and “Freedom”.

Commenter Mike4Metal was at this show and shared his excitement about seeing the band that night.

I was there that night!! The organization opened up that night, no one knew who rage was at this time, their debut was not out yet!! They surprised us all that night!!! I feel lucky to have witnessed their first Bay Area gig!!! Now they are legendary!!!

Earlier that year, the band performed an equally incredible show at Zed Records in Long Beach.

via reddit

Source: Incredible Footage of Rage Against the Machine Performing at Berkeley Square in November 1992

Mark Turner : Insects are dying off — alarmingly fast – Vox

February 14, 2019 05:06 PM

Insects are the most abundant animals on planet Earth. If you were to put them all together into one creepy-crawly mass, they’d outweigh all humanity by a factor of 17.

Insects outweigh all the fish in the oceans and all the livestock munching grass on land. Their abundance, variety (there could be as many as 30 million species), and ubiquity mean insects play a foundational role in food webs and ecosystems: from the bees that pollinate the flowers of food crops like almonds to the termites that recycle dead trees in forests.

Insects are also superlative for another, disturbing reason: They’re vanishing at a rate faster than mammals, fish, amphibians, and reptiles.

“The pace of modern insect extinctions surpasses that of vertebrates by a large margin,” write the authors of an alarming new review in Biological Conservation of the scientific literature on insect populations published in the past 40 years. The state of insect biodiversity, they write, is “dreadful.” And their biomass — the estimated weight of all insects on Earth combined — is dropping by an estimated 2.5 percent every year.

In all, the researchers conclude that as much as 40 percent of all insect species may be endangered over the next several decades. (Caveat: Most of the data was obtained from studies conducted in Europe and North America.) And around 41 percent of all insect species on record have seen population declines in the past decade.

“We estimate the current proportion of insect species in decline … to be twice as high as that of vertebrates, and the pace of local species extinction … eight times higher,” the authors write. “It is evident that we are witnessing the largest [insect] extinction event on Earth since the late Permian and Cretaceous periods.”

Source: Insects are dying off — alarmingly fast – Vox

Mark Turner : The subscription-pocalypse is about to hit » Nieman Journalism Lab

February 14, 2019 05:01 PM

How many things are you subscribed to right now?

How many news organizations or writers or blogs or podcasts do you pay for every month?

How many do you plan on being subscribed to at this time next year?

The growth of the subscription model has been one of the biggest developments in online journalism in the past few years. In the sports world, where my research is situated, this is most clearly seen by the growth of The Athletic, the subscription-only site that’s expanded into every major pro market in the U.S. and in November received $40 million in venture capital funding.But in 2019, it feels like there’s a bit of a reckoning coming. There’s a subscription-pocalypse looming. And newspapers are going to get hit by it.

Source: The subscription-pocalypse is about to hit » Nieman Journalism Lab

Mark Turner : Apple’s new deal for journalism should send publishers running – The Verge

February 14, 2019 05:00 PM

Social networks influence democracy in part because they occupy a large portion of our shared information sphere. Which voices bubble up there — and which are smothered — affect the discussions we have, and the actions that we take as a result. But a tech giant doesn’t need to have a social network to alter our information environment. If Apple is to have its way, all it may need is the iPhone.


It’s easy to see why Apple favors the scheme. It gets a windfall of new revenue at a time when the decline in iPhone sales has made selling additional services a high priority. It gets to bring more high-quality publishers onto its platform, burnishing its reputation as a premium brand. And it gets to talk loudly about how much it loves journalism, as Apple vice president Eddy Cue did when announcing Apple’s acquisition of the subscription news app Texture last year. “We are committed to quality journalism from trusted sources and allowing magazines to keep producing beautifully designed and engaging stories for users,” he said at the time.

Source: Apple’s new deal for journalism should send publishers running – The Verge

Mark Turner : Who is Richard Burr, Really? Why the public can’t trust his voice in the Russia probe | Just Security

February 14, 2019 04:55 PM

On the same day that Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) officially joined the Trump campaign as a senior national security advisor, the U.S. intelligence community released a statement that the Kremlin was trying to interfere in the election. But the Senator already knew those facts, and much more. Burr had been fully briefed in secret by the U.S. intelligence community a few weeks earlier. Senior U.S. officials told Burr that Russia’s interference was designed to support Donald Trump’s electoral chances. Burr decided to team up with the Trump campaign anyway, and hitch his own electoral fate in North Carolina to Trump’s political fortunes.

