Mark Turner : ‘I was gonna curse him out’: Rep. Wilson describes hearing Trump’s phone call with widow of fallen soldier

October 18, 2017 12:09 PM

Despicable.

Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL) on Tuesday spoke with CNN’s Don Lemon about the phone call between Donald Trump and the widow of U.S. Army Sgt. La David Johnson, explaining she “was gonna curse” the president out after hearing his remarks.

Wilson was with Johnson’s widow  just before the soldier’s remains arrived at Miami International Airport, ABC 10 reports. That’s when Trump called the pregnant mother of two and told her that her husband “knew what he signed up for.”

“We were in the car together, in the limousine headed to meet the body at the airport,” Wilson told Lemon. “So I heard what he said because the phone was on speaker.”

“This is a young, young woman, who has two children, who is six months pregnant with a third child,” Wilson said. “She has just lost her husband. She was just told that he cannot have an open casket funeral, which gives her all kinds of nightmares how his body must look, how his face must look. And this is what the president of the United States says to her?”

Source: ‘I was gonna curse him out’: Rep. Wilson describes hearing Trump’s phone call with widow of fallen soldier

Mark Turner : How the Russians pretended to be Texans — and Texans believed them – The Washington Post

October 18, 2017 01:52 AM

With each new story of the Russians creating fake online support for Trump I suspect more and more that it was Russian actors behind the fake Mitt Romney Facebook likes of the last election.

In early 2016, while researching some of the most popular U.S. secession groups online, I stumbled across one of the Russian-controlled Facebook accounts that were then pulling in Americans by the thousands.

At the time, I was writing on Russia’s relationship with American secessionists from Texas, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. These were people who had hitched flights to Moscow to swap tactics, to offer advice and to find support. They had found succor in the shadow of the Kremlin.That was how I eventually found my way to the “Heart of Texas” Facebook page (and its @itstimetosecede Twitter feed as well). Heart of Texas soon grew into the most popular Texas secession page on Facebook — one that, at one point in 2016, boasted more followers than the official Texas Democrat and Republican Facebook pages combined. By the time Facebook took the page down recently, it had a quarter of a million followers.

The page started slowly — just a few posts per week. Unlike other secession sites I’d come across, this one never carried any contact information, never identified any of the individuals behind the curtain. Even as it grew, there was nothing to locate it in Texas — or anywhere else, for that matter. It was hard to escape the suspicion that there might be Russian involvement here as well.

Source: How the Russians pretended to be Texans — and Texans believed them – The Washington Post

Mark Turner : A witness to #metoo behavior

October 18, 2017 01:49 AM

It was a warm Sunday afternoon in October, 2016.

I’ve just left the Amtrak station in downtown Raleigh. Unable (or too cheap) to call a cab, I drag my overnight back behind as I trudge up Dawson Street toward my home 2 miles away. The rhythm of my pace and the grinding of my bag’s battered wheels along the sidewalk lulls me into a sort of trance.

As I reach the corner of Hargett, I see a rough-looking man approaching. As I’m starting to make room for him on the sidewalk, a woman on a bicycle passes me (safely) from behind. As she passes, the man catcalls her and makes loud, suggestive comments.

In a blink it was over. The man, possibly drunk, stumbles on behind me. The woman, wearing headphones, was immune to his drunken come-ons and was long gone. I pause to think what I should have done or what I might have done.

Had the man been dumb enough to touch that woman I would’ve certainly jumped him. I’m a pretty friendly guy but I don’t like bullying of any sort, yet I was also stunned at what I just heard. It’s 2016. Some men still do this shit? I mean, really? What did this guy hope to accomplish with his clumsy come-ons?

He was clearly a loser and a drunk one at that. She was oblivious and went on with her ride. I continued walking, pondering how the world still needed some work.

Mark Turner : ‘The ravages of cord-cutting’: AT&T’s race against time to save its TV business – The Washington Post

October 17, 2017 05:38 PM

Traditional TV is dying.

On Wednesday, AT&T told regulators that it expects to finish the quarter with about 90,000 fewer TV subscribers than it began with. AT&T blamed a number of issues, including hurricane damage to infrastructure, rising credit standards and competition from rivals. The report also shows AT&T lost more traditional TV customers than it gained back through its online video app, DirecTV Now. And analysts are suggesting that that’s evidence that cord-cutting is the main culprit.

Announced last year, DirecTV Now was AT&T’s answer to Netflix and Hulu. AT&T initially sought to drive aggressive adoption by offering deep discounts, and it bundled it with unlimited data plans for cellphone users.

While those efforts have helped offset losses in DirecTV’s main satellite-based service, it’s that traditional TV package that remains the most lucrative product for providers. Streaming apps don’t do as much to bolster the bottom line — meaning AT&T would be in tough shape even if it were replacing TV subscribers on a one-to-one basis with digital app users, which it isn’t.

Source: ‘The ravages of cord-cutting’: AT&T’s race against time to save its TV business – The Washington Post

Mark Turner : Seattle brewed: Amazon’s rapid growth transforms a city — but it’s complicated | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

October 16, 2017 05:26 PM

A cautionary tale for those cities vying to be the second headquarters of Amazon. Raleigh, be careful what you wish for.

“Seattle was a great place to live before Amazon. If you can afford it, it’s a great place to live now. That’s the caveat — if you can afford it,” said Knute Berger, a Seattle native and historian who is a columnist for Crosscut.com and editor at large for Seattle Magazine.

Mr. Berger wrote a commentary for Crosscut titled “Bidder beware,” warning the countless cities, including Pittsburgh, competing for a shot at Amazon’s second headquarters and its promise of 50,000 jobs that they may end up with more than they bargained for.

“That sounds crazy because of the success of the company. But Amazon has come with costs, too, for the community. Not everyone is a winner in the Amazon economy,” he said.

Source: Seattle brewed: Amazon’s rapid growth transforms a city — but it’s complicated | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Mark Turner : Another Victim of Hurricane Maria: Puerto Rico’s Treasured Rainforest – The New York Times

October 13, 2017 02:11 PM

It’s sad to read of the devastation to the El Yunque rainforest. It is a national treasure.

LUQUILLO, P.R. — When you looked up, you could once see nothing but the lush, emerald canopy of tabonuco and sierra palm trees covering El Yunque National Forest.

That was before Hurricane Maria obliterated the only tropical rain forest in the United States forest system. Left behind was a scene so bare that on a recent visit, it was possible to see the concrete skyline of San Juan about 30 miles west — a previously unimaginable sight.

El Yunque, pronounced Jun-kay, has been an enormous source of pride in Puerto Rico and one of the main drivers of the island’s tourism industry. The 28,000-acre forest on the eastern part of the island has over 240 species of trees; 23 of those are found nowhere else. Over 50 bird species live among the forest’s crags and waterfalls.

But sunlight now reaches cavities of the forest that have not felt a ray of light in decades, bringing with it a scorching heat.“Hurricane Maria was like a shock to the system,” said Grizelle González, a project leader at the International Institute of Tropical Forestry, part of United States Department of Agriculture. “The whole forest is completely defoliated.”

Source: Another Victim of Hurricane Maria: Puerto Rico’s Treasured Rainforest – The New York Times

Mark Turner : You Do You

October 13, 2017 02:02 PM

Steve Crider, senior recruiter at McKinsey, recently posted this story on LinkedIn:

“Years ago, I cold-called a candidate about a new opportunity. It was a big step up from his current role, and he had all the right skills and qualifications.

“Sorry, but I’m not interested,” he politely said.

I pressed him on it until he said something that really confused me. He told me that he “already made it to the top”.

I was familiar with his current company and looked at his resume again. He wasn’t anywhere near the top. He would have needed a telescope to see the top. He wasn’t even a manager yet.

He explained to me that “making it to the top” for him meant he loved the exact work he did each day, he loved his company, he was treated fairly and with respect, he made enough money to be comfortable, he had excellent benefits, he had flexibility, and most importantly to him, he’s never missed a single Little League game, dance recital, parent-teacher conference, anniversary, birthday, or any family event.

He knew what taking the next step in his career meant. More time, travel, and sacrifice. “Not worth it,” he said.

Your definition of “making it to the top” doesn’t have to be society’s or anyone else’s definition. You Do You.”

Mark Turner : U.S. and Turkey announce tit-for-tat travel restrictions, a sign of deteriorating alliance – The Washington Post

October 09, 2017 11:50 AM

Now let’s see if saner forces within Turkey and the U.S. can reign in the craziness and thuggishness we’ve seen in U.S.-Turkey relations. This drastic move hopefully will spur some more responsible parties to intervene.

