Mark Turner : John Dingell: How to Fix Government – The Atlantic

December 06, 2018 02:08 PM

Some interesting ideas here. America probably would be better off with a unicameral legislative branch. And certainly without the Electoral College. Perhaps we no longer need the divisions we’ve had in the past and should focus more on acting as a unified body. At any rate, it’s worth considering.

As an armchair activist, I now have the luxury of saying what I believe should happen, not what I think can get voted out of committee. I’m still a pragmatist; I know that profound societal change happens incrementally, over a long period of time. The civil-rights fights of the 1950s and ’60s, of which I am proud to have been a part, are a great example of overcoming setbacks and institutional racism. But 155 years after the Emancipation Proclamation and less than two years after our first African American president left office, racism still remains a part of our national life.

Just for a moment, however, let’s imagine the American system we might have if the better angels of our nature were to prevail.Here, then, are some specific suggestions—and they are only just that, suggestions—for a framework that might help restore confidence and trust in our precious system of government:

Source: John Dingell: How to Fix Government – The Atlantic

Mark Turner : Raleigh’s Civil War Breastworks – the original “Beltline”

December 05, 2018 03:48 AM

Raleigh’s original “Beltline” – the Civil War breastworks

Hours of toiling with Google Earth (GE) has allowed me to get a good feel for how the 1865 map of Raleigh’s breastworks matches up to local landmarks. I created an image overlay in GE, then marked with a pushpin landmarks that are still around today. A bit (okay, hours) of stretching and rotating the overlay image got me a close match of where things were as compared to today.

Enjoy!

Mark Turner : Behold Camp Holmes

December 05, 2018 03:43 AM

The Google Earth mashup of Camp Holmes

After messing with Google Earth for hours tonight I finally got a rough idea of the location of one of Raleigh’s Civil War “camps of instruction,” Camp Holmes. It seems to have been west of the modern-day intersection of Capital Boulevard and Wake Forest Road, where the Raleigh Bonded warehouses and Norfolk Southern’s Raleigh Yard are today. Being that most of the camp is now a railyard, poking around there is not feasible. Still, there might be interesting finds on the periphery, perhaps the treeline south of Georgetown Road.

Who knew that those dingy warehouses and railyard was once the site where 9,000 Confederate conscripts trained to become soldiers?

Mark Turner : Camp Holmes – Raleigh’s Civil War “Camp of Instruction”

December 04, 2018 10:44 PM

Camp Holmes (including “officers quaters”)


A friend shared a historical map this morning that caught my eye. It is a map of the old breastworks built by the city of Raleigh to impede approaching Union troops near the end of the Civil War. I’d seen the historical marker (H-30) a mile away from my home, mentioning that breastworks were nearby but I’d never seen them and didn’t think much about them until now. So, one of my upcoming projects is to trace the path of the old earthen walls so that I can visit these sites to see if there’s anything left (update: found them!). After 153 years, it’s unlikely I’ll find any remnants of the five-foot-tall earthen walls and gravel but you never know.

Another detail of the map caught my eye, however: Camp Holmes. Curious about what this is, I did a few Google searches and was surprised to learn that nobody really knows where it was. It’s plainly on this old map, however, so a bit of Google Earth magic should show me roughly where I can physically search for it (update: found it!)

My Camp Holmes searches brought up a few lonely hits, one of which is a letter detailing an inspection made of Camp Holmes by Confederate assistant adjutant-general LtC Archer Anderson in June 1864. It provides an interesting look at the camp. There are others online, too, in the form of handwritten letters which will take some deciphering before being posted online.

As the letter appeared in a US Congressional publication in 1900 it is now in the public domain. Here it is in its entirety. I’ll post more stories as I learn more about the camp.

June 16, 1864.

Report of inspection of Camp Holmes, a camp of instruction near Raleigh, commanded by Major Hahr, with the following: staff: One first lieutenant, adjutant; one first lieutenant, receiving officer; one assistant quartermaster; one assistant commissary of subsistence; one surgeon and one assistant surgeon; one chaplain; one first lieutenant, commanding guard; four second lieutenants, drill-masters.

As the conscripts come in their names are recorded with a statement of their age, county, the officer by whom enrolled, and other facts entering into a descriptive list. When they leave the camp the assignment made of them is recorded in the same book, which thus presents a complete history of the connection of each conscript, passing through this camp with the conscription authorities. Nine thousand and fifty-seven are shown to have been enrolled at Camp Holmes during the year ending June 13, but this figure does not indicate the whole number enrolled in the State in that period, as many are detailed for various duties without passing through the camp of instruction. The names thus recorded are classified in three other books as follows: 1. The principals of substitutes — 430 so far. 2. Persons exempt prior to act of February 17 otherwise than by substitution. 3. Those not previously exempt. All conscripts fit for the field are examined by the Medical Board and classified according to their special fitness for artillery, cavalry, or infantry service. Besides the above the following books are kept:

1. A record of the absentees, deserters, etc., arrested and sent to their commands. Three hundred odd of these arrests were made in May; over 6,000 have been returned through this camp.
2. Morning report book showing all present in camp.
3. Order book. These books preserve a record of all the facts which would seem to be essential.

There are 136 enlisted men in camp. Of these, sixty-four disabled conscripts and soldiers constitute the camp guard. The remainder are conscripts whose permanent assignment is delayed for obvious causes. Colonel Mallett, commandant of conscripts, thinks the guard which has been limited by the Bureau to the above number too small to prevent the escape of conscripts, and entirely insufficient to furnish traveling guards for the conscripts, deserters, and others sent to the various armies. Sixty men are needed for this duty alone, he says. The average time this year which conscripts have remained at Camp Holmes is less than a week. They are not drilled during that time, it is stated, because better employment has been found for the drill-masters. This I should think a mistake. Even a week’s drilling would do something to set the conscript up as a soldier, and would at least keep him in good health and spirits. With the present organization I see no reason why the few conscripts in camp should not be industriously drilled three times a day.

Staff departments. — The assistant quartermaster, besides discharging the appropriate duties of the camp, pays all the enrolling officers of the State and provides them with stationery. Every conscript is clothed by him before he leaves the camp. Employees: One clerk, one forage-master, one overseer of wood-choppers — all disabled soldiers or conscripts.

The medical officers are the physicians of the camp, and constitute a board for the duties before mentioned. The senior officer has the supervision of all the district medical boards, and is charged with the duty of keeping them filled with proper officers. Every conscript is vaccinated here. A neat hospital with eighteen beds is attached. Employees: One hospital steward, regularly appointed; one clerk, a disabled conscript.

The assistant commissary of subsistence draws his supplies from the district commissary at Raleigh. Ration: One and one-eighth pounds flour, one-third pound bacon or one pound salt fish, the latter two days out of three, one-tenth pound rice, and salt as usual. During the past month two quarts of molasses to the hundred rations have been issued. Employees: Two clerks and one teamster, each a disabled soldier or conscript. A fine garden of twenty acres filled with vegetables will materially improve the fare and contribute to the health of the conscripts this summer. It is cultivated by six conscripts unfit for field service. The men are quartered in log huts. There is abundance of room, but the police of the quarters might be improved. The guard-house is dirty and too confined. It appears that of some 250 conscripts who had been doing duty for two years in Mallett’s battalion as a camp guard and supporting force, 100 men without any experience on the water selected the naval service when their temporary organization was disbanded a few weeks since. Thus 100 trained soldiers are lost to the Army when every man is needed. I mention the incident, as it may be thought proper to take measures for their transfer to the Army, or for the alteration of the law at the next session of Congress. With the instructions on this subject under which commandants are now acting (issued by General Rains) it is matter of surprise that a single conscript goes to the Army.

Respectfully submitted.
ARCHER ANDERSON, Lieutenant-Colonel and Assistant Adjutant-General.

Mark Turner : 5 people died from eating lettuce, but Trump’s FDA still won’t make farms test water for bacteria

November 26, 2018 12:18 AM

William Whitt suffered violent diarrhea for days. But once he began vomiting blood, he knew it was time to rush to the hospital. His body swelled up so much that his wife thought he looked like the Michelin Man, and on the inside, his intestines were inflamed and bleeding.

For four days last spring, doctors struggled to control the infection that was ravaging Whitt, a father of three in western Idaho. The pain was excruciating, even though he was given opioid painkillers intravenously every 10 minutes for days.

His family feared they would lose him.

“I was terrified. I wouldn’t leave the hospital because I wasn’t sure he was still going to be there when I got back,” said Whitt’s wife, Melinda.

Whitt and his family were baffled: How could a healthy 37-year-old suddenly get so sick? While he was fighting for his life, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention quizzed Whitt, seeking information about what had sickened him.

Finally, the agency’s second call offered a clue: “They kept drilling me about salad,” Whitt recalled. Before he fell ill, he had eaten two salads from a pizza shop.

Source: 5 people died from eating lettuce, but Trump’s FDA still won’t make farms test water for bacteriaReveal

Mark Turner : An Oral History of “We Built This City,” the Worst Song of All Time | GQ

November 21, 2018 03:19 AM

I found this amusing. The members of Starship discuss “We Built This City,” arguably the worst song of all time.