More than two years later, Burr now leads the Senate’s flagship investigation into whether fellow members of the Trump campaign colluded with Russia’s efforts. As the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Burr’s work with Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) on the investigation is heading toward its final stage. The committee is expected to issue its major findings in the coming months.

Burr has received remarkably favorable press coverage for his stewardship of the investigation. Many mainstream commentators have heralded his committee as a bipartisan effort to follow the facts and tell the American public what it finds. Closer observation, however, raises serious questions whether that’s how this chapter in the 2016 election saga will end.

What’s largely escaped scrutiny is the case of Burr’s own words and deeds during the 2016 campaign. It was impossible to put the pieces together back then. We now have a much clearer picture due to news reports, court filings by the special counsel, and congressional testimony by former administration officials. We have learned a lot about what Russia was doing, what the U.S. intelligence community knew, and what Burr was told. The picture that emerges is neither favorable for Burr personally, nor for what truths Americans can expect to receive from his stewardship of the committee in the months ahead.

Source: Who is Richard Burr, Really? Why the public can’t trust his voice in the Russia probe | Just Security

Mark Turner : Mark Galeotti: ‘We should laugh at Russia more’ | Books | The Guardian

February 11, 2019 10:19 PM

Here’s a great intro to what the West is doing wrong with regards to Vladimir Putin: building him up. Mark Galeotti says we should “laugh at Russia more,” and I agree.

Mark Galeotti is an expert on Russian politics and crime. He is a Jean Monnet fellow at the European University Institute, a non-resident fellow at the Institute of International Relations Prague and senior associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute in London. He has published extensively on Russia. Galeotti’s latest book, We Need to Talk About Putin, argues that the Russian leader is widely misunderstood.

What is the biggest popular misconception about Vladimir Putin?I think it is precisely that he runs everything. There is still this notion that he is some kind of James Bond super-villain. First, that’s just not the way the world is; also, he could be considered something of a lazy autocrat who sits back and lets others come up with all kinds of plans and stratagems of their own.

Source: Mark Galeotti: ‘We should laugh at Russia more’ | Books | The Guardian

Mark Turner : Hengameh Golestan: Witness 1979

February 10, 2019 04:22 PM

I was reminded again of this story, where in 1979 100,000 Iranian women took to the streets to protest the repressive ways of the Iranian Revolution on women. Perhaps one day Iranian women will regain the rights they lost in this sorry episode.

Iranian photographer Hengameh Golestan was married to the award-winning Iranian photojournalist Kaveh Golestan, who died while on assignment in Iraqi Kurdistan, in 2003.

Hengameh took her first images aged 18, and for a brief time attended photography school in England, but learnt most about taking pictures from working as her husband’s assistant. “To say that working with Kaveh was inspiring would be an understatement,” she says. “He was always critiquing my work and offering advice to help me improve. Technically and also spiritually I got everything from him.”

Hengameh liked to photograph everyday life in her home city of Tehran, in particular the lives of women and children, and quiet, often mundane domestic details. But in 1979, when she was 27, revolution came. In January, following two years of demonstrations, the last Persian monarch – the Shah – left Iran for exile. In Feburary, Ayatollah Khomeini returned to the city, bringing about the final collapse of the royal reign and a new Islamic Republic.

“It was the best time of my life,” says Golestan. “I was in the streets from morning until night as something was always happening. Every day was so unpredictable. The mood was one of anticipation and excitement, and a bit of fear. We were actively taking part in shaping our future through actions rather than words and that felt amazing.”

Source: Hengameh Golestan: Witness 1979

Mark Turner : A Major Nuclear Missile Treaty Is Nearly Dead, So Here’s What Happens Next

February 10, 2019 04:07 PM

Here’s a really good, in-depth look at what the U.S. withdrawing from the INF Treaty means for the world.