ISTANBUL — The increasingly strained alliance between Turkey and the United States took a sharp downward turn Sunday when both governments abruptly announced they were canceling most visitor visas between the countries, sowing confusion among travelers and exposing a widening rift between the NATO partners.The crisis began when the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, the Turkish capital, announced it was immediately suspending all non­immigrant visa services at diplomatic facilities across Turkey. The move appeared to be retaliatory, coming days after the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrested an employee of the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul.

An embassy statement said it was limiting visitors to U.S. missions while it “reassesses” Turkey’s commitment to the security of American personnel — an extraordinary rebuke that underscored a rapidly deteriorating relationship between the longtime allies. Within hours, the Turkish Embassy in Washington released a nearly identical statement announcing its own suspension of nonimmigrant visas for Americans. 

Source: U.S. and Turkey announce tit-for-tat travel restrictions, a sign of deteriorating alliance – The Washington Post

Mark Turner : ‘Our minds can be hijacked’: the tech insiders who fear a smartphone dystopia | Technology | The Guardian

October 09, 2017 01:59 AM

“Everyone is distracted. All of the time.”

A decade after he stayed up all night coding a prototype of what was then called an “awesome” button, Rosenstein belongs to a small but growing band of Silicon Valley heretics who complain about the rise of the so-called “attention economy”: an internet shaped around the demands of an advertising economy.These refuseniks are rarely founders or chief executives, who have little incentive to deviate from the mantra that their companies are making the world a better place. Instead, they tend to have worked a rung or two down the corporate ladder: designers, engineers and product managers who, like Rosenstein, several years ago put in place the building blocks of a digital world from which they are now trying to disentangle themselves. “It is very common,” Rosenstein says, “for humans to develop things with the best of intentions and for them to have unintended, negative consequences.”

Rosenstein, who also helped create Gchat during a stint at Google, and now leads a San Francisco-based company that improves office productivity, appears most concerned about the psychological effects on people who, research shows, touch, swipe or tap their phone 2,617 times a day.

There is growing concern that as well as addicting users, technology is contributing toward so-called “continuous partial attention”, severely limiting people’s ability to focus, and possibly lowering IQ. One recent study showed that the mere presence of smartphones damages cognitive capacity – even when the device is turned off. “Everyone is distracted,” Rosenstein says. “All of the time.”

Source: ‘Our minds can be hijacked’: the tech insiders who fear a smartphone dystopia | Technology | The Guardian

Mark Turner : The East India Company: The original corporate raiders | William Dalrymple | World news | The Guardian

October 08, 2017 11:32 PM

A lengthy but compelling account of the East India Company and the dangers of corporate rule.

The painting shows a scene from August 1765, when the young Mughal emperor Shah Alam, exiled from Delhi and defeated by East India Company troops, was forced into what we would now call an act of involuntary privatisation. The scroll is an order to dismiss his own Mughal revenue officials in Bengal, Bihar and Orissa, and replace them with a set of English traders appointed by Robert Clive – the new governor of Bengal – and the directors of the EIC, who the document describes as “the high and mighty, the noblest of exalted nobles, the chief of illustrious warriors, our faithful servants and sincere well-wishers, worthy of our royal favours, the English Company”. The collecting of Mughal taxes was henceforth subcontracted to a powerful multinational corporation – whose revenue-collecting operations were protected by its own private army.

It was at this moment that the East India Company (EIC) ceased to be a conventional corporation, trading and silks and spices, and became something much more unusual. Within a few years, 250 company clerks backed by the military force of 20,000 locally recruited Indian soldiers had become the effective rulers of Bengal. An international corporation was transforming itself into an aggressive colonial power.

Source: The East India Company: The original corporate raiders | William Dalrymple | World news | The Guardian

Mark Turner : How I learnt to loathe England | Prospect Magazine

October 08, 2017 12:54 AM

The Dutch and the British have a lot in common, at first sight. Sea-faring nations with a long and guilty history of colonial occupation and slavery, they are pro free-trade and have large financial service industries—RBS may even move its headquarters to Amsterdam. Both tend to view American power as benign; the Netherlands joined the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. Shell, Unilever and Elsevier are just three examples of remarkably successful Anglo-Dutch joint ventures. I say “remarkably” because I’ve learned that in important respects, there is no culture more alien to the Dutch than the English (I focus on England as I’ve no experience with Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland). Echoing the Calvinist insistence on “being true to oneself,” the Dutch are almost compulsively truthful. Most consider politeness a cowardly form of hypocrisy. Bluntness is a virtue; insincerity and backhandedness are cardinal sins.

So let me try to be as Dutch as I can, and say that I left the UK feeling disappointed, hurt and immensely worried. We did not leave because of Brexit. My wife and I are both Dutch and we want our children to grow roots in the country where we came of age. We loved our time in London and have all met people who we hope will become our friends for life. But by the time the referendum came, I had become very much in favour of the UK leaving the EU. The worrying conditions that gave rise to the result—the class divide and the class fixation, as well as an unhinged press, combine to produce a national psychology that makes Britain a country you simply don’t want in your club.

Source: How I learnt to loathe England | Prospect Magazine

Mark Turner : The True History of the Traveling Wilburys

October 07, 2017 04:17 PM

Here’s an excellent, short documentary of the making of the Traveling Wilburys. Makes me miss Tom Petty even more.

Mark Turner : Repeal the Second Amendment – The New York Times

October 05, 2017 05:39 PM

An argument for repealing the 2nd Amendment.

Some conservatives will insist that the Second Amendment is fundamental to the structure of American liberty. They will cite James Madison, who noted in the Federalist Papers that in Europe “the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.” America was supposed to be different, and better.

I wonder what Madison would have to say about that today, when more than twice as many Americans perished last year at the hands of their fellows as died in battle during the entire Revolutionary War. My guess: Take the guns—or at least the presumptive right to them—away. The true foundation of American exceptionalism should be our capacity for moral and constitutional renewal, not our instinct for self-destruction.

Source: Repeal the Second Amendment – The New York Times

Mark Turner : How We Found Tom Price’s Private Jets – POLITICO Magazine

October 05, 2017 05:36 PM

A great story on how two dogged reporters uncovered former HHS Secretary Tom Price’s overindulgence of private jet travel.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/APPRIMARY SOURCEHow We Found Tom Price’s Private JetsA tantalizing tip, followed by months of painstaking reporting, revealed the HHS secretary’s extravagant travel habits.

The first tip came from a casual conversation with a source back in May: Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price was using private jets for routine travel, possibly in violation of federal travel rules that allowed such flights only when commercial options weren’t available.

But it was a tip and little else—no times, no names of charter services and not even a schedule from a notoriously secretive Cabinet secretary.

So we embarked on a months-long effort to win the trust of sources, both in and outside of HHS, who were in a position to know about the secretary’s travel. This required numerous meetings and phone calls, sometimes after hours, seeking to confirm what the original source acknowledged was just secondhand information. Neither of us had ever reported a story of this difficulty before.

Source: How We Found Tom Price’s Private Jets – POLITICO Magazine

Mark Turner : Sonic attacks on diplomats in Cuba: lots of questions, few answers | Miami Herald

October 05, 2017 12:47 PM

The dark arts of intelligence and diplomacy are often compared to a chess match. But a former U.S. diplomat this week turned to a less sophisticated, but perhaps more apt, pastime as a metaphor for the weird, murky confrontation going on between the United States and Cuba.

“Remember that old board game Clue?” mused a former U.S. diplomat earlier this week. “You had to solve a murder by identifying the killer, the weapon and the venue: It was Colonel Mustard, with a knife, in the ballroom.“Well, we’ve got a victim — U.S.-Cuban relations — and a venue, various houses and hotel rooms in Havana. But we haven’t got a suspect or a weapon yet. Not to make a pun, but we don’t have a clue.”

The expulsion of 15 Cuban diplomats from Washington announced on Tuesday, following a State Department decision to pull most personnel out of the American embassy in Havana, leaves diplomatic relations between the countries at half-staff.

Source: Sonic attacks on diplomats in Cuba: lots of questions, few answers | Miami Herald

Mark Turner : The Proud Pain of Tom Petty | The New Yorker

October 05, 2017 12:40 PM

More Tom Petty from his biographer, musician Warren Zanes.