Thomas: Bernie didn’t say “mambo,” he said “mamba,” which is a snake. Marconi created the radio. Maybe Bernie meant to say “mambo.” Maybe it means: If you don’t like this music, some really angry snakes are gonna come out of the speakers.

Thomas: At one point I did start to sing “mambo,” to try and be more grammatically correct, and after a while I thought, “Fuck it,” and went back to “mamba.”

Source: An Oral History of “We Built This City,” the Worst Song of All Time | GQ

Tarus Balog : #OSMC 2018 – Day 2

November 20, 2018 04:47 PM

Despite how long the Tuesday night festivities lasted, quite a few people managed to make the first presentation on Wednesday morning. I’m old so I had gone to bed fairly early and was able to see “Make IT Monitoring Ready for Cloud-native Systems” bright and early.

OSMC 2018 RealOpInsight

This presentation focused on a project called RealOpInsight. This seems to be a sort of “Manager of Managers” for multiple monitoring applications, and I didn’t really see a “cloud-native” focus in the presentation. It is open-source so if you find yourself running many instances of disparate monitoring platforms you may find RealOpInsight useful.

This was followed by a presentation from Uber.

OSMC 2018 Uber

One can imagine the number of metrics an organization like Uber collects (and I did refrain myself from making snarky comments like “what database do you use to track celebrities?” and “where do you count the number of assaults by Uber drivers?”). Rob Skillington seemed pretty cool and I didn’t want to put him on the spot.

Uber used to use Cassandra, which is a storage option for OpenNMS, but they found when they hit around 80,000 metrics per second the system couldn’t keep up (one of the largest OpenNMS deployments is 20,000 metrics/sec so 80K is a lot). Their answer was to create a new storage system called M3DB. While it seems pretty impressive, I did ask some questions about how mature it was because at OpenNMS we are always looking out for ways to make things easier for our users, and Rob admitted that while it works well for Uber it needs some work to be generally useful, which is why they open-sourced it. We’ll keep an eye on it.

The next time slot was the “German only” one I mentioned in my last post, so I engaged in the hallway track until lunch.

OSMC 2018 Rihards Olups

It was lovely to see Rihards Olups again. We met at the first OSMC I attended when he was part of the “Latvian Army” at Zabbix. He gave an entertaining talk on dealing with the alerts from your monitoring system, and he ended with the tag line “Make Alerts Meaningful Again (MAMA)”. Seems like a perfect slogan for a ball cap, preferably in red.

OSMC 2018 Dave Kempe

Another delightful human being I got to see was Dave Kempe, who came all the way from Sydney. While we had met at a prior OSMC, this conference we ended up spending a lot more time together (he was in the Prometheus training as well as the Thursday Hackathon). He gave a talk on being a monitoring consultant, and it was interesting to compare his experiences with my own (they were similar).

For most people the conference ended on Wednesday. I said goodbye to people like Peter Eckel and looked forward to the next OSMC so I could see them again.

Speaking of the next OSMC, we are going to be doing OpenNMS training on that first day, November 4th, so save the date. It is the least we could do since they went to the trouble to advertise OpenNMS Horizon® on all their posters (grin).

OSMC 2018 Horizon

Ronny and I were hanging around for the Hackathon on Thursday, and for those attendees there was a nice dinner at a local restaurant called Tapasitos. It was fun to spend more time with the OSMC gang and to get ready for our last day at the conference.

OSMC 2018 Tapasitos

Mark Turner : California fire: What started as a tiny brush fire became the state’s deadliest wildfire. Here’s how – Los Angeles Times

November 19, 2018 01:33 AM

Terrifying accounts of escape from the California Camp Fire.

The fire caught up to Jolly on Pearson Road, blasting her car with heat. She reached for the stethoscope slung around her neck and flinched as the metal burned. Her steering wheel was melting — the plastic stuck to her hands.

As her car caught fire and began to fill with black smoke, she called her husband. “Run,” he told her.

Jolly fled for safety to the car ahead of hers, but it too was abandoned. She ran on.The rubber on her shoes melted into the asphalt. The back of her scrubs caught fire, blistering her legs. She tried another car, but it wasn’t moving.

“I can’t die like this,” she told herself. “There’s no way I’m going to die sitting in a car. I have to run.”

Source: California fire: What started as a tiny brush fire became the state’s deadliest wildfire. Here’s how – Los Angeles Times

Tarus Balog : #OSMC 2018 – Day 1

November 16, 2018 05:03 PM

The 2018 Open Source Monitoring Conference officially got started on Tuesday. This was my fifth OSMC (based on the number of stars on my badge), although I am happy to have been at the very first OSMC conference with that name.

As usual our host and Master of Ceremonies Bernd Erk started off the festivities.

OSMC 2018 Welcome

This year there were three tracks of talks. Usually there are two, and I’m not sure how I feel about more tracks. Recently I have been attending Network Operator Group (NOG) meetings and they are usually one or two days long but only one track. I like that, as I get exposed to things I normally wouldn’t. One of my favorite open source conferences All Things Open has gotten so large that it is unpleasant to navigate the schedule.

In the case of the OSMC, having three tracks was okay, but I still liked the two track format better. One presentation was always in English, although one of the first things Bernd mentioned in his welcome was that Mike Julian was unable to make it for his talk on Wednesday and thus that time slot only had two German language talks.

If they seem interesting I’ll sit in on the German talks, especially if Ronny is there to translate. I am very interested in open source home automation (well, more on the monitoring side than, say, turning lights on and off) so I went to the OpenHAB talk by Marianne Spiller.

OSMC 2018 OpenHAB

I found out that there are mainly two camps in this space: OpenHAB and Home Assistant. The former is in Java which seems to invoke some Java hate, but since I was going to use OpenHAB for our MQTT Hackathon on Thursday I thought I would listen in.

OSMC 2018 Custom MIB

I also went to a talk on using a Python library for instrumenting your own SNMP MIB by Pieter Hollants. We have a drink vending machine that I monitor with OpenNMS. Currently I just output the values to a text file and scrape them via HTTP, but I’d like to propose a formal MIB structure and implement it via SNMP. Pieter’s work looks promising and now I just have to find time to play with it.

Just after lunch I got a call that my luggage had arrived at the hotel. Just in time because otherwise I was going to have to do my talk in the Icinga shirt Bernd gave me. Can’t have that (grin).

My talk was lightly attended, but the people who did come seemed to enjoy it. It was one of the better presentations I’ve created lately, and the first comment was that the talk was much better than the title suggested. I was trying to be funny when I used “OpenNMS Geschäftsbericht” (OpenNMS Annual Report) in my submission. It’s funny because I speak very little German, although it was accurate since I was there to present on all of the cool stuff that has happened with OpenNMS in the past year. It was recorded so I’ll post a link once the videos are available.

In contrast, Bernd’s talk on the current state of Icinga was standing room only.

OSMC 2018 State of Icinga

The OSMC has its roots in Nagios and its fork Icinga, and most people who come to the OSMC are there for Icinga information. It is easy to why this talk was so popular (even though it was basically “Icinga Geschäftsbericht” – sniff). The cool demo was an integration Bernd did using IBM’s Node-RED, Telegram and an Apple Watch, but unfortunately it didn’t work. I’m hoping we can work up an Apple Watch/OpenNMS integration by next year’s conference (should be possible to add hooks to the Watch from the iOS version of Compass).

The evening event was held at a place called Loftwerk. It was some distance from the conference so a number of buses were chartered to take us there. It was fun if a bit loud.

OSMC 2018 Loftwerk

OSMC celebrations are known to last into the night. The bar across the street from the conference hotel (which I believe has changed hands at least three times in the lifetime of the OSMC) becomes “Checkpoint Jenny” once the main party ends and can go on until nearly dawn, which is why I like to speak on the first day.

Mark Turner : Critic’s Notebook: ‘Frontline’ Doc ‘The Facebook Dilemma’ May Scare You Off Social Media | Hollywood Reporter

November 15, 2018 01:37 PM

The two-part ‘Frontline’ special presents a chilling portrait of a social media behemoth that cares more about profits than its users’ privacy.If you’re reading this article, you’ve presumably taken a break from logging on to Facebook to catch up with such important developments as your cousin’s recent trip to Disney World. But if you really want to end your addiction to the social media monolith, watch the two-part Frontline documentary The Facebook Dilemma, airing Monday and Tuesday night on PBS. If this deeply disturbing investigative report doesn’t scare you straight, nothing will.

Directed by James Jacoby, the film recounts how Facebook’s success at connecting the world has come at a very high cost. In the old days before the internet, people would get their information from reputable print and broadcast media that was actually curated and edited. Now the vast majority get the news from a website that takes almost no responsibility for what it spews into the world. Say what you will about The New York Times and CNN, but unless Dean Baquet and Jeff Zucker are Manchurian Candidates, Russia hasn’t managed to infiltrate, either.