One of the major accomplishments of the Cold War is on life support. The Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, which eliminated an entire class of nuclear missiles, is currently in a coma and two of the signatories, the United States and Russia, are bickering over who is responsible. Barring major action, it is set to expire in just under six months The absence of the treaty could make the world a much more dangerous place, needlessly restarting an arms race that nobody wants. And this whole thing started decades ago, in large part because of geography.

We’ve already covered a lot of this ground before, but it’s complicated, so let’s go over it again.

Source: A Major Nuclear Missile Treaty Is Nearly Dead, So Here’s What Happens Next

Mark Turner : U.S. GAO – Key Issues: Disposal of High-Level Nuclear Waste

February 07, 2019 01:32 PM

The United States has over 90,000 metric tons of nuclear waste that requires disposal. The U.S. commercial power industry alone has generated more waste (nuclear fuel that is “spent” and is no longer efficient at generating power) than any other country—nearly 80,000 metric tons. This spent nuclear fuel, which can pose serious risks to humans and the environment, is enough to fill a football field about 20 meters deep. The U.S. government’s nuclear weapons program has generated spent nuclear fuel as well as high-level radioactive waste and accounts for most of the rest of the total at about 14,000 metric tons, according to the Department of Energy (DOE). For the most part, this waste is stored where it was generated—at 80 sites in 35 states. The amount of waste is expected to increase to about 140,000 metric tons over the next several decades. However, there is still no disposal site in the United States. After spending decades and billions of dollars to research potential sites for a permanent disposal site, including at the Yucca Mountain site in Nevada that has a license application pending to authorize construction of a nuclear waste repository, the future prospects for permanent disposal remain unclear.

Source: U.S. GAO – Key Issues: Disposal of High-Level Nuclear Waste

Mark Turner : Opinion | Awash in Radioactive Waste – The New York Times

February 07, 2019 01:31 PM

On its 60th anniversary, the civilian age of nuclear power in America appears to be almost over. But with the country awash in radioactive waste and plutonium stockpiled for warheads, the task of managing this atomic legacy grows ever more urgent. Opening a long-delayed waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada is imperative.

President Dwight Eisenhower formally opened America’s first commercial nuclear power station at Shippingport, Pa., near Pittsburgh, on May 26, 1958. He declared it would “put the atom to work for the good of mankind, not his destruction.” His nuclear cheerleader, Lewis Strauss, chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, had promised power “too cheap to meter.”

Today, with cheap gas and falling prices for wind and solar energy, nuclear power is often now too expensive to sell. Six plants closed from 2013 to 2017. At least seven more — from the Oyster Creek plant in New Jersey to the Diablo Canyon plant in California — have been earmarked for final shutdown, often years before their operating licenses expire. About a quarter of the nation’s nuclear power plants don’t cover their operating costs, according to a recent analysis by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Source: Opinion | Awash in Radioactive Waste – The New York Times

Callan report can be found here. [PDF]

Mark Turner : The Story Behind Jared Kushner’s Curious Acceptance… — ProPublica

February 01, 2019 01:53 AM

I would like to express my gratitude to Jared Kushner for reviving interest in my 2006 book, “The Price of Admission.” I have never met or spoken with him, and it’s rare in this life to find such a selfless benefactor. Of course, I doubt he became Donald Trump’s son-in-law and consigliere merely to boost my lagging sales, but still, I’m thankful

.My book exposed a grubby secret of American higher education: that the rich buy their under-achieving children’s way into elite universities with massive, tax-deductible donations. It reported that New Jersey real estate developer Charles Kushner had pledged $2.5 million to Harvard University in 1998, not long before his son Jared was admitted to the prestigious Ivy League school. At the time, Harvard accepted about one of every nine applicants. (Nowadays, it only takes one out of twenty.)

I also quoted administrators at Jared’s high school, who described him as a less than stellar student and expressed dismay at Harvard’s decision.

“There was no way anybody in the administrative office of the school thought he would on the merits get into Harvard,” a former official at The Frisch School in Paramus, New Jersey, told me. “His GPA did not warrant it, his SAT scores did not warrant it. We thought for sure, there was no way this was going to happen. Then, lo and behold, Jared was accepted. It was a little bit disappointing because there were at the time other kids we thought should really get in on the merits, and they did not.”