In 1979, I was an undersized FM-generation high-school junior with a voice that wouldn’t change, a stressed single mom, and a bedroom in a rented gray two-family house in which I had to play my stereo low so I wouldn’t disturb all the people living close around me. And then my daily affront at this complete lack of agency found validation when some skinny blond dude calling his album “Damn the Torpedoes” uplifted my evenings with a simple phrase about being cut down to size on a regular basis: “Don’t do me like that.” He wasn’t celebrating humiliation—he understood the condition, which is, foremost, the inability to make the humiliation stop. There was nothing to do except to say to hell with annoying Mom and the neighbors and, in my alarmingly pitched treble that sounded like a radio veering between frequencies, to sing out that ambrosial phrase right along with Petty: “Don’t do me like that.”

Source: The Proud Pain of Tom Petty | The New Yorker

Mark Turner : Tom Petty’s final interview: There was supposed to have been so much more – LA Times

October 05, 2017 12:37 PM

During my three years on the USS Elliot (DD-967) I listened to a lot of music. When we were in-port San Diego I was getting introduced to alternative music through 91X. At sea, the collective CD collection of my shipmates was the soundtrack. I heard many artists I wouldn’t otherwise have heard. Nirvana, De La Soul, Big Daddy Kane. Some I hated. Others I hated but later learned to love. And then there was Tom Petty.

Of course, you couldn’t grow up as a radio listener in the South without knowing Tom Petty so I’d been a fan from way back. Full Moon Fever came out just before I went on deployment, though and it earned a special place in my preferred music rotation. I don’t even remember which one of my shipmates owned it, but we played the hell out of that CD. And I never got tired of it.

Thanks for the music, Tom. You were one hell of a rocker and a great guy.

This is not the way things were supposed to happen.

When I sat down with Petty in the outer room of the cozy but fully equipped recording studio at his home above Malibu beach, the idea was for him to reflect on the wildly successful 40th anniversary tour he and the Heartbreakers had wrapped less than 48 hours earlier at the end of three sold-out nights at the Hollywood Bowl.

It was a triumphant stand particularly rewarding to Petty, a Florida transplant who considered himself and his band mates California adoptees. He said as much from the stage each night, noting how the Heartbreakers, although composed entirely of musicians born or raised in and around Gainesville, Fla., had been born at the Village Studios in West Los Angeles.

Source: Tom Petty’s final interview: There was supposed to have been so much more – LA Times

Mark Turner : Google Fiber not even offering TV in new rollouts

October 04, 2017 06:57 PM

TV networks are as obsolete as rabbit ears

Google Fiber, noting America’s accelerating cord-cutting trend, today announced that it will not be offering television as part of its Louisville and San Antonio rollouts.

Think about that. A major, next-generation telecommunications provider has chosen to skip the video offerings, acknowledging that its customers just aren’t interested. Says Google:

If you’ve been reading the business news lately, you know that more and more people are moving away from traditional methods of viewing television content. Customers today want to control what, where, when, and how they get content. They want to do it their way, and we want to help them.

[…]

For our existing markets with TV as a part of their product offerings, nothing is changing — although more and more of you are choosing Internet-only options from Google Fiber. We’ve seen this over and over again in our Fiber cities.

I predicted back in 2009 (and again, and again, and again, and again, and again) that television networks and cable companies that don’t embrace Internet delivery are doomed:

Last week, I was describing to a friend who was new to Tivo how Tivo changes television. Through the magic of Tivo, MythTV, and similar DVRs, viewers have no use for TV networks anymore. We will watch (or stream) only the show they want and leave the rest. TV networks spend time assembling programming into a “channel” only to have that programming disassembled by Tivo. Eventually viewers will get wise and cut out the network middleman.

The traditional way of watching television is dead.

Google Fiber’s chief aim is to bring superfast Internet to more people. This has been our mission since our beginnings in Kansas City, because we believe that it can have a huge impact in a community — video conversations in real time with no delay; homework at the speed of light; downloads and uploads within minutes, not hours.  A lot can happen when you aren’t waiting for your Internet to catch up.

Over the years, we’ve worked to innovate the entire process. We’re not afraid to try new things as part of our normal way of doing business — focused on the end goal of getting superfast Internet into people’s homes. From faster, more efficient new methods of deployment to our commitment to transparent pricing to ensuring our customer service is top notch to our approach to community impact work in each market, we’re always looking for the best way to serve our customers.

With that Google Fiber spirit in mind, we’re trying something new in our next two Fiber cities. When we begin serving customers in Louisville and San Antonio, we’ll focus on providing superfast Internet –  and the endless content possibilities that creates – without the traditional TV add on.

Source: Google Fiber Blog

Wikimedia Commons photo by Daniel Christensen

Mark Turner : Breathtaking cluelessness

October 02, 2017 01:43 AM

I just went a few rounds with a friend of a friend on Facebook and it left me aghast. This woman was defending Trump’s Puerto Rico response all the while not knowing what she was talking about. Several times she referred to Puerto Rico as “that country” and mentioned that Trump had “lifted the sanctions” to get the aid flowing.

I couldn’t help but point out that Puerto Rico is, in fact, part of America and that the “sanctions” are actually the Jones Act, the 1920s-era protectionist law that protects the U.S. shipping industry. Her only response was ad hominem attacks which I easily deflected.

I am flabbergasted by her utter cluelessness, coupled with the rabid conviction that she was correct. This is why we can’t have nice things.

Look, it’s okay to not know everything! It takes time to learn stuff. When you’re presented with facts that reveal the gaps in your knowledge, however, you should take the time to fill those gaps. There’s a giant Internet out there and plenty of good, reputable sources that can bring you up to speed. If you don’t trust what you find on the Internet, wander into your local library and ask the nice folks behind the counter for reference materials about your topic. You’d be surprised how far that can get you.

But please try. The country depends on it.

Mark Turner : State Department pulls out diplomats, families in wake of Cuba sonic attacks – CNNPolitics

September 29, 2017 05:21 PM

So … who would most benefit from a breakdown in US-Cuba relations? Anyone know? Anyone?

If you said Vladimir Putin, you might be on your way to solving this mystery!

In November, following the US presidential election, American diplomats began to experience a series of strange incidents. As CNN first reported in August, diplomats were awoken late at night in their homes feeling unwell and hearing sounds that resembled insects or metal dragging across the floor.

They were unable to determine the source of the sound, but when they left the room or area they were in the incidents stopped immediately, two US government officials said.

By February, the State Department had concluded their diplomats were the targets of a campaign of harassment and they needed to raise the issue with Cuban officials.

The devices used in the incidents have never been found, two US officials said, but appeared to be a type of sonic weapon that emitted sound waves capable of inflicting physical harm.

But the physical symptoms that people exhibited varied greatly, preventing doctors consulted in the United States from reaching a conclusion about what caused the trauma, two US officials said.

US government technical experts were also baffled. Some affected diplomats had lines of sight to the street in their homes, while others had shrubbery and walls that blocked views of their homes. Some heard loud sounds when the incidents took place, while others heard nothing.

Source: State Department pulls out diplomats, families in wake of Cuba sonic attacks – CNNPolitics

Mark Turner : Running pays off

September 28, 2017 03:13 PM


I took my “biometric health screening” this week so I could get my 20% discount off of next year’s health insurance (a “workplace wellness” program that is, in fact, a sham) and I’m happy to say I crushed it. HDL Cholesterol up four points since last August, Triglycerides down 12 points. Total cholesterol the same.

What really surprised me were my vital signs. My blood pressure was so good the phlebotomist opted to check it again. I recorded 119/59. My resting heart rate was an astounding 42 BPM! All my life I’ve had good heart rates, sometimes dipping into the 40s when I was a healthy teenager, but I’d never seen one as low as 42 before.

All told, I would say my renewed exercise is paying off. 🙂

Mark Turner : Workplace wellness programs are a sham.

September 28, 2017 03:04 PM

Throughout the 1990s, federal regulations kept workplace wellness programs in check. Companies were allowed to offer modest financial incentives, but the rewards could be tied only to participation, not to outcomes. In other words, companies could offer workers cash or a discount on their insurance premiums for completing an HRA or a biometric screening, but they had to give all participants the same reward regardless of their health status.

That changed during the George W. Bush administration. In December 2006, Bush’s regulators in the departments of Labor, Treasury, and Health and Human Services—the three agencies that regulate group health plans and enforce HIPAA—finalized a new rule establishing that companies could tie financial rewards to health outcomes. Not only that, they could increase the size of the financial rewards up to 20 percent of the total cost of the health plan.