Source: Critic’s Notebook: ‘Frontline’ Doc ‘The Facebook Dilemma’ May Scare You Off Social Media | Hollywood Reporter

Mark Turner : How Your Gut Bacteria May Be Controlling Your Brain

November 15, 2018 01:35 PM

The gut has made a sudden rise to prominence as an arbiter of overall health. It’s well established that gut bacteria, also known as the microbiome, can influence digestion, allergies and metabolism. But these microbes’ reach may extend much further – into the brain. Conditions including depression and anxiety are now being linked to the digestive system.

The brain may be one of the most complex objects known to humankind, but science has suggested the digestive system is of equal importance, especially when it comes to our emotional health. Your gut is teeming with trillions of bacteria, making up what’s known as the microbiome. Collectively weighing up to two kilograms (heavier than the average brain), the microbiome plays a vital role in your health, breaking down food, supporting immunity and, perhaps surprisingly, affecting mood. Nutritionist Rebecca Pilkington believes keeping the microbiome balanced is the key to optimal physical and mental health. “If your gut is out of whack,” she says, “this can lead to inflammation, believed to be one of the biggest causes of depression.”

Source: How Your Gut Bacteria May Be Controlling Your Brain

Mark Turner : This North Carolina gerrymandering lawsuit is poised to save democracy in the state by 2020.

November 15, 2018 01:33 PM

Slate covers the gerrymandering lawsuit.

North Carolina Republicans have spent the last eight years ruthlessly undermining democracy in their state. The key to their extraordinary success is a series of partisan gerrymanders that dilute the power of Democrats’ vote, allowing the GOP to maintain a firm grasp on the state legislature. But Republicans failed to subvert the one institution capable of reversing this damage to fair representation: the state judiciary. Now voting rights advocates are poised to score a legal victory in North Carolina that could wipe out the GOP’s legislative gerrymander—with the help of civil rights attorney Anita Earls, who was elected to the state Supreme Court last week. The case could give Democrats a real shot at retaking the legislature in 2020, or at least contesting it on an even playing field.

Source: This North Carolina gerrymandering lawsuit is poised to save democracy in the state by 2020.

Mark Turner : Michael McFaul | Containing Putin’s Russia

November 15, 2018 01:30 PM

Relations between Russia and the United States have deteriorated to their most dangerous point in decades. The current situation is not, as many have dubbed it, a new Cold War. But no one should draw much comfort from the ways in which today’s standoff differs from the earlier one. The quantitative nuclear arms race is over, but Russia and the United States have begun a new qualitative arms race in nuclear delivery vehicles, missile defenses, and digital weapons. The two countries are no longer engulfed in proxy wars, but over the last decade, Russia has demonstrated less and less restraint in its use of military power. The worldwide ideological struggle between capitalism and communism is history, but Russian President Vladimir Putin has anointed himself the leader of a renewed nationalist, conservative movement fighting a decadent West. To spread these ideas, the Russian government has made huge investments in television and radio stations, social media networks, and Internet “troll farms,” and it has spent lavishly in support of like-minded politicians abroad. The best description of the current hostilities is not cold war but hot peace.

Source: Michael McFaul | Containing Putin’s Russia

Mark Turner : Behind the Scenes at a Bundy Rally | Outside Online

November 14, 2018 02:34 PM

If there was a defining trait among the several dozen people who gathered recently to hear Ammon Bundy speak at the New Code of the West conference in Whitefish, Montana, it was their age—on average, well into eligibility for Social Security benefits. I don’t mention this to promote ageist ideas about who should be involved in political activism—the baby boomers comprise the largest voting bloc in America—but rather to suggest that the “Bundy movement,” such as it exists, appears conspicuously long in the tooth.

Source: Behind the Scenes at a Bundy Rally | Outside Online

Mark Turner : The lost art of whistling loudly with your fingers – if stranded it could save your life – Outdoor Revival

November 14, 2018 02:32 PM

When most people think about loud whistling, they often think about trying to get someone’s attention or perhaps even using it as a survival skill in the woods.

Although humans have used loud whistling for hundreds, and perhaps thousands of years, it is a dying art. Here’s how you can learn to do it, and the history behind your newest survival skill.

There are many different ways to achieve a loud whistle with your fingers. According to the Art of Manliness, regardless of which finger placement you choose, the next steps are all identical; it is simply a matter of finding what works for you.

First, you need to wet your lips and curl them back over your teeth as if you were imitating an old person who’d forgotten to put in their dentures that morning.Next, you put your fingers in your mouth using your desired placement and hold your bottom lip curled in while pushing your tongue back in your mouth.

This step is a little complicated and can take some practice to get right, but generally, you push on the bottom of the tip of your tongue so that it curls upwards while simultaneously being pushed back by your fingers. Then, keeping your lips curled, you close your mouth over your fingers creating an airtight seal — and blow.

Source: The lost art of whistling loudly with your fingers – if stranded it could save your life – Outdoor Revival

Mark Turner : Alan Frederick Swanstrom Obituary – Cary, NC

November 14, 2018 02:28 PM


I learned last night that my friend Al Swanstrom died last week. I originally knew Al through my working with his wife, Pam, back at HAHT Software over twenty years ago. Al was so sharp, friendly, and funny. It was always fun trading quips with him. When he campaigned for a state senate seat a few years ago I did not think twice about standing for hours outside a polling place in “unfriendly territory” to help support him. It was sad to learn he was ill.

My thoughts are with Pam and her family in this difficult time.

Having been born in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Al was an avid Packers fan. He was also very proud of his father’s Swedish heritage and recently connected with his Swedish relatives.

Al was an IBMer for over 30 years and traveled worldwide in various roles. During his career, Al was granted several patents. After retirement, Al dedicated his time to public service, including serving on the Town of Cary Planning Board, Wake County Planning Board (Chair), and North Carolina Turnpike Authority. Throughout, Al was a tireless volunteer for Triangle Wine Experience and Leukemia/Lymphoma Society.

Al was the architect of his life and many things of beauty. He was happiest sailing and diving with his family, woodworking, working on his cars, designing a new technical solution and spending time with the “Coffee Gang.”

He was an officer of the Triangle Bailliage de North Carolina of the Chaîne de Rotisseurs and a past Maître of the Triangle NC Chapter of the Commanderie de Bordeaux. Al shared his knowledge of wine and passion for culinary arts with friends in both organizations. He was a great host and welcomed friends into his home.

Source: Alan Frederick Swanstrom Obituary – Cary, NC

Mark Turner : Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi Have No Idea What Kind of Fight They’re In | GQ

November 14, 2018 02:19 PM

Democrats need to do better at building our bench – I’m not anti-Pelosi but it’s long past time to be grooming new leadership.

One day. All I wanted was one little day to bask in the election results and delude myself into thinking that, by taking the House, Democrats would provide at least some bulwark against the wave of right-wing fascism that is currently holding this nation hostage. I wanted a day. Instead, we got Chuck Schumer.

Here is a great waste of a man: spineless, craven, utterly terrified of being disliked by the opposition. The past two years have been an ongoing national emergency, with a deranged liar sitting in the Oval Office and a Republican Party newly emboldened by that president’s racism and disregard for facts and law. They’re robbing taxpayers blind. They’re menacing the vulnerable. They’re overseeing sham investigations into corrupt judges and ramming them through. They’re trying to stop ballot counts in Florida as we speak. The White House press secretary literally sent out doctored footage of a reporter to accuse him of assault. There’s no hope of good faith with these assholes. They are EATING America alive, and the proof is on the ground. Mass shootings are happening daily. Kids are locked in jails. We need goddamn Superman to fix this, and instead we’re getting these two:

Source: Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi Have No Idea What Kind of Fight They’re In | GQ

Mark Turner : 2018 midterms: New scientists elected to US House, Senate – Business Insider

November 14, 2018 02:13 PM

We definitely need more scientists and more veterans on Capitol Hill. I found 314 Action a few years ago and enthusiastically support its work.

The faces of Capitol Hill are changing.

When the 116th Congress heads to Washington in January, there will be a record number of women in the ranks — at least 123, according to the news website Axios, including the first Muslim women, the first Somali-American, and the first Native American women.

There will be more scientists too.

On Tuesday, at least eight new science-credentialed candidates were elected: one senator and seven members of the House. Full results are not yet available in Washington state, where a pediatrician is likely to be elected to the House.

The members of the 115th Congress include one physicist, one microbiologist, and one chemist, as well as eight engineers and one mathematician. The medical professions are slightly better represented, with three nurses and 15 doctors.

The new winners will bolster those science ranks. The Democratic candidates who won all ran successful campaigns with the support of a nonprofit political-action committee called 314 Action, which started in 2016 and is dedicated to recruiting, training, and funding scientists and healthcare workers who want to run for political office. (One Republican engineer-turned-businessman won a race in Oklahoma, without support from the PAC.)

“Scientists are essentially problem-solvers,” Shaughnessy Naughton, the president of 314 Action, told Business Insider before the election results came in.