Source: The Story Behind Jared Kushner’s Curious Acceptance… — ProPublica

Mark Turner : How an Olympic Hopeful Robbed 26 Banks on His Bike

February 01, 2019 01:34 AM

he man in the baseball cap and sunglasses waited for the teller to notice him. The morning of May 26, 2000, was quiet inside the LaSalle Bank in suburban Highland Park. Standing patiently by the velvet ropes, the man looked at his wristwatch. The second hand ticked slowly.

“May I help you?” said the young woman behind the counter, smiling. The man reached to the back of his khakis, as if to fish out a wallet. Instead, he presented her with a 3-by-5-inch index card. The teller’s smile wilted. She stared at the words handwritten in black marker: “THIS IS A ROBBERY. PUT ALL OF YOUR MONEY IN THE BAG.”

The man, who would later be described to the police as a slender, clean-shaven white man in his 20s wearing a light blue oxford shirt, returned the note card to his pocket. “Nice and easy,” he said coolly, handing over a white plastic shopping bag from Sports Authority. While the teller anxiously transferred bundles of cash, the man held his hands at his heart, gently pressing his palms together as if he were about to whisper, Namaste.

Source: How an Olympic Hopeful Robbed 26 Banks on His Bike

Mark Turner : Let me tell you about Rocket

January 29, 2019 03:48 AM

I’ve mentioned the sad ending of my dog, Rocket. Now let me tell you some cool things about him. Many of these I’ve blogged about over the years so some of these may be familiar to you.

Rocket was absolutely the chillest dog you would ever meet. He rarely got excited, wasn’t nervous except around thunderstorms or fireworks, and pretty much got along well with anyone, man or beast. Strangers came and went all throughout our recent home renovation and many times Rocket wouldn’t bother to lift his head.

If you could imagine a low maintenance pet, Rocket was it. I can think of only one time in the entire eleven years he lived with us that he peed in the house – and that was my fault for not reading his signals. Some of that is his fault, though, because his signal for needing to go outside was always to stand quietly in front of the door. If you weren’t paying attention you would miss it!

We brought Rocket home from the Lab Rescue of North Carolina group after seeing his photo on their website. A rescue volunteer brought him over on Travis’s fourth birthday (October 2008) so we could see how he fit into the family. Rocket immediately made himself at home, winning our hearts. It was clearly a good match.

We didn’t know Rocket’s history when he came to us. By then he was already 2+ years old. He was pudgier at the start than he was with us. He brought with him a large, mystery scar that stretched across the front of his shoulders. We never did figure that out. His tongue was a mystery, too: pink around the edges with a splash of dark purple down the center, almost like a chow’s tongue. He looked nearly 100% black Labrador other than that, though.

Part of his early education was lacking. He was a nightmare to walk: bullheaded and strong, paying no heed to the hapless holder of the leash. In spite of his lack of manners, one of the first things we did was toss his choke collar in the trash. Obviously it wasn’t doing any good, so we would have to find other ways of getting along.

Rocket also didn’t do the dog things he should’ve loved to do, like running, fetching, and swimming. Early on, he would run for about a mile before stubbornly managing a trot the rest of the way. He would fetch for about 5 or 6 throws if you were lucky before he’d be veering off to find a lump of tall grass to chew.

We didn’t know if we liked the name he came with, “Rocket.” For a brief time I called him Rocky but it didn’t seem to stick. Travis, feeling a special connection to Rocket because he arrived on Travis’s birthday, nicknamed him his “poose,” a mashed-up version of pooch. We frequently called him “bonehead” after all of the goofy trouble he would get into.

It took some time to get to know him. Early on, he was in the back yard with Kelly when a neighbor’s Siamese cat stupidly wandered into our yard and refused to leave. Greatly undisciplined at the time, Rocket charged the cat and caught it, swinging it in his powerful jaws. The poor cat escaped the yard only to die later of its wounds.

Kelly was upset to the point of being hysterical. We couldn’t have a violent animal living with our young kids. There was talk of giving Rocket up. We decided it may have been an aberration but we were on our guard.