Put another way, this meant that companies could shift up to 20 percent of the total cost of premiums onto unhealthy employees. Business leaders had told administrators that they’d have “a greater opportunity to encourage healthy behaviors through programs of health promotion and disease prevention if they are allowed flexibility in designing such programs,” as Bush’s staff wrote in the rule.

Source: Workplace wellness programs are a sham.

Mark Turner : Four college basketball assistant coaches hit with federal fraud, corruption charges – CBSSports.com

September 27, 2017 12:52 PM

Acting US Attorney of New York, Joon H. Kim.

While the FBI’s charges of bribery and fraud are concerning, I am not at all shocked. In fact, I hope this leads to much-needed reform of college basketball – and why not all of college athletics, while we’re at it? Overlooked in this story is the fact that universities, cable TV networks (and, yes, shoe companies) are literally making billions of dollars off the labor of unpaid “student-athletes.”

College athletics is big business, undeniably. It’s all about the money now, the quaint idea of a “student-athlete” be damned. We shouldn’t be so shocked at the flow of money as we are that none of it flows to those who deserve it most: the athletes. It’s time to stop this farce once and for all.

The United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York announced early Tuesday that charges of fraud and corruption have been brought against four current college basketball assistant coaches — namely Arizona’s Emanuel “Book” Richardson, Auburn’s Chuck Person, Oklahoma State’s Lamont Evans and USC’s Tony Bland. Managers, financial advisers and representatives of a major sportswear company have also been charged with federal crimes in a scandal that has rocked the sport.”

The picture of college basketball painted by the charges is not a pretty one,” Joon H. Kim, the acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said at a Tuesday afternoon press conference. “Coaches at some of the nation’s top programs taking cash bribes, managers and advisers circling blue-chip prospects like coyotes, and employees of a global sportswear company funneling cash to families of high school recruits. … For the 10 charged men, the madness of college basketball went well beyond the Big Dance in March. Month after month, the defendants exploited the hoop dreams of student-athletes around the country, allegedly treating them as little more than opportunities to enrich themselves through bribery and fraud schemes.”

Source: Four college basketball assistant coaches hit with federal fraud, corruption charges – CBSSports.com

Mark Turner : Why didn’t Equifax protect your data? Because corporations have all the power. – The Washington Post

September 22, 2017 10:51 PM

My coworker and I were musing about the huge Equifax breach, where 143 million Americans had their personal data exposed to hackers. We wondered if Equifax would pay a price for this loss. Then we wondered who could punish Equifax.

It’s not us, we concluded. We’re not Equifax’s customers, we’re their product!

Here’s a great perspective piece in the Washington Post which discusses how lopsided the tables are towards large corporations and against the little guys like you and me.

No wonder. To be an American consumer these days is to have become numb to signing away your rights so you can buy products and services. If you want to use a smartphone, you have to agree to give your privacy to the company that makes it, and to your Internet provider, which can see every website you visit. If you want to use email, you agree that the provider can scan your messages for certain words to sell ads. And when you sign up for financial services, you give away your rights to negotiate how your money is used or how your information is protected. The people whose Social Security numbers Equifax lost had no say in how the company acquired, uses or guards their financial information.

Source: Why didn’t Equifax protect your data? Because corporations have all the power. – The Washington Post

Mark Turner : Experian Site Can Give Anyone Your Credit Freeze PIN — Krebs on Security

September 22, 2017 04:31 PM

What good does it do to lock down your credit with a credit freeze if Experian will hand over your PIN to anyone who asks?

An alert reader recently pointed my attention to a free online service offered by big-three credit bureau Experian that allows anyone to request the personal identification number (PIN) needed to unlock a consumer credit file that was previously frozen at Experian.

The first hurdle for instantly revealing anyone’s freeze PIN is to provide the person’s name, address, date of birth and Social Security number (all data that has been jeopardized in breaches 100 times over — including in the recent Equifax breach — and that is broadly for sale in the cybercrime underground).

After that, one just needs to input an email address to receive the PIN and swear that the information is true and belongs to the submitter. I’m certain this warning would deter all but the bravest of identity thieves!

Source: Experian Site Can Give Anyone Your Credit Freeze PIN — Krebs on Security

Mark Turner : Dubai: The Vegas of the Middle East, with a catch

September 22, 2017 12:23 PM

Johnny Walker Red

A recent story about a Brit who inadvertently ran afoul of the law in Dubai reminded me of the first (and last) time I visited Dubai.

When I was in the US Navy in the early 1990s my ship made a stop in Dubai. A group of my fellow sailors and I booked rooms at (what was at the time) a fairly high-end hotel to relax. I was astonished when entering my room to find a thank you card and a bottle of Johnny Walker Red, a gift for our protecting the Gulf. Being gifted a bottle of fine scotch in a Muslim country was a taste of the odd juxtaposition and tension in Dubai, where east meets west and tries to offer something for everyone.

In the days I wandered around Dubai seemed clear to me what the cultural expectations were. Back then it was a few hotels and mostly sand but now Dubai advertises itself as an exotic playground, the Las Vegas of the Middle East. It seems to me it’s easier now to cross a line one didn’t mean to cross, though I have not been back since. I was planning a trip to Dubai with my wife around Sept 11, 2001 but .. .uh, soon scuttled it :-(.

(Wikimedia Commons photo by Mohylek)

Tanner Lovelace : Two Triathlons in One Weekend? Why not?

September 20, 2017 06:41 PM

So, this past weekend, I did something I’ve never done before. I did back to back triathlons on subsequent days.  It started bright and earlyon Saturday, Sept 16th, 2017 with the Outer Banks Half Iron Triathlon. This was my 9th career half iron triathlon since I did my first one in October of 2014. I had done the Outer Banks Olympic Triathlon back in September of 2013 but hadn’t been back to the race since then. What I remember the most about that Olympic distance race was getting a face full of boat gas early on in the swim and then swimming the rest of the course with my head out of the water since I didn’t want that to happen again. I also remember having both legs cramp just as I saw the finish line. I hoped neither would happen this time around.

When I picked up my packet on Friday, they had me look up my race bib # first.  When I saw what number I had been assigned my mouth literally dropped.  I had bib #2! This is a number that I normally associate with professional triathletes but there weren’t any professionals at this race so they used the lower bib numbers for those of us doing the challenge of two races in two days.  Those of us doing the half and sprint combination had single digit numbers while those doing the Olympic and sprint combination had double digit numbers below 50.  Regardless, it’s an awesome number to have.

One of the nice things about having such a low number was that my bike position was right next to the swim entrance and run exit. I set up my transition on race morning, said hi to my friend Sarah, and then went down to get in a warmup swim before we started.  The swim is in the Croatan Sound from the island of Roanoke in the Outer Banks. The water is brackish and race morning it was not calm at all.  I got a bit of a swim in and then waited for the race to start.  Once the race started, I could definitely tell that I had progressed a lot since my last time here.  When I did the 1500m Olympic swim in 2013 I think I visited every single SUP.  This time, I did the entire 1.2 mile swim without stopping. The water was extremely choppy and I did end up swimming through a section of boat gas (although, not as bad as back in 2013) but I kept going.  My swim time ended up being 15 minutes longer than my swim at the Mont-Tremblant 70.3 back in June.  A significant portion of that can be attributed to the fact that I didn’t wear a wetsuit for this race and I did in Mont-Tremblant, but I don’t think that can explain the difference entirely. Instead, I think it’s a combination of being less prepared for this race (since I took a long time off after I broke my jaw in late June) and the choppy water.  Either way, though, I finished the swim in 55:04 and headed up to transition.

Transition 1 took perhaps a bit longer than I had hoped, but I made sure to dry off a bit and put on socks before putting on my bikes shoes, glasses, gloves, helmet and sweat band for under the helmet (because with the visor on my Giro Aerohead I can’t actually wipe any sweat off if it starts dripping into my eyes).  I managed all that and grabbed my bike and headed out to bike 56 miles.