Source: 2018 midterms: New scientists elected to US House, Senate – Business Insider

Mark Turner : Gerrymandering lawsuit on NC legislative districts for 2020 | News & Observer

November 14, 2018 02:09 PM

So this happened yesterday: I joined a lawsuit against the state to end gerrymandering. This makes me the second member of my family to sue the state of North Carolina.

RALEIGH – Common Cause and the North Carolina Democratic Party are suing for state House and Senate districts to be redrawn for the 2020 election, claiming the districts are partisan gerrymanders that violate the state constitution.

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday morning in Wake County Superior Court against state legislative leaders and the state elections board.

It will likely eventually be heard in the state Supreme Court. With the election of Anita Earls last week, Democrats will hold a 5-2 advantage on the state’s highest court.

“North Carolina’s state legislative maps are among the worst partisan gerrymanders in North Carolina’s history, and indeed, in American history,” said Stanton Jones, a lawyer with the Washington, D.C., law firm Arnold & Porter.

Source: Gerrymandering lawsuit on NC legislative districts for 2020 | News & Observer

Mark Turner : The Curse of the Honeycrisp Apple – Bloomberg

November 11, 2018 02:17 PM

I’m not sure what the “curse” here is, other than the Honeycrisp apple is in high demand and West Coast orchards are beating out East Coast ones in supplying it. As for the Turners, we love Honeycrisps and always look for them when we go to Costco.

Bite into a Honeycrisp apple and you understand why consumers are willing to pay so much for a piece of fruit: the crunch.

That’s no accident. In the pre-Honeycrisp era, apples had just two textures: “soft and mealy (that nobody liked), and then we had the good apples, the hard, crisp and dense,” said David Bedford, one of the original breeders of the Honeycrisp.

Unlike the vast majority of modern commercial produce, the Honeycrisp apple wasn’t bred to grow, store or ship well. It was bred for taste: crisp, with balanced sweetness and acidity. Though it succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest dreams, along the way it became a nightmare for some producers, forcing small Northeastern growers to compete with their massive, climatically advantaged counterparts on the West Coast.

Source: The Curse of the Honeycrisp Apple – Bloomberg

Mark Turner : Just a volunteer

November 08, 2018 02:42 AM

It was the end of a long day volunteering at the polls when I arrived at the polling place with a young voter whom I’d volunteered to drive there. As she went inside to vote, I headed over to say hello to the campaign volunteers milling about outside.

“Hi, I’m Mark Turner,” I said as I shook the hand of Denise, a Democratic Party volunteer handing out slate cards. She kindly returned the greeting and turned back to greet more arriving voters.

Across the sidewalk stood a Republican Party volunteer, stumping for a Republican candidate.

“Hi, I’m Mark Turner,” I said with a smile, extending my hand. “Thanks for being out here.” Looking somewhat startled, he smiled and shook my hand.

I had continued towards the next set of volunteers when I heard a voice call out.

“What do you do?” the Republican volunteer called out with some admiration.

“Beg your pardon?” I answered, not sure what he had meant.

“What do you do?

A beat went by and then it dawned on me what he was getting at.

“Oh, I’m just a party volunteer,” I replied, laughing as I walked away.

Just a volunteer. This time around, at least.

Tarus Balog : #OSMC 2018 – Day 0: Prometheus Training

November 07, 2018 07:04 AM

To most people, monitoring is not exciting, but it seems lately that the most exciting thing in monitoring is the Prometheus project. As a project endorsed by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, Prometheus is getting a lot of attention, especially in the realm of cloud applications and things like monitoring Kubernetes.

At this year’s Open Source Monitoring Conference they offered a one day training course, so I decided to take it to see what all the fuss was about. I apologize in advance that a lot of this post will be comparing Prometheus to OpenNMS, but in case you haven’t guessed I’m biased (and a bit jealous of all the attention Prometheus is getting).

The class was taught by Julien Pivotto who is both a Prometheus user and a decent instructor. The environment consisted of 15 students with laptops set up on a private network to give us something to monitor.

Prometheus is written in Go (I’m never sure if I should call it “Go” or if I need to say “Golang”) which makes it compact and fast. We installed it on our systems by downloading a tarball and simply executing the application.

Like most applications written in the last decade, the user interface is accessed via a browser. The first thing you notice is that the UI is incredibly minimal. At OpenNMS we get a lot of criticism of our UI, but the Prometheus interface is one step above the Google home page. The main use of the web page is for querying collected metrics, and a lot of the configuration is done by editing YAML files from the command line.

Once Prometheus was installed and running, the first thing we looked at was monitoring Prometheus itself. There is no real magic here. Metrics are exposed via a web page that simply lists the variables available and their values. The application will collect all of the values it finds and store them in a time series database called simply the TSDB.

The idea of exposing metrics on a web page is not new. Over a decade ago we at OpenNMS were approached by a company that wanted us to help them create an SNMP agent for their application. We asked them why they needed SNMP and found they just wanted to expose various metrics about their app to monitor its performance. Since it ran on Linux system with an embedded web server, we suggested that they just write the values to a file, put that in the webroot, and we would use the HTTP Collector to retrieve and store them.

The main difference between that method and Prometheus is that the latter expects the data to be presented in a particular format, whereas the OpenNMS method was more free-form. Prometheus will also collect all values presented without extra configuration, whereas you’ll need to define the values of interest within OpenNMS.

In Prometheus there is no real auto-discovery of devices. You edit a file in which you create a “job”, in our case the job was called “Prometheus”, and then you add “targets” based on IP address and port. As we learned in the class, for each different source of metrics there is usually a custom port. Prometheus stats are on port 9100, node data is exposed on 9090 via the node_exporter, etc. When there is an issue, this can be reflected in the status of the job. For example, if we added all 15 Prometheus instances to the job “Prometheus” and one of them went down, then the job itself would show as degraded.

After we got Prometheus running, we installed Grafana to make it easier to display the metrics that Prometheus was capturing. This is a common practice these days and a good move since more and more people are becoming familiar it. OpenNMS was the first third-party datasource created for Grafana, and the Helm application brings bidirectional functionality for managing OpenNMS alarms and displaying collected data.

After that we explored various “components” for Prometheus. While a number of applications are exposing their data in a format that Prometheus can consume, there are also other components that can be installed, such as the node_exporter which displays server-related metrics and to provide data that isn’t otherwise natively available.

The rest of the class was spent extending the application and playing with various use cases. You can “federate” Prometheus to aggregate some of the collected data from multiple instance under one, and you can separate out your YAML files to make them easier to read and manage.

The final part of the class was working with the notification component called the “alertmanager” to trigger various actions based on the status of metrics within the system.

One thing I wish we could have covered was the “push” aspect of Prometheus. Modern monitoring is moving from a “pull” model (i.e. SNMP) to a “push” model where applications simply stream data into the monitoring system. OpenNMS supports this type of monitoring through the telemetryd feature, and it would be interesting to see if we could become a sink for the Prometheus push format.

Overall I enjoyed the class but I fail to see what all the fuss is about. It’s nice that developers are exposing their data via specially formatted web pages, but OpenNMS has had the ability to collect data from web pages for over a decade, and I’m eager to see if I can get the XML/JSON collector to work with the native format of Prometheus. Please don’t hate on me if you really like Prometheus – it is 100% open source and if it works for you then great – but for something to manage your entire network (including physical servers and especially networking equipment like routers and switches) you will probably need to use something else.

[Note: Julien reached out to me and asked that I mention the SNMP_Exporter which is how Prometheus gathers data from devices like routers and switches. It works well for them and they are actively using it.]

Mark Turner : How the EPA and the Pentagon downplayed a growing toxic threat

November 05, 2018 01:40 PM

Great investigation by ProPublica into the dangers of Teflon and Scotchgard.

The chemicals once seemed near magical, able to repel water, oil and stains.

By the 1970s, DuPont and 3M had used them to develop Teflon and Scotchgard, and they slipped into an array of everyday products, from gum wrappers to sofas to frying pans to carpets. Known as perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, they were a boon to the military, too, which used them in foam that snuffed out explosive oil and fuel fires.

It’s long been known that, in certain concentrations, the compounds could be dangerous if they got into water or if people breathed dust or ate food that contained them. Tests showed they accumulated in the blood of chemical factory workers and residents living nearby, and studies linked some of the chemicals to cancers and birth defects.

Now two new analyses of drinking water data and the science used to analyze it make clear the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Defense have downplayed the public threat posed by these chemicals. Far more people have likely been exposed to dangerous levels of them than has previously been reported because contamination from them is more widespread than has ever been officially acknowledged.

Source: How the EPA and the Pentagon downplayed a growing toxic threat 

Mark Turner : Evacuated after ‘health attacks’ in Cuba and China, diplomats face new ordeals in U.S.

November 05, 2018 01:24 PM

Here’s a frightening, detailed account of what it’s like to become a victim of the mystery sonic/microwave attacks that have plagued our diplomatic corps.