It wasn’t long before another incident caused concern. Rocket was in his bed when Travis came over and tried to start playing with him. Rocket was having none of it and the next thing I know he snaps at Travis!

Whoa, I admitted to myself. That crossed a line.

I yanked Travis away and then Kelly and I had a far more serious conversation about our dog’s future. Rocket was saved, though, when I realized that he had been actually feeling sick and didn’t appreciate Travis being in his face. Fortunately, Rocket soon felt better, the family had a discussion about reading a dog’s signals, and that was the last time I ever saw him be anything but loving towards us.

We went on a lot of adventures together. Rocket would come camping with us, even having his own little corner of the tent. While he was never much of a runner he did enjoy long walks or hikes, always trailing his hind legs slightly askew to the left of his front legs. Part of him not knowing how to “dog” included never feeling the need to hang his head out the window as we drove. I guess he was too dignified for that.

When I could not find anyone to go sailing with me I could always count on Rocket. He seemed to enjoy being on the water. Navigating over the lifeline to get into the boat was always the biggest issue but once he was aboard, he would stretch out in the cockpit and calmly take in the sights and smells on the water. I was always grateful for the company, even if he wasn’t very good at helping to sail the boat.

Our most favorite memory of Rocket was his lovely singing voice. Something about Hallie playing violin would spark him to start howling along, giving full-throated accompaniment in only the way he could. Sometimes I would egg him on with my own howling and while he howled he would watch me to make sure he (or I) was doing it right. Fortunately, he would often stop singing after a few minutes and it was usually enough for the moment but his exuberance never failed to make me laugh. It was sad when he became too deaf to hear Hallie’s violin and he sang no more.

Rocket was a chewer. He destroyed countless “unbreakable” dog toys. He loved to sneak up and pounce on his Nylabones, always giving an impressive head toss before moving in for the kill. Several times he would mix up his upstairs Nylabone with his downstairs Nylabone and “bone confusion” would result. This is when he would decide to pounce on his bone but couldn’t decide which of the two he wanted to pounce upon.

We’d be lucky if Rocket limited his chewing to Nylabones but that wasn’t the case. Early on, we left him alone for ten minutes when a thunderstorm was approaching and came back inside the house to find our remote control scattered on the floor in a dozen pieces. Paint peeled from our doors as he would claw and lick them to get out. He finished off all the medicine that Kelly’s mom once left on the table, suffering no ill effects. He destroyed dozens of brand-new, never-used sandwich containers in one sitting, carefully taking a small bite out of each one. And he fished the sandwich out of the bag of our neighbor, Jessica, who then became known to him as the “nice sandwich lady.”

While we were stringing popcorn on the Christmas tree at Kelly’s parents one year, Rocket seized the opportunity to finish off one popcorn kernel, not knowing it contained a needle and thread! I watched in slow motion as he swallowed it, knowing exactly what was happening but powerless to stop it. That resulted in a few hours at the emergency vet with $800 X-ray, though he passed the needle naturally – and again with no repercussions at all. He lived up to his bonehead name!

There were times, though, when he did spooky things – things I cannot explain. Like how he knew when Kelly was coming home before the car had pulled into the garage. Or how he would start up the stairs to get in his crate long before I made any motion or gesture that indicated I was about to leave. These would happen and I would spend the next hour debating in my head if I had really seen what I thought I had seen (but I really did). You read studies that show just how much dogs can read their people but this was something above and beyond that. I think part of the reason he was so chill about things was because he was reading our reaction, either through our gestures or, ah … other ways. There was definitely something to it.

I won’t forget the time we were at Kelly’s parents’ home and the kids were demonstrating their musical talents. It was Travis’s turn to play so he was at the piano playing his piece while we were all gathered round in respectful silence. Rocket, meanwhile, had taken advantage of our absence to go rooting through the kitchen trash. A moment later, he casually wanders into the room with a yogurt cup stuck on his nose! It was the most hilarious sight and we wanted to burst out laughing but we didn’t dare because Travis would think we were laughing at him!