Once out on the bike, I finally thought through the entire implications about a big reason why the water was so choppy.  Part of it was the jet skis moving around too much, but a bigger part of it was the wind. Now when on a bike, the wind can either be your biggest friend or worst enemy.  On this course, it would end up being both twice since it was a two loop course.  The bike course heads out from the airport on Roanoke Island and heads to the Manns Harbor Bridge, a 2.7 mile long bridge over the Croatan Sound. Going out on this bridge I was easily hitting 22-24 mph and I realized coming back would be a struggle because I was obviously getting helped by the wind.  At the halfway point of the bridge, there was a volunteer with a USA flag on his truck and the flag was out fully straight from the wind. I crossed over the bridge and then headed to the right for the first part of the mainland portion of the bike. Part of that section had some wind problems but not nearly as much as the bridge since it was partially shielded by the trees.  Coming back on that section at one point I was in some sort of zone where I wasn’t paying attention to anything else except the bike and what was in front of me.  It was at that point that my friend Sarah passed me going the other way and yelled out my name. That was enough to STARTLE me out of my zone and raise my heart rate for a bit! But, it quickly settled down and I finished up that first section and turned right with the rest of the half iron participants (the Olympic participants at that point headed back to transition) for the rest of the half iron course. Thankfully that section was short and I was soon headed back to the bridge to go back in and get ready to start the 2nd loop.  Coming up to the bridge I could tell the wind was going to be a huge problem going back over.  As I got onto the bridge my speed dropped dramatically.  While I had managed 22-24 coming out on the bridge, going back it was all I could do to maintain 13-14 mph!  So, I hunkered down in the aero position and just ground out the miles. Once I got off the bridge the trees gave us some cover and my speed went back up to around 20 mph.  At this point the Olympic participants turn right onto Airport Rd and head back to transition while the half iron participants go past the turn and down for a bit until we turn into a school parking lot and turn around for the 2nd lap.  Because it’s a nice sheltered location, there is an aid station here.  I was using Infinit Nutrition’s Go Far mix on the bike, so I didn’t need anything for nutrition but I wanted to grab a water bottle to squirt on me to help lower my temperature.  So, as I rounded the circle for the turn around I grabbed a water bottle and tried to squirt it on me but it didn’t work. Unbelievably, they had apparently neglected to tell the volunteers to remove the extra cap from the top of the water bottle and open them for us! I was a little ticked off but I ended up opening it with my teeth and then pouring about half of it over me. Not ideal but better than nothing. The second lap of the bike was about the same as the first — fast on the way out, long while on the mainland, and then slow as could be coming back across the bridge.  But, I finally finished and headed back on Airport Rd towards transition.  As I got close to the bike dismount I slipped my feet out of the bike shoes and prepared to get off the bike.  I still need to learn how to do a flying dismount, so I simply stopped at the bike dismount and got off the bike and ran it into transition.  Total bike time was 3:06:05 for an average speed of 17.6 mph.

In transition 2 I parked my bike, pulled off my helmet, sweat band, and gloves and then put on some more sunscreen before putting on my running shoes, visor, race belt with number bib and Camelbak loaded with 3 hours worth of Infinit Nutrition’s Jet Fuel before heading out on the run. Total time in transition 2 was 2:46.

The run is an out and back through Manteo. The first mile winds it’s way through the airport on a pretty horrible broken pavement with grass surface. The next couple of miles wind through the town before finally getting onto a greenway for the remaining 3 miles of the out and back course. That means that the first 3 miles and the last 3 miles of the run have basically no shade at all.  And, since at this point it was around 11:30am it was starting to get hot.  I started out at around 11 min/mi which is about the pace I was aiming for on the run.  But, the heat started taking it’s tole and my pace started slowing down at some point.  I managed to run for the first 6 miles and then started walking the aid stations.  Every single aid station I would grab 2 cups of cold water and pour them over my head. This really helped to keep my body temperature from rising precipitously.  And, since I learned my lesson last fall at Ironman Chattanooga about stopping something I made it a point to make sure I did that at every single aid station.  It really worked and although my run wasn’t as fast as I wanted it to be, I never felt really horrible or cramped up.  Final run time was 2:37:55.

Total time for the entire half iron ended up being 6:45:28 which is not really one of my better efforts but considering the conditions I’ll take it.  I spent about 30 minutes or more laying down at the finish and then as I was about to go look for pizza I saw the race results terminals and so on a lark decided to check my official results. When I saw my division ranking, I almost fell over. Apparently I managed to get 2nd in my age group! This is only the 3rd time ever I’ve made it on the podium and needless to say it was quite unexpected. But, I went over and collected my age group prize which was a nice silver pin that said “Age Group” to go onto the ribbon of my finisher medal. (1st AG was a gold pin and 3rd AG was a bronze pin.) I then got pizza and was disappointed there were no soft drinks at all unless I wanted to buy one. Since my wallet was at least a half mile away in my car, that didn’t happen.

After the race I packed up all my stuff and headed back to the hotel. I had thought about going out and getting lunch but instead I ended up dozing a bit before Sarah called about dinner plans. I grabbed a much needed shower and headed out to meet Sarah, Allison and Marianne for dinner at Trios in Nags Head. I had some fabulous manicotti and an interesting mango and habeñero hard cider for dinner. I had a great time talking with my friends and finally headed back to get to sleep so I could get up early for the race the next day. On the way back to the hotel, I stopped by Kill Devil Custard and Beach Fries and got a coconut cream malted shake.  Once back at the hotel, I worked on cleaning my bottles, laying out my clothes for the next day and drying out my running and biking shoes which were completely soaked even though they had been sitting on the AC vent for about 8 hours after the race! Thanks to a suggestion from my wife, I ended up using the hotel room’s hair dryer to dry my shoes and that worked well enough for me to pack them up for the race the next day.

The next morning again came very early. But, the weather looked like it would be much better for a race as long as the rain would hold off. I packed everything up in the car since I didn’t plan to come back to the hotel and headed off to the race.

I set my bike up again and decided not to worry about a warm up swim this time. The swim would be short enough that it wouldn’t really matter. The swim on Sunday turned out to be better than the swim on Saturday. Comparing my times, I was 15+ seconds/100 yards faster on Sunday and I’m sure most of that can be attributed to calmer water. I came out of the water feeling pretty good. Total swim time was 20:07.

Transition 1 for the sprint went faster but not as fast as I thought it could be. The one thing that was different from the day before was that I didn’t bother with wearing gloves for the sprint. Total T1 time was 3:05.

The sprint bike went out on the bridge just like the day before but then turned right around at about a half mile past the end of the bridge and came right back.  I was pushing more for the sprint (going for 100% effort for the sprint while for the half the day before I was aiming more towards 80%) so even though the wind was about the same as the day before I was faster on both the out and the back.  Going out I was averaging about 25 mph and that was a really awesome feeling.  Coming back, because I was pushing harder than the previous day, I managed about 15-16mph.  The thing I noticed the most about the bike was that it was over so soon compared to the previous day! Total bike time was 39:16 for a 19.6 mph bike average speed.

I pulled my feet out of the shoes again before dismounting the bike and this time around I ran the bike into transition as fast as I could. I wasn’t carrying my own water for the sprint so I just put on my running shoes and race bib belt and grabbed my hat before heading out for the run. Total time in transition 2 was 1:09.

The advice I’ve been given on race pacing for a sprint triathlon is to go out at 80% effort on the swim, hammer the bike as hard as you possibly can and then hold on on the run until you hear the crowd at the finish line and use that to propel you to the end.  So, I headed out on the run going as fast as I could.  Unlike the previous week at the White Lake Fall Sprint where I managed sub-9 minute miles for the run, today I could only manage 9-10 minute miles. But, thankfully the run was short and I was soon headed back.  Bib #1 was also in my age group and although I had managed to pass him on the bike he passed me at about 1.25 miles into the run.  I was determined, however, to try to not let anyone else in my age group pass me.  So, at the final aid station at 3 miles, 0.1 miles from the finish when I saw someone with a 46 for their age on their leg go past me I decided I wasn’t going to let that happen. So, I ended up taking off, passing him back and sprinting as fast as I possibly could to the finish line! I’m pretty sure I found my lactate threshold at that point since I was having trouble getting enough air.  But, once I crossed the finish line, I was able to just lay down for a couple of minutes on the grass and then I was ok.  Total time for the 5K run was 28:56 for a total race time of 1:32:36.

I grabbed my sprint triathlon medal and then the medal for doing the challenge and headed off to see what food there was. Instead of pizza, they had breakfast burritos of either ham, egg, and cheese or just egg and cheese. Since I don’t eat ham, I grabbed an egg and cheese and then went to transition, grabbed my wallet and came back to buy a coke.  I had the burrito and it was so good I went back for a second.  I checked my placing for the sprint race and it said I was 8th.  Looking later online it said I ended up 9th so not sure what was up there.  But, either way I hadn’t expected much so I wasn’t disappointed.  I ended up changing clothes in the parking lot using some beach towels to provide a private changing area and then headed out for lunch before heading home.  I stopped by Big Al’s Soda Fountain & Grill for dinner and had a mushroom swiss vege-burger and a butter beer milkshake.  After lunch, I was going to head home but because I was feeling a bit sleepy, not surprising after getting up at around 5am for the past two days, I stopped by the rest area just before leaving Manteo and dozed for a half hour or so before heading home.