WASHINGTON — Alone in her bed in a sprawling Chinese metropolis, Catherine Werner was jolted awake one night by a pulsing, humming sound. It seemed to be coming from a specific direction.

Perhaps the A.C. unit in her upscale Guangzhou apartment was malfunctioning, the American diplomat thought. But at the same moment, she also noticed intense pressure in her head.

The sounds and sensations returned, night after night, for months. When Werner’s health began declining in late 2017 — vomiting, headaches, loss of balance — she brushed it off at first, thinking China’s polluted air and water were getting to her.

It wasn’t until months later — after her mother, Laura Hughes, grew alarmed, flew in from the U.S. and then got sick, too — that Werner was medevaced from China back to the States. Doctors at the University of Pennsylvania found a vision disorder, a balance disorder and an “organic brain injury” — diagnoses similar to those of 26 U.S. diplomats and spies in Cuba who started hearing strange sounds and falling ill in late 2016.

Source: Evacuated after ‘health attacks’ in Cuba and China, diplomats face new ordeals in U.S.

Mark Turner : Private Equity Controls the Gatekeepers of American Democracy – Bloomberg

November 05, 2018 01:20 PM

Here’s yet another reason why we need open-source, fully auditable voting machines.

Millions of Americans will cast votes in Tuesday’s midterm elections, some on machines that experts say use outdated software or are vulnerable to hacking. If there are glitches or some races are too close to call — or evidence emerges of more meddling attempts by Russia — voters may wake up on Wednesday and wonder: Can we trust the outcome?

Meet, then, the gatekeepers of American democracy: Three obscure, private equity-backed companies control an estimated $300 million U.S. voting-machine industry. Though most of their revenue comes from taxpayers, and they play an indispensable role in determining the balance of power in America, the companies largely function in secret.

Source: Private Equity Controls the Gatekeepers of American Democracy – Bloomberg

Mark Turner : 26 Years of Growth: Shanghai Then and Now – The Atlantic

November 05, 2018 01:19 PM

Reuters photographer Carlos Barria recently spent time in Shanghai, China, the fastest-growing city in the world. A week ago, he took this amazing shot, recreating the same framing and perspective as a photograph taken in 1987, showing what a difference 26 years can make. The setting is Shanghai’s financial district of Pudong, dominated by the Oriental Pearl Tower at left, and the new 125-story Shanghai Tower, China’s tallest building and the world’s second tallest skyscraper, at 632 meters (2,073 ft) high, scheduled to finish by the end of 2014. Shanghai, the largest city by population in the world, has been growing at a rate of about 10 percent a year the past 20 years, and now is home to 23.5 million people — nearly double what it was back in 1987. This entry is focused on this single photo pairing, with several ways to compare the two.

Source: 26 Years of Growth: Shanghai Then and Now – The Atlantic

Tarus Balog : #OSMC 2018 – Day -1

November 05, 2018 07:23 AM

The annual Open Source Monitoring Conference (OSMC) held in Nürnberg, Germany each year brings together pretty much everyone who is anyone in the free and open source monitoring space. I really look forward to attending, and so do a number of other people at OpenNMS, but this year I won the privilege, so go me.

The conference is a lot of fun, which must be the reason for the hell trip to get here this year. Karma must be trying to bring things into balance.

As an American Airlines frequent flier whose home airport is RDU, most of my trips to Europe involve Heathrow airport (American has a direct flight from RDU to LHR that I’ve taken more times than I can count).

I hate that airport with the core of my being, and try to avoid it whenever possible. While I could have taken a flight from LHR directly to Nürnberg on British Airways, I decided to fly to Philadelphia and take a direct American flight to Munich. It is just about two hours by train from MUC to Nürnberg Hbf and I like trains, so combine that with getting to skip LHR and it is a win/win.

But it was not to be.

I got to the airport and watched as my flight to PHL got delayed further and further. Chris, at the Admiral’s Club desk, was able to re-route me, but that meant a flight through Heathrow (sigh). Also, the Heathrow flight left five hours later than my flight to Philadelphia, and I ended up waiting it out at the airport (Andrea had dropped me off and I didn’t want to ask her to drive all the way back to get me just for a couple of hours).

Because of the length of this trip I had to check a bag, and I had a lot of trepidation that my bag would not be re-routed properly. Chris even mentioned that American had actually put it on the Philadelphia flight but he had managed to get it removed and put on the England flight, and American’s website showed it loaded on the plane.

That also turns out to be the last record American has on my bag, at least on the website I can access.

American Tracking Website

The fight to London was uneventful. American planes tend to land at Terminal 3 and most other British Airways planes take off from Terminal 5, so you have to make your way down a series a long corridors and take a bus to the other terminal. Then you have to go through security, which is usually when my problems begin.

I wear contact lenses, and since my eyes tend to react negatively to the preservatives found in saline solution I use a special, preservative-free brand of saline. Unfortunately, it is only available in 118ml bottles. As most frequent fliers know, the limit for the size of liquid containers for carry on baggage is 100ml, although the security people rarely notice the difference. When they do I usually just explain that I need it for my eyes and I’m allowed to bring it with me. That is, everywhere except Heathrow airport. Due to the preservative-free nature of the saline I can’t move it to another container for fear of contamination.

Back in 2011 was the first time that my saline was ever confiscated at Heathrow. Since then I’ve carried a doctor’s note stating that it is “medically necessary” but once even then I had it confiscated a few years later at LHR because the screener didn’t like the fact that my note was almost a year old. That said, many times have I gone through that airport with no one noticing the slightly larger size of my saline bottle, but on this trip it was not to be.

When your carry on items get tagged for screening at Heathrow’s Terminal 5, you kind of wait in a little mob of people for the one person to methodically go through your stuff. Since I had several hours between flights it was no big deal for me, but it is still very annoying. Of course when the screener got to my items he was all excited that he had stopped the terrorist plot of the century by discovering my saline bottle was 18ml over the limit, and he truly seemed disappointed when I produced my doctor’s note, freshly updated as of August of this year.

Screeners at Heathrow are not imbued with much decision making ability, so he literally had to take my note and bottle to a supervisor to get it approved. I was then allowed to take it with me, but I couldn’t help thinking that the terrorists had won.

The rest of my stay at the world’s worst airport was without incident, and I squeezed into my window seat on the completely full A319 to head to Munich.

One we landed I breezed through immigration (Germans run their airports a bit more efficiently than the British) and waited for my bag. And waited. And waited.

When I realized it wouldn’t be arriving with me, I went to look for a BA representative. The sign said to find them at the “Lost and Found” kiosk, but the only two kiosks in the rather small baggage area were not staffed. I eventually left the baggage area and made my way to the main BA desk, where I managed to meet Norbert. After another 15 minutes or so, Norbert brought me a form to fill out and promised that I would receive an e-mail and a text message with a “file number” to track the status of my bag.

I then found the S-Bahn train which would take me to the Munich Hauptbahnhof where I would get my next train to Nürnberg.

I had made a reservation for the train to insure I had a seat, but of course that was on the 09:55 train which I would have taken had I been on the PHL flight. I changed that to a 15:00 train when I was rerouted, and apparently one change is all you get with Deutsche Bahn, but Ronny had suggested I buy a “flexpreis” ticket so I could take any train from Munich to Nürnberg that I wanted. I saw there were a number of “Inter-City Express (ICE)” trains available, so I figured I would just hop on the first one I found.

When I got to the station I saw that a train was leaving from Platform (Gleis) 20 at 15:28. It was now 15:30 so I ran and boarded just before it pulled out of the station.

It was the wrong train.

Well, not exactly. There are a number of types of trains you can take. The fastest are the ICE trains that run non-stop between major cities, but there are also “Inter-City (IC)” trains that make more stops. I had managed to get on a “Regional Bahn (RB)” train which makes many, many stops, turning my one hour trip into three.

(sigh)

The man who took my ticket was sympathetic, and told me to get off at Ingolstadt and switch to an ICE train. I was chatting on Mattermost with Ronny most of this time, and he was able to verify the proper train and platform I needed to take. That train was packed, but I ended up sitting with some lovely people who didn’t mind chatting with me in English (I so love visiting Germany for this reason).

So, about seven hours later than I had planned I arrived at my hotel, still sans luggage. After getting something to eat I started the long process of trying to locate my bag.

I started on Twitter. Both the people at American and British Airways asked me to DM them. The AA folks said I needed to talk with the BA folks and the BA folks still have yet to reply to me. Seriously BA, don’t reach out to me if you don’t plan to do anything. It sets up expectations you apparently can’t meet.

Speaking of not doing anything, my main issue was that I need a “file reference” in order to track my lost bag, but despite Norbert’s promise I never received a text or e-mail with that information. I ended up calling American, and the woman there was able to tell me that she showed the bag was in the hands of BA at LHR. That was at least a start, so she transferred me to BA customer support, who in turn transferred me to BA delayed baggage, who told me I needed to contact American.

(sigh)

As calmly as I could, I reiterated that I started there, and then the BA agent suggested I visit a particular website and complete a form (similar to the one I did for Norbert I assume) to get my “file reference”. After making sure I had the right URL I ended the call and started the process.