Rocket was a horrible tracker, too. Couldn’t catch a treat you tossed at him from a foot away from his mouth. On some mornings I would let him into the bedroom to say good morning to Kelly. She’d be brushing her teeth in the bathroom and Rocket would still charge right by her to check for her on her side of the bed. On weekend mornings, I would catch Rocket’s eye and he would begin to follow me around the living room. It only took one duck from me behind the wall, counter, or couch to misdirect him and he would head off in the wrong direction! Rocket just did not know how to Dog. It’s a good thing he was pretty.

The most important thing about Rocket was the way he played the role of court jester in our house. You see, we all had this fake high-pitched Rocket voice we would use to explain whatever Rocket was thinking or doing – it was an idea that we stole from our friend Scott Greenough and his Chocolate lab, Brooklyn. So “Rocket” would “complain” about the lack of respect he got, when he should’ve gotten fed but didn’t, and basically be the running joke of the family. This Rocket had names for all of us: with Kelly becoming Favorite Human, me being Fatso, Hallie as Tall Girl and Travis as Tall Guy. He could say things others couldn’t. It was through this fake Rocket voice that Rocket was gifted with a lot more personality than he ordinarily would have had. It was fun to project onto him and crack everyone else up with whatever witticism we would come up with. The dog just took it all in stride, though he did learn to recognize his “voice” and his ears would perk up whenever he heard it.

I will miss the way he snored loudly when he slept. I will miss his twitching face and legs as he enjoyed a good Dog dream. I’ll miss his sideways walking, his joy whenever it snowed, and his quiet companionship whenever I worked from home.

You always wish your pets could live forever. Maybe you even fool yourself into thinking they will. Then the end comes and we get reminded rather brutally that our time here is so very precious.

Take that nap in the sun. Run around. Do something crazy. Love everyone fiercely. And whatever you do, don’t take the days you’re given for granted. That what Rocket would say.

Mark Turner : Walking a fine line

January 27, 2019 03:26 PM

I woke up early this morning, restless after putting Rocket down last night, and decided a walk would be good therapy. I stepped out of the house and began my usual route around the neighborhood.

As I approached a stretch of Plainview Avenue that’s bordered by cars on both sides and a construction dumpster on one side, a car passed me from behind without incident.

But a minute later I heard another car approaching from behind. Instantly I was filled with alarm. I was walking along the farthest left edge of the road that I could be but something didn’t feel right.

“Please don’t kill me,” I thought firmly in my head, not pausing for a moment to wonder why something so ridiculous would occur to me.

The car, an off-white Altima-type with California tags, came up quickly, taking up much of the left lane. It passed by so close to me that the driver’s side mirror actually gently brushed against my jacket.

If I had taken just one step to my right I would be seriously injured or dead right now. I’m so thankful for my spidey sense.

Mark Turner : Now he belongs to the ages

January 27, 2019 02:59 PM

The last photo of Rocket

“Now he belongs to the ages.”

Such was the quote of Edward Stanton upon the death of Abraham Lincoln. While my dog Rocket was not Abraham Lincoln, I could not help but think that he, too, now belongs to the ages. He died around 8:35 PM last night, surrounded by his Turner pack.

The veterinarian, Dr. Janelle Fenlason from Azure Holland Mobile Veterinary Services, showed up about 15 minutes early to our 8:30 PM appointment. This was added some pain for me as it meant there was less time left to spend with Rocket. Kelly hurriedly gathered the kids so they could have some time with him before the vet arrived. I offered to snap their photos with Rocket but the idea wasn’t well received. I didn’t care because I wanted a photo of myself with him before he was gone.

After more tears were cried and several last dog snacks were shoveled into Rocket’s mouth, I summoned Dr. Fenlason over to our group. She instructed us to distract Rocket while she administered the sedative into his back. Rocket didn’t even notice the needle as he fished a few more snacks out of Travis’s hand.

Within minutes he was dozy, resting his head on alternating paws. Soon his breathing became deep and Dr. Fenlason’s tickling of his hind leg didn’t stir him. She placed a tourniquet around his right leg, shaved off a spot on his shin, and inserted a catheter. I asked the family if they were ready and no one volunteered that they were, though no one protested, either.

through teary eyes, I gave a nod to Dr. Fenlason and she pumped the final dose into Rocket’s leg. His gentle, rhythmic breathing became shallow after a minute, with several rapid breaths as his heart stopped. Then he exhaled one last time as Kelly, Travis, and I cried softly and Hallie looked on from the couch.