All in all it was a good weekend.  I’m not sure I would do the half/sprint challenge combination again, but I might try the olympic/sprint challenge.  It would have to wait until at least 2019, though, because for 2018 the plan is to do the Augusta 70.3 which will likely be the very next weekend. But, if you’re looking for a good, independent triathlon race you could do a lot worse than the Outer Banks Half, Olympic or Sprint triathlons.

I’ve got the YMCA Wrightsville Beach Sprint triathlon coming up next weekend and am using that as a preview of the 2nd half of the swim for the NC 70.3 coming up in 5 weeks. The NC 70.3 will be my last triathlon for the season and my 10th career triathlon overall. It will be nice to have it as the 10th as it was my first 70.3 back when it was Beach2Battleship. Here’s hoping I can better my time from that very first race.

 

Mark Turner : David Crabtree retiring from WRAL TV in late 2018 | News & Observer

September 20, 2017 06:35 PM

David Crabtree

I wish David Crabtree well in his new career in the clergy. On the eve of the Iraq War, he moderated a community forum about how America should respond and I won’t soon forget how bloodthirsty he was for vengeance.

I hope his religious studies have since made him a better person.

WRAL announced on Wednesday that longtime anchor David Crabtree will retire in late 2018.Crabtree has been in TV news for 35 years, taking over as the lead anchor at WRAL when Charlie Gaddy retired in 1994. He is a native of Tennessee who has lived in Raleigh since 1994.

According to WRAL, Crabtree, an ordained deacon, will take a permanent role in the Episcopal Church when he leaves the station. He is currently affiliated with St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Raleigh and is on track to earn a master’s degree in Theological Studies from Duke Divinity School in the spring of 2018.

Crabtree is an award-winning journalist who has interviewed presidents and has reported from the Vatican, political conventions and from the funerals of Mother Teresa, Pope John Paul II and Nelson Mandela.

Source: David Crabtree retiring from WRAL TV in late 2018 | News & Observer

Tarus Balog : 2017 Ohio Linuxfest

September 20, 2017 02:56 PM

The Ohio Linuxfest was one of the first open source conferences I ever attended, way back in 2010. I had heard about it from the local Linux Users Group, TriLUG, and we ended up renting a van and taking a couple of other open source geeks with us, including “Mr. IPv6” Kevin Otte.

It was a blast.

Ohio Linuxfest Banner

This year looks like another great show, with one of my favorite people, Karen Sandler, giving a keynote on Friday and yours truly will be giving the last keynote on Saturday.

If you are into free and open source software and are able to make it, I strongly encourage you to check out the conference. You’ll be glad you did.

Tarus Balog : 2017 Australian Network Operators Group Conference

September 19, 2017 04:10 PM

Back in June I was chatting with “mobius” about all things OpenNMS. He lives and works in Perth, Australia, and suggested that I do a presentation at AusNOG, the Australian Network Operators Group.

One of the things we struggle with at OpenNMS is figuring out how to make people aware it exists. My rather biased opinion is that it is awesome, but a lot of people have never heard of it. To help with that I used to attend a lot of free and open source conferences, but we’ve found out over the years that our user base tends to be more along the lines of large enterprises and network operators that might not be represented at such shows.

Imagine my surprise when I found out that there were a whole slew of NOGs, network operator groups, around the world. It seems to me that people who attend these conferences have a more immediate need for OpenNMS, and with that in mind I submitted a talk to AusNOG. I was very happy it was selected, not in the least because I would get to return to Australia for a third time.

AusNOG David Hughes

I wasn’t sure what to expect, but was pleasantly surprised. The event was extremely well organized and I really liked the format. Many conferences as they become successful respond by adding multiple tracks. This can be useful if the tracks are easy to delineate, but often you can get “track bloat” where the attendees get overwhelmed with choice and as a presenter you can end up with a nearly empty room if you are scheduled against a popular speaker. At AusNOG there is only one track of somewhat short, highly curated talks that results in a very informative conference without the stress of trying to determine the best set of talks to attend.

AusNOG Program

(Note: Visit the “programme” site and click on talk titles to download the presentations)

The venue was very nice as well. Held at the Langham Hotel, the conference took place in a ballroom that held the 200+ people with a lobby out front for socializing and a few sponsor booths. The program consisted of 90 minutes of presentations separated by a break. They alternated sets of three 30 minute talks with two 45 minutes talks. I found all of the presentations interesting, but I have to admit that I spent a lot of time looking up unfamiliar acronyms. As network operators Autonomous System (AS) numbers were thrown around in much the same way SNMP Private Enterprise Numbers are shared among network management geeks. Australia is also in the process of implementing a nationwide National Broadband Network (nbn™) to provide common infrastructure across the country, so of course that was the focus of a number of talks.

In the middle of each day we broke for lunch which was pretty amazing. The Langham restaurant had a sushi section, a section for Indian food, a large buffet of your standard meat and veg, and at least three dessert sections: one with “healthy” fruit and cheese, another focused on ice cream and a chocolate fountain, and a large case full of amazing pastries and other desserts. All with a view out over the Yarra river.

AusNOG Yarra River

I really liked the format of AugNOG and suggest we adopt it for the next OpenNMS conference. For those few talks that were either over my head or not really of interest, they were over pretty quickly, but I found myself enjoying most of them. I thought it was interesting that concepts we usually equate with the managing servers are being adopted on the network side. One talk discussed topics such as running switch software in containers, while another discussed using Ansible and Salt to manage the configuration of network gear.

AusNOG Runing Switch Software in Containers

I was happy to see that my talk wasn’t the only one that focused on open source. Back fifteen years ago getting large companies to adopt an open source solution was still in the evangelical stage, but now it is pretty much standard. Even Facebook presented a talk on their open source NetNORAD project for monitoring using a distributed system to measure latency and packet loss.

I did have a few favorite talks. In “The Future Is Up in the Sky” Jon Brewer discussed satellite Internet. As someone who suffered for years with a satellite network connection, it was interesting to learn what is being done in this area. I used a system with a satellite in geosynchronous orbit which, while it worked, ended up with latency on the order of a second in real-world use. It turns out that there are a number of solutions using shorter distances with satellites in low earth or high earth orbit. While they present their own challenges, it is still the most promising way to get network access to remote areas.

Another talk by Mark Nottingham discussed issues associated with the increased use of encrypted protocols and the challenges they create for network operators. While the civil libertarian in me applauds anything that makes it harder for surveillance to track users, as a network monitoring guy this can make it more difficult to track down the cause of network issues.

And this will become even more important as the network changes with the adoption of Internet of Things (IoT) devices. Another good talk discussed the issue of IoT security. Even today the main consensus is that you protect weakly secured devices with a firewall, but a number of new exploits leverage infected systems within the firewall for DDoS attacks.

AusNOG Internet of Things Vulnerabilities

I think my own talk went well, it was hard to squeeze a good introduction to OpenNMS into 30 minutes. I did manage it – 30 minutes on the nose – but it didn’t leave time for questions. As a speaker I really liked the feedback the conference provided in the form of a rather long report showing what the attendees thought of the talk, complete with cool graphs.

AusNOG Speaker Response

I really enjoyed this conference, both as an attendee and a speaker. While I hope to speak to more NOGs I would much rather encourage OpenNMS users who are happy with the project to submit real-world talks on how they use the platform to their local tech groups. I think it tells a much stronger story to have someone a little less biased than myself talking about OpenNMS, and plus you get to visit cool conferences like AusNOG.

Tarus Balog : Help Get OpenNMS Packaged by Bitnami

September 18, 2017 07:55 PM

As someone who has used OpenNMS for, well, many years, I think it is a breeze to get installed. Simply add the repository to your server, install the package(s), run the installer and start it.

However, there are a number of new users who still have issues getting it installed. This is not a problem limited just to OpenNMS but can be a problem across a number of open source projects.

Enter Bitnami. Bitnami is a project to package applications to make them easier to install: natively, in the cloud, in a container or as a virtual machine. Ronny pointed out that OpenNMS is listed in their “wishlist” section, and if we can get enough votes, perhaps they will add it to their stack.