I hit the first snag when trying to enter in my tag number. As you can see from the screenshot above, my tag number starts with “600” and is ten digits long. The website expected a tag number that started with “BA” followed by six digits, so my AA tag was not going to work.

BA Tracking Website - wrong number

But at least this website had a different number to call, so I called it and explained my situation once again. This agent told me that I should have a different tag number, and after looking around my ticket I did find one in the format they were after, except starting with “AA” instead of “BA”. Of course, when I entered that in I got an error.

BA Tracking Website - error

After I explained that to the agent I remained on the phone for about 30 minutes until he was able to, finally, give me a file reference number. At this point I was very tired, so I wrote it down and figured I would call it a night and go to sleep.

But I couldn’t sleep, so I tried to enter that number into the BA delayed bag website. It said it was invalid.

(sigh)

Then I got a hint of inspiration and decided to enter in my first name as my last, and voila! I had a missing bag record.

BA Tracking Website - missing bag

That site said they had found my bag (the agent on the phone had told me it was being “traced”) and it also asked me to enter in some more information about it, such as the brand of the manufacturer.

BA Tracking Website - information required

Of course when I tried to do that, I got an error.

BA Tracking Website - system error

Way to go there, British Airways.

Anyway, at that point I could sleep. As I write this the next morning nothing has been updated since 18:31 last night, but I hold out hope that my bag will arrive today. I travel a lot so I have a change a clothes with me along with all the toiletries I need to not offend the other conference attendees (well, at least with my hygiene), but I can’t help but be soured on the whole experience.

This year I have spent nearly US$20,000 with American Airlines (they track that for me on their website). I paid them for this ticket and they really could have been more helpful instead of just washing their hands and pointing their fingers at BA. British Airways used to be one of the best airlines on the planet, but lately they seemed to have turned into Ryanair but without that airline’s level of service. The security breach that exposed the personal information of their customers, stories like this recent issue with a flight from Orlando, and my own experience this trip have really put me off flying them ever again.

Just a hint BA – from a customer service perspective – when it comes to finding a missing bag all we really want (well, besides the bag) is for someone to tell us they know where it is and when we can expect to get it. The fact that I had to spend several hours after a long trip to get something approximating that information is a failure on your part, and you will lose some if not all of my future business because of it.

I also made the decision to further curtail my travel in 2019, because frankly I’m getting too old for this crap.

So, I’m now off to shower and to get into my last set of clean clothes. Here’s hoping my bag arrives today so I can relax and enjoy the magic that is the OSMC.

Mark Turner : Red Hat stock pays off again

November 05, 2018 01:23 AM

Back in 1999, I was working at a local, famous IBM/Linux VAR called Indelible Blue as a Linux Specialist. One day I was investigating a customer issue with a CDROM drive and filed a bug in Red Hat’s Bugzilla bug tracking system. Months went by and I didn’t think much of it until later that summer when I received an email from Red Hat telling me I had been awarded a few hundred shares of pre-IPO stock!

I was amazed at Red Hat’s generosity of giving out pre-IPO stock to anyone in their bug tracking system. I sold the majority of the stock before the Dot Bomb era of 2000 but kept some shares around largely for sentimental purposes. With last month’s announcement of IBM buying Red Hat, I decided it was time to cash in the rest of my shares. Thanks to IBM’s purchase of Red Hat, my shares have brought me a welcome chunk of change.

It’s funny to think that my decision to file one bug over 19 years ago is still paying off today, and in a big way!

Mark Turner : Breach at ICollectMedia

November 05, 2018 01:06 AM

ICollectMedia has had its passwords stolen


About, oh … six years ago I tried out a CD cataloging service called ICollectMedia (ICM). Didn’t use it beyond the first time I signed up and forgot all about it until I recently began receiving ransom emails from online crooks who populated their emails with the unique password I used for ICM. Since this was a unique password for a service I no longer use, I wasn’t concerned about the breach affecting me, but it did show me that the folks who run ICM didn’t properly hash the passwords of their users. If they had used hashes then there is no way my complex, unique password would have been easily recovered and subsequently shared on the DarkWeb.

The breach-tracking site Hacked-Emails.com indicates that the ICM data hit the Darkweb on March 1st, 2018.

Mark Turner : Amazon HQ2: Advanced talks about second headquarters in Northern Virginia – The Washington Post

November 04, 2018 01:01 PM

Looks like Amazon won’t be coming to Raleigh. I know DC has been on the short list for the HQ2 site but as a techie who grew up outside of DC I would steer clear of any jobs that absolutely required me to commute there every day (outside of a ride in Marine One, that is).

Amazon.com has held advanced discussions about the possibility of opening its highly sought-after second headquarters in Crystal City, including how quickly it would move employees there, which buildings it would occupy and how an announcement about the move would be made to the public, according to people close to the process.

The discussions were more detailed than those the company has had regarding other locations in Northern Virginia and some other cities nationally, adding to speculation that the site in Arlington County is a front-runner to land the online retail giant’s second North American headquarters and its 50,000 jobs.

The company is so close to making its choice that Crystal City’s top real estate developer, JBG Smith, has pulled some of its buildings off the leasing market and officials in the area have discussed how to make an announcement to the public this month, following the midterm elections, according to public and private-sector officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because Amazon has asked that the selection process remain confidential. The company may be having similar discussions with other finalists.

Source: Amazon HQ2: Advanced talks about second headquarters in Northern Virginia – The Washington Post

Mark Turner : I tried the U.S. Army’s tactic to fall asleep in two minutes

November 03, 2018 02:09 AM

The recommended amount of sleep an adult needs is between seven and nine hours each night. But for many, finding this time isn’t the problem–it’s falling asleep once your head hits the pillow. I’m one of those people who occasionally has this problem, and in the past have tried everything from meditation to medication. But for the last four weeks, I tried something different–and it’s something worth trying if you have sleep problems.

Recently, an old method used by the U.S. Army to help soldiers fall to sleep in less than ideal conditions (like battlefields) has resurfaced. The Independent says the technique was first described in a book from 1981 called Relax and Win: Championship Performance by Lloyd Bud Winter.

In the book, Winter describes the technique designed by the U.S. Army to make sure soldiers didn’t make mistakes due to grogginess. The technique apparently sends you off to sleep within two minutes.

Source: I tried the U.S. Army’s tactic to fall asleep in two minutes

Mark Turner : Twilight of the Racist Uncles | Ed Burmila

November 03, 2018 02:07 AM

There is a family friend, a man I’ve known for decades. A highly educated man with total financial security in his recent retirement. A man who always had a good story to tell or an interesting side of a conversation to hold up. Then, a few years ago, he got on Facebook. Reading his timeline became an exercise in watching a man’s descent into madness. Over the summer I was surprised to learn that he had purchased three very expensive AR-15 semiautomatic rifles. When I asked why, he said, “For the race war that’s coming” in a tone that suggested no further explanation would be necessary.

Source: Twilight of the Racist Uncles | Ed Burmila

Mark Turner : A San Andreas fault mystery: The ‘slow-moving disaster’ in an area where the Big One is feared – Los Angeles Times

November 02, 2018 12:29 PM

The San Andreas fault begins its dangerous dance through California at the Salton Sea, at a spot that seismologists long have feared could be the epicenter of a massive earthquake.

But in recent months, this desolate location where the North American and Pacific plates rub together has become the focus of intense interest for a type of movement that is less the Big One than the Slow One.

A muddy spring mysteriously has begun to move at a faster pace through dry earth — first 60 feet over a few months, and then 60 feet in a single day, according to Imperial County officials.

There’s no evidence suggesting this is an immediate precursor to a large earthquake, said U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist Ken Hudnut, who visited the moving spring in July. In fact, the area has been seismically quiet in recent months, with relatively few earthquakes.

Hudnut and other experts stress the movement is not seismic activity. But it’s occurring partly as a result of historic earthquake activity that caused cracks, allowing gases produced deep underground to reach the earth’s surface.

The biggest worry is that the slow-moving scientific mystery could become destructive in other ways.

Source: A San Andreas fault mystery: The ‘slow-moving disaster’ in an area where the Big One is feared – Los Angeles Times

David Cafaro : Blue Teams Next Tool: Social Engineering (Psychology and Sociology at Work) – References

October 29, 2018 03:29 AM

This weekend I had the privilege to present at bsidesdc.org on the subject of Social Engineering techniques for use in driving positive security outcomes.  At the end of the presentation there were several great questions and a slide of reference materials I’ve studied related to the concepts I was presenting in the class.  Though I’m still settling back down after the conference, I did want to post the final slide from my deck (and my comments on the references) for others to follow up on if interested.  A little later this week I’ll post up some of the questions I was asked at the end as best I can recal them, and my answers to those questions.  They were great questions which I think really helped add to the topic.

So here is the slide and my comments on the references (links to PDF version):

For the first two book references I called out particular chapters I thought were especially relevant to “Blue Team” security influencing.  But, both books are a great read in whole.