“He’s gone,” Dr. Fenlason said quietly as the removed the stethoscope from his chest.

After a moment of shared silence, Dr. Fenlason returned to her car and brought back an animal stretcher. We positioned it behind Rocket’s lifeless body while she lifted his backside onto it and I lifted his chest. She covered him with a blanket and buckled the stretcher’s straps from back to front, leaving his head exposed for one last head scratch and kiss. Then she covered his head and we both walked him back to her car.

There was one last chance to pat him before Dr. Fenlason closed the hatch on her car.

“Hug?” she asked as she walked up to me. I gave her a hug and thanked her.

As the vet pulled away into the night, Travis tightly hugged Kelly and I joined in, followed by Hallie.

“Wave your legs!” Kelly blurted out, and we waved our legs in our “whole body-wave” way we traditionally do whenever Kelly’s parents are leaving our home.

We returned silently to the house, a bit in shock at what we had witnessed. Within minutes, Kelly had returned the last vestiges of Rocket’s things to the washing machine or to storage. I was not quite ready to see it all go but I suppose it is her way of grieving.

She and Hallie then retreated upstairs to watch a movie. Travis took a long shower, and I turned to Facebook to take solace in the comforting thoughts shared by my friends.

In hindsight I should have just stayed awake as I was completely wired and in little mood for sleep. There is nothing that sharpens one’s focus quite like staring at the imminent death of a loved one. I opted not to photograph or film the process because I wanted to be present for Rocket, and I surely was.

So I write this at 10 AM the following day, having awakened earlier than normal due to my restless night. The house was eerily quiet as the sun crept up. There was no dog rustling around in the next room, shaking his head as if to say “it’s time to wake!” Rocket would always be his happiest the first thing in the morning, always giving us a warm hello. And it wasn’t just because his belly needed filling.

Rocket’s joy was a daily reminder that a new day offers the hope and chance for adventure. For love. And just being happy to simply be. These are lessons I will keep in my heart forever.

Mark Turner : The Emotional Final Moments Between Pets And Their Owners

January 27, 2019 02:23 PM

For his new series, Last Moments, Taylor focuses his camera on a certain trauma that many of us have had or will experience in our lives — the loss of a beloved family pet. With the guidance of licensed veterinarians, Taylor was allowed access to capture the emotional final moments between owners and their pets. The resulting images are a sincere and respectful representation of the undeniable bonds between humans and their animal companions.

Here, Taylor speaks with BuzzFeed News on his emotional journey through Last Moments and shares with us a selection of pictures from the series:The focus of Last Moments, in part, is to help those going through this process to know they’re not alone, and that their grief should not be overlooked, nor minimized by others.

It’s real, and it’s painful.

Nationally, thousands of pet owners go through this painful experience each year, and the decision to have at-home pet euthanasia is part of an emerging trend to receive end-of-life care in the home, instead of at a clinic.

Source: The Emotional Final Moments Between Pets And Their Owners

Mark Turner : Saying goodbye to Rocket

January 26, 2019 04:20 PM

Rocket in 2014. One of my favorite pictures of him.

I’ve been dreading this day but now it’s here. It’s the day we say goodbye to our beloved dog, Rocket. Today we say goodbye to a dog who has been part of our family for over ten years. Yet sometimes the right thing to do is not the easy thing to do.

He’s been in decline over the past few months and took a sharp turn for the worse over the last two days. A few months ago we noticed an occasional drop of blood in his saliva. A trip to the vet found a large mass on the back of his tongue – possibly cancer. Yet while he was bleeding all over the veterinary exam room he was bounding all around, quite happily begging for more treats. Upon hearing the tumor was inoperable, Kelly and I realized we were looking at an indefinite amount of time where we would be essentially providing Rocket hospice care, cleaning up his bloody drips and making him as comfortable as we can. So, we covered our den floor with old towels, set up his dog crate in the middle of the room, and did the best we could.