Bitnami also happens to have a great team, lead in part by the ever amazing Erica Brescia. As I write this we have less that 50 votes, with the current leaders being over 1200, so there is a long way to go. I’d appreciate your support, and once you vote you get a second chance to vote again via the socials.

Bitnami OpenNMS Wishlist

Thanks, and thanks to Bitnami for the opportunity.

Mark Turner : Sandra Boynton’s whimsical animals have been delighting kids for 40 years – The Washington Post

September 17, 2017 12:33 AM

I love this profile of children’s book author Sandra Boynton. Mentioning it at family dinner tonight elicited gleeful reminiscences of the favorite books the kids read (and were read) when they were little.

Sandra Boynton lives on a farm in rural Connecticut. She works out of a converted barn, surrounded by pigs in overalls, frogs wearing cowboy hats, a clutch of bemused chickens and a few skeptical sock puppets.Standing there, you get the feeling that at any moment they might all come alive and break into a high-stepping song-and-dance. Which they probably will. Because this is Boynton’s world, and in Boynton’s world, animals do whatever she wants. And what she wants them to do, mostly, is make her smile.

Source: Sandra Boynton’s whimsical animals have been delighting kids for 40 years – The Washington Post

Mark Turner : Weaponizing sound: Could sonic devices have injured diplomats in Cuba?

September 17, 2017 12:31 AM

Another story of the mystery Cuban sonic weapon. This story focuses more on the auditory effects but neglects the apparent concussions that also seems to be a symptom.

A mysterious illness has been striking people associated with the US Embassy in Cuba — and a secret sonic weapon is rumored to be the source. Over the past year, diplomats in Cuba have experienced an unusual collection of symptoms that range from hearing loss, vertigo, and nausea to concussions, CBS News reported.Yesterday, the mystery grew even more complex when the Associated Press reported that the number of US victims has climbed to 21 people. Canadian diplomatic households were affected as well, the AP says. The Cuban government has denied involvement, and no “piece of equipment” that might be causing the symptoms has been discovered yet, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert told reporters.

Source: Weaponizing sound: Could sonic devices have injured diplomats in Cuba?

Mark Turner : Facebook handed Russia-linked ads over to Mueller under search warrant – Sep. 15, 2017

September 17, 2017 12:27 AM

Remember the 2012 election when I was tracking all the fake Facebook likes for Mitt Romney? Could this have also been an effort by Russia to influence the American Election by manipulating Facebook?

Special counsel Robert Mueller and his team are now in possession of Russian-linked ads run on Facebook during the presidential election, after they obtained a search warrant for the information.

Facebook gave Mueller and his team copies of ads and related information it discovered on its site linked to a Russian troll farm, as well as detailed information about the accounts that bought the ads and the way the ads were targeted at American Facebook users, a source with knowledge of the matter told CNN.

The disclosure, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, may give Mueller’s office a fuller picture of who was behind the ad buys and how the ads may have influenced voter sentiment during the 2016 election.

Source: Facebook handed Russia-linked ads over to Mueller under search warrant – Sep. 15, 2017

Mark Turner : How Bullwinkle Taught Kids Sophisticated Political Satire | Innovation | Smithsonian

September 16, 2017 01:32 PM

“Mr. Chairman, I am against all foreign aid, especially to places like Hawaii and Alaska,” says Senator Fussmussen from the floor of a cartoon Senate in 1962. In the visitors’ gallery, Russian agents Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale are deciding whether to use their secret “Goof Gas” gun to turn the Congress stupid, as they did to all the rocket scientists and professors in the last episode of “Bullwinkle.”Another senator wants to raise taxes on everyone under the age of 67. He, of course, is 68. Yet a third stands up to demand, “We’ve got to get the government out of government!” The Pottsylvanian spies decide their weapon is unnecessary: Congress is already ignorant, corrupt and feckless.

Hahahahaha. Oh, Washington.

That joke was a wheeze half a century ago, a cornball classic that demonstrates the essential charm of the “Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends,” the cartoon show that originally aired between 1959 and 1964 about a moose and a squirrel navigating Cold War politics.

Source: How Bullwinkle Taught Kids Sophisticated Political Satire | Innovation | Smithsonian

Mark Turner : Cuba mystery grows: New details on what befell US diplomats

September 16, 2017 01:24 PM

Quite a mystery.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The blaring, grinding noise jolted the American diplomat from his bed in a Havana hotel. He moved just a few feet, and there was silence. He climbed back into bed. Inexplicably, the agonizing sound hit him again. It was as if he’d walked through some invisible wall cutting straight through his room.

Soon came the hearing loss, and the speech problems, symptoms both similar and altogether different from others among at least 21 U.S. victims in an astonishing international mystery still unfolding in Cuba. The top U.S. diplomat has called them “health attacks.” New details learned by The Associated Press indicate at least some of the incidents were confined to specific rooms or even parts of rooms with laser-like specificity, baffling U.S. officials who say the facts and the physics don’t add up.

“None of this has a reasonable explanation,” said Fulton Armstrong, a former CIA official who served in Havana long before America re-opened an embassy there. “It’s just mystery after mystery after mystery.”

Source: Cuba mystery grows: New details on what befell US diplomats

Mark Turner : Bay Area housing: Sunnyvale home sells $800,000 above asking

September 15, 2017 02:35 PM

This story caught my eye, when a modest, 2,000sf home in Sunnyvale, CA sold for $800,000 over asking price. True, there is a little real estate sleight-of-hand going on here with how it was priced but there’s no denying that this is an eye-popping sale.

This kind of outrageous housing market is what comes to mind when I think of what might happen if Amazon chooses to set up its second headquarters in the Triangle. I think of the stunning metamorphosis that’s taken place this year in the neighborhood surrounding East Raleigh’s Ligon Middle School, where affordable homes have been all but demolished in favor of fancy new homes, and I wonder how long it will be before no one here but stock-option millionaires can live where they work.

Be careful what you wish for, Raleigh. More on this in an upcoming blog post.

A house in Sunnyvale just sold for close to $800,000 over its listing price.

Your eyes do not deceive you: The four-bed, two-bath house — less than 2,000 square feet — listed for $1,688,000 and sold for $2,470,000.

“I think it’s the most anything has ever gone for over asking in Sunnyvale — a record for Sunnyvale,” said Dave Clark, the Keller Williams agent who represented the sellers in the deal. “We anticipated it would go for $2 million, or over $2 million. But we had no idea it would ever go for what it went for.

”This kind of over-bidding is known to happen farther north in cities including Palo Alto, Los Altos and Mountain View. But as those places have grown far too expensive for most buyers, future homeowners have migrated south to Sunnyvale, a once modest community that now finds itself among the Bay Area’s real estate hot spots.

Source: Bay Area housing: Sunnyvale home sells $800,000 above asking

Mark Turner : Hacking. Still relevant after 164 years.

September 14, 2017 02:23 PM

Rudimentary Treatise on the Construction of Door Locks for Commercial and Domestic Purposes


A book from 1853 seems like an unlikely place to find wisdom about the need for hacking culture, yet these words are still true today. An excerpt from “Rudimentary Treatise on the Construction of Locks” by Charles Tomlinson:

A commercial, and in some respects a social, doubt has been started within the last year or two, whether or not it is right to discuss so openly the security or insecurity of locks. Many well-meaning persons suppose that the discussion respecting the means for baffling the supposed safety of locks offers a premium for dishonesty, by showing others how to be dishonest. This is a fallacy. Rogues are very keen in their profession, and already know much more than we can teach them respecting their several kinds of roguery. Rogues knew a good deal about lockpicking long before locksmiths discussed it among themselves, as they have lately done. If a lock — let it have been made in whatever country, or by whatever maker — is not so inviolable as it has hitherto been deemed to be, surely it is in the interest of honest persons to know this fact, because the dishonest are tolerably certain to be the first to apply the knowledge practically; and the spread of knowledge is necessary to give fair play to those who might suffer by ignorance. It cannot be too earnestly urged, that an acquintance with real facts will, in the end, be better for all parties.

Some time ago, when the reading public was alarmed at being told how London milk is adulterated, timid persons deprecated the exposure, on the plea that it would give instructions in the art of adulterating milk; a vain fear — milkmen knew all about it before, whether they practiced it or not; and the exposure only taught purchasers the necessity of a little scrutiny and caution, leaving them to obey this necessity or not, as they pleased.