  • The Art of Deception
    • This is a great collection of stories style book regarding Social Engineering.  Provides an relatively easy read or less technical read that provides real world examples that then walks through the techniques and tricks used.
  • Social Engineering: The Art of Human Hacking
    • I would consider this the much more technical book, covers many of the same Psychology principles I discussed in great detail.  Additional covers some very advanced techniques like recognizing micro-expressions that could also be potentially helpful to a Blue Team trying to read their audience.
    • I would also go take a look at some of Chris Hadnagy’s Defcon talks on Social Engineering
    • There is a newer edition “Social Engineering: The Science of Human Hacking“, but I have not read that edition yet.
  • Quite: The Power of introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking
    • I read this primarily because of my interest in better understanding my own introverted ways originally.  I actually found that the discussion around the different ways introverts and extroverts process information, the ways they interact with individuals, and how they engage very helpful in understanding my own interactions with other introverts and extroverts.
  • Communication Theory – CMC in ODR
    • Bill Warters (Who I borrowed his great diagram of Communication Modeling from) has a great break down of commutation modeling process and examples.  This is a free online learning module of his.
  • Jek Hyde @HydeNS33K
    • Jek does a lot of great walk throughs of her on-site pen-testing (Social Engineering Engagements).  Well worth following here to see many of these techniques in practice.
  • Social Engineering for the Blue Team
    • Timothy De Block does a different talk on the same subject.  Great discussion on presentation and perceptions.

Tarus Balog : CarbonROM Install on Pixel XL (marlin)

October 26, 2018 02:58 PM

I am still playing around with alternate ROMs for Android devices, and I recently came across CarbonROM. I had some issues getting it installed (more due to me than the ROM itself) and so I thought I’d post my steps here.

I was looking for a ROM that focused on stability and security, and Carbon seems to fit the bill.

While I have a lot of experience playing with ROMs, I hadn’t really done it on handsets with “Seamless Update“. In this case there are two “slots”, Slot A and Slot B, and this can cause a challenge when installing a new operating system. This procedure worked for me (with help from Christian Oder via the CarbonROM community on Google+).

  1. Install latest 8.1 Factory Image

    This may not be required, but since I ran into issues I went ahead and installed the latest “oreo” factory image. I had already upgraded the phone to Android 9 (pie) and thought that might have caused the problems I was having, but I don’t think that was the case.

  2. Unlock the bootloader

    This is not meant to be a tutorial installing alternative ROMs, but basically you go to Settings -> System and then locate the build number. Click on that a number of times until you have enabled “developer mode” then go to the developer options and unlock the bootloader and enable the ability to access the device over USB. Then boot into the bootloader and run “fastboot flashing unlock” and follow the prompts on the screen.

  3. Boot to TWRP using image

    In order to install an alternative ROM it helps to have a better Recovery than stock. I really like TWRP and pretty much just followed the instructions. Using the Android Debugger (adb) you boot into the bootloader and run TWRP from an image file.

  4. Install TWRP zip

    Once you are running TWRP, install it into the boot partition from the .zip file. Use “adb push” to put the .zip file on the /sdcard/ partition.

  5. Reboot to Recovery (to make sure TWRP still works)
  6. Factory reset and erase /system

    Go to “Wipe” and do a factory reset, and then “Advanced Wipe” to nuke the system partition.

    You will also want to erase user data at this point. Once I got Carbon to boot it still asked me for a password which I assumed was the one I set up in the original factory install (you have to get into the factory image to unlock the bootloader). I went back and erased all of the user data and that did what I expected, so you might want to do this at this step.

  7. Install Carbon

    Use “adb push” to send the latest Carbon zip file to the /sdcard/. Install using TWRP.

    This is the point where my issues started. The next step is to reboot back into recovery. You have to do this so that the other Slot gets overwritten with the new operating system. However, with the Carbon install TWRP was overwritten and that hung the device when I tried to reboot into recovery, so

  8. Re-install TWRP

    Use “adb push” to load the TWRP .zip file again and install it while you are still in TWRP, then

  9. Reboot to recovery

    This should get Carbon all happy on your device as it will be copied over into the other Slot. If you try to boot into the system before doing this bad things will happen. (grin)

  10. Install GApps (optional)

    Now, if you want Google applications you need to install a GApps package. I like Open GApps and so I installed the “pico” package. One thing I am experimenting with here is seeing if I can use a minimal amount of Google software without giving Google my entire digital life. The pico package includes just enough to run the Google Play Store.

    This is optional, and if you just want to run, say, F-Droid apps, you can skip this step, but note I’ve been told that you can’t add GApps later, so if you want it, install it now.

  11. Reboot into the System

If everything went well, you should see the Carbon boot screen and eventually get dropped into the “Welcome to Android” Google sign up wizard. Follow the prompts (I turn off almost everything but location services) and then you should be running CarbonROM with a minimal amount of Google-ness.

The first thing I tried out was “Pokémon Go“. Due to people cheating by spoofing their GPS coordinates, Pokémon Go leverages features of Android to detect if people are running an altered operating system. I’ve found that on some ROMs the application will not work. It worked fine on Carbon and so I’m hoping I can add just a few more “Google” things, like Maps, and then use F-Droid for everything else.

Note that I didn’t “root” my operating system. When you boot into TWRP you can access the entire device with root privileges so I never feel the need to have root while I’m running the device. Seems to be a good security practice and it also allows me to still run Pokémon Go.

Many thanks to the CarbonROM team for working on this. I’m eager to see how soon security updates are released as well as what they do with Android 9, but it looks promising.

Mark Turner : The Growth of Sinclair’s Conservative Media Empire | The New Yorker

October 25, 2018 12:33 PM

Sinclair is not Fox News … it owns FCC broadcast licenses that require it to serve the public interest. Sinclair can’t spew lies and propaganda with reckless abandon the way Fox News does. Sinclair can be held accountable.

In some cases, [Sinclair] anchors have been compelled to read from scripts prepared by Sinclair. In April, 2018, dozens of newscasters across the country parroted Trump’s invectives about “fake news,” saying, “Some members of the media use their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control exactly what people think. This is extremely dangerous to our democracy.” In response, Dan Rather, the former anchor of “CBS Evening News,” wrote, on Twitter, “News anchors looking into camera and reading a script handed down by a corporate overlord, words meant to obscure the truth not elucidate it, isn’t journalism. It’s propaganda. It’s Orwellian. A slippery slope to how despots wrest power, silence dissent, and oppress the masses.”

Source: The Growth of Sinclair’s Conservative Media Empire | The New Yorker

Mark Turner : It Was Vulture Capitalism that Killed Sears

October 25, 2018 12:29 PM

If you’ve been following the impending bankruptcy of America’s iconic retailer, as covered by print, broadcast, and digital media, you’ve probably encountered lots of nostalgia, and sad clucking about how dinosaurs like Sears can’t compete in the age of Amazon and specialty retail.

But most of the coverage has failed to stress the deeper story. Namely, Sears is a prime example of how hedge funds and private-equity companies take over retailers, encumber them with debt in order to pay themselves massive windfall profits, and then leave the retailer without adequate operating capital to compete. Part of the strategy is to sell off valuable real estate, the better to enrich the hedge fund, and stick the retail company with costly rental payments to occupy the space that it once owned.

Source: It Was Vulture Capitalism that Killed Sears

Mark Turner : Tom Petty’s Biographer on the Story He Didn’t Tell – Rolling Stone

October 25, 2018 12:27 PM

I still miss Tom Petty.

I was standing in my kitchen when I heard about Tom Petty’s death. The message came from a friend who had worked at WBCN in Boston. WBCN — that’s where, at age 12, I heard Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ first single, “Breakdown.” Tell me this isn’t true. That was the message from my friend. I’m not sure how the constellations of thought come together, but they form quickly. Just that fast, I knew Tom Petty had died. And then the street outside my window looked different.I’d thought about what this day might be like. Petty had been in the room with me (and so many of us) for more than 40 years. I could chart my life in relation to his releases. Early on, around the time of the first albums, I had the feeling that Petty was giving me better direction than the adults who came and went, mostly went, in my life. Even the losers. That alone helped.

Source: Tom Petty’s Biographer on the Story He Didn’t Tell – Rolling Stone

Mark Turner : Russian eBay page

October 18, 2018 12:09 PM

I’d been browsing eBay a few days back, checking out a few items I was considering buying. I left my eBay tab open though I was not logged in. Yesterday morning, I figured I would log into my eBay account and save the item I was viewing to my “wish list.” So, I clicked on the login link and was surprised to see the eBay signin page show up … in Russian!

I cannot for the life of me figure out how this happened. My browser language is not set to Russian, my eBay preferences are not set to Russian, and I did not somehow enter a Russian URL. There was no reported BGP hijack on eBay, nor would eBay necessarily reflect it if there was – the IP would not have changed from the eBay webserver’s point of view. Yet somehow it served me up a Russian page.