Things seemed manageable until yesterday morning when Rocket struggled to lift himself off the floor. When Kelly took him out front for a bathroom break he staggered around, not knowing where he was or what he should be doing. He spent the rest of the day sleeping in the exact same spot on the floor, never budging for anything.

Suppertime rolled around and he gingerly stood up with my help and stared for the longest time at his food dish, twenty feet away across our hardwood floor. Rocket could not even keep his legs underneath him as he slowly made his way to his dish. Once there, he slowly ate the rest of his breakfast food and a little additional I provided him and then he drank some of his water. Once again, half his food was left behind – an astounding event for a dog who normally emptied his food dish within 90 seconds. The implications were clear to us.

Around that time I hauled him up to take him outside again. For several minutes he stared at the threshold of the open door, unable or unwilling to take a step out (again, highly unusual). A bit of prompting got him outside, where he stepped down the stair-ramp like a champ and stood to pee. Once that was done he refused the trip back up the ramp. His legs gave out (or his stubbornness reasserted itself, I’m not sure which) and he plopped down at the base of the stairs, startling the cat who didn’t know what to make of it. I let him rest there for a little while until the 30-degree cold became too much for me after which he slowly worked his way up the stairs and into the house.

Jupiter doesn’t know what to make of Rocket’s giving up

Kelly and I knew we’d have to make a decision soon. Our regular vet had closed for the day but suggested a mobile vet who could put pets down in their homes. We hemmed and hawed about making an appointment for Saturday (today) but I urged us to wait and see how he acted today.

Today, not much better. He stayed in the same spot all night, his legs splayed out in all directions. He made an effort to rise but only his right hind leg appeared to have any strength.He could not even stand up. Kelly and I had to pick him entirely off the floor and out to the front yard to get him to pee. Once back inside, a bowl of food placed in front of him was politely ignored.

It is time. It is so obviously time.

When we had the first scare months ago, thinking he was leaving us, we were relieved when he bounced back within days, bleeding but moving on his own and obviously still happy. There appears to be no bouncing back this time and now we wonder if we’ve waited too long.

I have wondered when I would know when it was time. Friends suggested “you’ll just know,” which was attempting to be helpful but wasn’t really. Now I do know how I would know: It is time when I don’t feel a shred of guilt in making the decision.

And we’re at that point now. So, the call’s been made. The appointment’s been set for 8:30 this evening. We’ll say our goodbyes here in our home while the vet administers two shots: one to put Rocket to sleep and a follow-on shot to stop his heart.

Though he’s clearly in pain and it’s the right thing to do, it won’t be easy saying goodbye to this loving member of our family. Since blogging is my therapy you will hear more of this in the hours and days ahead.

Any hugs you can send our way will be greatly appreciated.

Mark Turner : Isaac Hunter’s Tavern: A new future for the forgotten history of a place critical to Raleigh’s past |

January 26, 2019 12:56 AM

My friend Heather Leah writes again about Isaac Hunter’s Tavern, this time for ABC11. I get a nice shout-out about halfway down. Thanks again, Heather!

When you walk into the lobby of the North Raleigh Hilton, you are walking on the very footprints of our city’s founders. Beneath those very floors rests the original foundation of Isaac Hunter’s Tavern, a modest wooden cabin with a tin roof built in the 1700s that was so well-loved by North Carolina’s most important and influential men that they decided the state capital should be built no more than ten miles away.

Many locals believed the tavern itself was destroyed, either by entropy or construction for new developments. Despite its critical importance to the history of Raleigh — and really, our entire state — there are no relics or remains on display at any of our history museums. Even people who remember seeing the tavern, dilapidated and disguised as an old horse stable on Wake Forest Road in the 1970s, mostly reported the tavern to have been destroyed.

However, the foundation and wooden planks belonging to Isaac Hunter’s Tavern still stand, hidden by years of misinformation, new developments, and overgrowth. Soon, for the first time in history, the public may finally be able to visit artifacts and pieces of the tavern itself.

Source: Isaac Hunter’s Tavern: A new future for the forgotten history of a place critical to Raleigh’s past |