So, what could have happened here? Either something big happened to eBay, or something happened on my end. I did a quick nslookup to make sure I was hitting the proper site:

Non-authoritative answer:
signin.ebay.com canonical name = origin-signin.g.ebay.com.
Name: origin-signin.g.ebay.com
Address: 66.211.185.34
Name: origin-signin.g.ebay.com
Address: 66.211.181.81
Name: origin-signin.g.ebay.com
Address: 66.211.181.96
Name: origin-signin.g.ebay.com
Address: 66.211.185.47

Looks good. I checked the SSL certificate I was receiving and it checked out:

What I think happened is that my connection to eBay was rerouted temporarily through Russia, possibly through malware. Time to do some spring cleaning on my network, methinks.

Mark Turner : Turks tell U.S. officials they have audio and video recordings that support conclusion Khashoggi was killed – The Washington Post

October 16, 2018 01:36 PM


The Saudis are screwed.

The Turkish government has told U.S. officials that it has audio and video recordings that prove Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul this month, according to U.S. and Turkish officials.

The recordings show that a Saudi security team detained Khashoggi in the consulate after he walked in Oct. 2 to obtain an official document before his upcoming wedding, then killed him and dismembered his body, the officials said.

The audio recording in particular provides some of the most persuasive and gruesome evidence that the Saudi team is responsible for Khashoggi’s death, the officials said.

“The voice recording from inside the embassy lays out what happened to Jamal after he entered,” said one person with knowledge of the recording who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss highly sensitive intelligence.

“You can hear his voice and the voices of men speaking Arabic,” this person said. “You can hear how he was interrogated, tortured and then murdered.”

Source: Turks tell U.S. officials they have audio and video recordings that support conclusion Khashoggi was killed – The Washington Post

Mark Turner : Dietary Supplement Could Reduce Some Chronic Symptoms of Gulf War Illness » SPH | Boston University

October 16, 2018 01:34 PM

Nearly one-third of the US military personnel deployed in the 1991 Gulf War continue to suffer from Gulf War Illness (GWI), a set of symptoms including chronic pain, fatigue, and memory impairment. Although the exact biology of GWI remains unknown, previous research suggests it is related to neuroinflammation caused by chemical exposure during the war.

Oleoylethanolamide (OEA), which is commonly used as a weight-loss supplement, could reduce GWI symptoms, according to a new study co-authored by a School of Public Health researcher in collaboration with Roskamp Institute investigators.

Source: Dietary Supplement Could Reduce Some Chronic Symptoms of Gulf War Illness » SPH | Boston University

Mark Turner : The extraordinary life of Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen – Business Insider

October 16, 2018 01:32 PM

Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, died yesterday at the age of 65. While I dissed him in the past for being a patent troll, Allen was very much an interesting guy and did some great things with his money. I particularly enjoy the Living Computers museum in Seattle, which Allen founded and played an active role in sustaining.

Everybody knows Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates, the second-richest man in the world.But Microsoft’s other cofounder, Paul Allen, only became famous outside of Seattle once he published his memoirs in 2011.

He too was rich, and his net worth was pegged at $20 billion. With his money, he invested in a lot of tech companies, real estate, and art. But he also led an over-the-top life filled with rock and roll parties, collections, yachts, and sports teams.

Allen died on Monday aged 65 after a battle with cancer. Here is a look back at his fabulous life.

Source: The extraordinary life of Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen – Business Insider

Mark Turner : He’s ‘One of Us’: The Undying Bond Between the Bible Belt and Trump – The New York Times

October 16, 2018 01:08 PM

Here’s Exhibit A where the “Depolorables” comment lost Clinton’s presidential campaign. It’s also a path by which Democrats might claw their way back to respectability in the South.

Despite never having met him, Mr. Bledsoe said he felt a personal link and a sense of shared values with Mr. Trump.

“I don’t really look at him as a politician,” he said. “Even now, I look at him as just one of us. He doesn’t act like he’s above you, as a person.”

Source: He’s ‘One of Us’: The Undying Bond Between the Bible Belt and Trump – The New York Times

Mark Turner : ‘Hyperalarming’ study shows massive insect loss – The Washington Post

October 16, 2018 01:03 PM

Insects around the world are in a crisis, according to a small but growing number of long-term studies showing dramatic declines in invertebrate populations. A new report suggests that the problem is more widespread than scientists realized. Huge numbers of bugs have been lost in a pristine national forest in Puerto Rico, the study found, and the forest’s insect-eating animals have gone missing, too.

In 2014, an international team of biologists estimated that, in the past 35 years, the abundance of invertebrates such as beetles and bees had decreased by 45 percent. In places where long-term insect data are available, mainly in Europe, insect numbers are plummeting. A study last year showed a 76 percent decrease in flying insects in the past few decades in German nature preserves.

Source: ‘Hyperalarming’ study shows massive insect loss – The Washington Post

Mark Turner : How China’s lunar relay satellite arrived in its final orbit | The Planetary Society

October 15, 2018 01:14 AM


This is a pretty fascinating explanation of China’s lunar relay mission, Queqiao, becoming the first relay satellite to serve the far side of the moon.

After a 24-day journey, Queqiao, the relay satellite for China’s Chang’e 4 lunar mission, successfully entered its Earth-Moon L2 halo orbit. A normal mission to lunar orbit usually takes four or five days, but Queqiao took much longer due to its special orbit. Here’s a guide to the spacecraft’s long and complicated journey.

Source: How China’s lunar relay satellite arrived in its final orbit | The Planetary Society

Mark Turner : After Soyuz Failure, Space Is Now Weirdly Inaccessible to Astronauts

October 14, 2018 04:42 PM

All crewed launches have been suspended by Russia’s space agency following yesterday’s Soyuz rocket failure. That’s a problem, because much of the world relies on Russian rockets to get both cargo and people into space. Consequently, we’re now facing the very real possibility of having an uncrewed International Space Station—something that hasn’t happened in nearly two decades.

Source: After Soyuz Failure, Space Is Now Weirdly Inaccessible to Astronauts

Mark Turner : Gotcha! US Air Force’s Secretive X-37B Space Plane Spotted by Satellite Tracker

October 11, 2018 03:10 PM


I am seriously considering making space object tracking a new hobby.

The U.S. Air Force’s X-37B space plane may be secretive, but it’s not invisible.

Netherlands-based satellite tracker Marco Langbroek snapped long-exposure photos of the robotic mini-shuttle zooming over the city of Leiden yesterday (Aug. 20), capturing the spacecraft’s rapid trek across the night sky as a thin streak of light.The Air Force discloses little about X-37B missions, keeping details about the plane’s orbit and most of its payloads close to the vest. But Langbroek said he’s confident that the light trail he photographed came from the space plane, which is also known as the Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV).

“The object in question is not in the public catalogue of satellite orbits maintained by JSpOC (the U.S. military tracking network), which shows for an object this bright that it must be a ‘classified’ object,” Langbroek told Space.com via email. “We nevertheless know where ‘classified’ objects like this are, because they are routinely tracked by a small network of amateur trackers, in which I takepart.”

Source: Gotcha! US Air Force’s Secretive X-37B Space Plane Spotted by Satellite Tracker

Mark Turner : Apple caught ripping off customer at Genius Bar

October 11, 2018 03:07 PM

CBC sent a hidden camera to an Apple Genius Bar for a typical Macbook problem of a broken screen. The Apple staffmember recommended $1200 of repairs or a new MacBook, but when the reporter took the same laptop to a NYC repair shop, he got it fixed for free. This is a good look at Apple’s attitude regarding non-Apple repairs and a consumer’s right-to-repair anything she or he owns.

Mark Turner : Russian Whistleblower Assassinated After Uncovering $200 Billion Dirty-Money Scandal

October 11, 2018 03:03 PM

LONDON—A crusading Russian official traveled to Estonia in the summer of 2006 to warn the authorities that an unprecedented money-laundering scheme had been established in the tiny Baltic financial sector. The scam he had uncovered would go on to become the biggest dirty-money operation in history: the $200 billion Danske Bank scandal.

Three months after Andrei Kozlov, the first deputy chairman of the Russian Central Bank, tried to raise the alarm, he was dead.

Source: Russian Whistleblower Assassinated After Uncovering $200 Billion Dirty-Money Scandal

Mark Turner : Saudis are said to have lain in wait for Jamal Khashoggi – The Washington Post

October 11, 2018 03:02 PM

ISTANBUL — As Jamal Khashoggi prepared to enter the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, a squad of men from Saudi Arabia who investigators suspect played a role in his disappearance was ready and in place. They had arrived from Riyadh, the Saudi capital, early that morning and checked in at two inter­national hotels in Istanbul before driving to the consulate in the leafy Levent neighborhood, said two people with knowledge of the investigation. One of them, the Mövenpick Hotel Istanbul, is a few minutes from the consulate by car.By the end of the day, a 15-member Saudi team had conducted its business and left the country, departing on planes bound for Cairo and Dubai, according to flight records and the people familiar with the investigation.

Source: Saudis are said to have lain in wait for Jamal Khashoggi – The Washington Post