…The unscrupulous have the command of much of this kind of knowledge without our aid; and there is moral and commercial justice in placing on their guard those who might possibly suffer therefrom. We employ these stray expressions concerning adulteration, debasement, roguery, and so forth, simply as a mode of illustrating a principle — the advantage of publicity. In respect to lock-making, there can scarcely be such a thing as dishonesty of intention: the inventor produces a lock which he honestly thinks will posess such and such qualities; and he declares his belief to the world. If others differ from him in opinion concerning those qualities, it is open to them to say so; and the discussion, truthfully conducted, must lead to public advantage: the discussion stimulates curiosity, and curiosity stimulates invention. Nothing but a partial and limited view of the question could lead to the opinion that harm can result: if there be harm, it will be much more than counterbalanced by good.

Mark Turner : I Shot a Hurricane Irma Photo That Went Viral, and I Wasn’t Paid a Dime

September 14, 2017 01:19 AM

As an amateur lenslinger who’s had my photographs garner the attention of news media in the past, I take the moral to this story very seriously. I give away a lot of my photographs to Wikipedia but if a commercial news organization wants a shot I believe I will negotiate with them from now on.

Google told me today that a photo I randomly took in a restaurant in Spain has crossed the 300,000 views mark. Imagine if I had even a penny for every one of those views.

Virality is an odd thing. You don’t see it coming, but you can feel the momentum building while it’s happening. My phone notifications started going off like popcorn. One here, one there, then many more at once. People were tagging and sharing in an attempt to find someone to help these guys, while also hunkering down for the storm.

The first request for usage came from Fox News Desk. I froze. At this point, it was still very local, and I couldn’t see where it was going. Also, I was very distracted by the hurricane outside. I didn’t even know if I could ask for licensing because other photos were floating around (although not as good).The key part here is that I also didn’t know how. What did I ask for? How much should I ask for? Did they even care? Did I have to copyright or license it somehow?

So I told Fox they could use it as long as I was given credit. Unfortunately, this might have invalidated any other requests for compensation, but at the time I was clueless.

Source: I Shot a Hurricane Irma Photo That Went Viral, and I Wasn’t Paid a Dime

Mark Turner : Back in 1982 I was dealing acid at Jim Morrison’s grave and that’s when I first met Vladimir Putin.

September 12, 2017 10:06 PM

A surreal retelling of an early encounter with Vladimir Putin.

So anyway, it was something like my third day on the job and along with the Norwegians, Danes and Swedes there’s this quiet Russian dude with a guitar, Vladimir, who’s there to pay his respects like the rest of us.  Although he wasn’t interested in my product, when he found out I was from San Francisco he got really animated and wanted to hear everything I could tell him about it – the music especially. I guess like a lot of people he thought it was just 1967 forever by the bay with the Airplane and the Dead still playing in the park…  I told him about the handful of Dead shows I’d seen, and he got a far off look and said  “Just to see Jerry…Y’know? Just to be there and see his fingers and lips moving and hear the music at the same time… Man…” he sighed.  “Hey now,” I said, “it’ll happen.”  He just shook his head in that way people do when there’s just too much to explain. Vlad was like that a lot.

Source: Back in 1982 I was dealing acid at Jim Morrison’s grave and that’s when I first met Vladimir Putin.

Mark Turner : Be Like Miss Ruth

September 11, 2017 03:37 PM

Miss Ruth

This is my wonderful former neighbor, Ruth Gartrell, a.k.a., Miss Ruth. What made Miss Ruth a wonderful neighbor? Well,

  1. Miss Ruth would never let her psycho dog bark non-stop all hours of the day and night. For one, Miss Ruth’s dogs are (naturally) well-behaved. Even if they weren’t, Miss Ruth would be mortified if her dogs disturbed her neighbors after 11 PM by barking their heads off.
  2. Miss Ruth would never cheer on her favorite sports team by watching television on her back porch after 11 PM. Miss Ruth does her television watching inside the way God intended.
  3. Miss Ruth would never stand in her back yard at 2:45 AM, drinking and laughing with her friend right outside my bedroom window. If Miss Ruth drinks she has the good sense to do it indoors, and at a reasonable hour. What’s more, if I politely asked her to take the conversation indoors, she would not simply respond with a half-hearted “sure,” but would profusely apologize for keeping me awake.

I miss Miss Ruth.

Mark Turner : Three Things You Should Know About Spaghetti Model Forecasts for Hurricanes, Tropical Storms and Developing Tropical Waves | The Weather Channel

September 02, 2017 04:18 PM

The Weather Channel also produced a great primer on hurricane “spaghetti models” and what they show and (more importantly) leave out.

There’s a delicious-sounding term that’s about to make its way back into the weather forecasting lexicon as hurricane season ramps up, but it has nothing to do with food.Spaghetti weather models, also known as spaghetti plots, are a simplistic way of conveying a lot of tropical information quickly, but there can also be downfalls to relying on these plots.

1. Spaghetti Plots Do Not Portray Any Impacts

Although most models show possible impacts, to present many models succinctly on a single chart, meteorologists generally produce spaghetti plots that usually only show the “where” and a loose representation of “when” for tropical systems.

To get to this level of brevity, meteorologists must only focus on the center point of a tropical system, which may or may not be accurate. We’ll get to more on that limitation later, but for now, let’s focus on the lack of impacts.

Source: Three Things You Should Know About Spaghetti Model Forecasts for Hurricanes, Tropical Storms and Developing Tropical Waves | The Weather Channel

Mark Turner : Why the Hurricane Irma Forecast for the U.S. Is Still Uncertain and Difficult | The Weather Channel

September 02, 2017 04:15 PM

Here’s a good explanation for why one shouldn’t panic about a hurricane that’s a week away from approaching. Pay attention, yes, but there’s no need for panic.

Hurricane Irma will be a formidable hurricane for days to come in the Atlantic Basin, but its future impact in the U.S. remains unknown.Given the record-setting, catastrophic flooding, storm surge and wind damage from Hurricane Harvey, it’s understandable why Irma is making U.S. East Coast and Gulf Coast residents unnerved.

You may wonder why we can’t yet nail down anything specific on Irma’s future potential impact in the U.S. Wouldn’t that help people prepare?

First, we’ll explore why that is. Then we’ll go over some atmospheric patterns typically in place that increase East Coast hurricane risk.

Source: Why the Hurricane Irma Forecast for the U.S. Is Still Uncertain and Difficult | The Weather Channel

Mark Turner : Is Indy up to the task of covering local news?

September 02, 2017 03:55 PM


I had been feeling encouraged that the Indy Week newspaper has been sending reporters to the local government meetings that the News and Observer has apparently chosen to skip. Raleigh desperately needs a local paper of record and the N&O has opted to cast a wider net.

My cheering for the Indy comes to a crashing halt, though, when I read stories like this one. Indy reporter Thomas Goldsmith asks the valid question of whether Seth Crossno’s “ITB Insider” blog is right to claim a sponsored blog post is an in-kind political donation. All fine and good, but Goldsmith loses me when he writes “candidate Bonner” instead of calling Raleigh City Councilor Bonner Gaylord, “candidate Gaylord.”

Bonner Gaylord

An announcement of candidate Bonner’s candidacy was labeled as humor. Crossno says the in-kind donation for that story has been submitted and will be listed on a future disclosure form.

Gaylord has been serving as a Raleigh city councilor since 2009. There is no excuse for a reporter writing about local politics to not get his name right. What’s worse, this is not the first time I’ve seen Indy make this mistake.

Come on, Indy. Don’t destroy your credibility right from the get-go. You’re the only game in town now and we need you to get it right.

Tarus Balog : 2017 Australian Network Operators Group (AusNOG) Conference

September 01, 2017 04:25 PM

I am excited to be returning to Australia for the third time next week. This trip is to speak at the Australian Network Operators Group (AusNOG) annual conference in Melbourne.

AusNOG Promo Graphic

I can’t believe I’ve gone for so long and not known about Network Operator Groups (NOGs). There are quite a few of them and I think they would be a perfect audience to introduce to the OpenNMS Project. One of our users on the OpenNMS chat server is from Perth and he made me aware of the conference, and I was humbled and delighted to have my presentation accepted.

At OpenNMS we strive very hard to separate the project (.org) from the commercial entity that supports the project (.com) and this presentation will be strictly focused on the project. It’s a wonderful thing about OpenNMS: if it meets your needs, cool. If not, also cool. I just want more people to be aware of open source options, especially in the carrier and enterprise space.

And it looks like open source is definitely making inroads at AusNOG. The talk before mine is about Ansible and Salt. There is another talk on using open source to build a version of NetNorad, and another one on open source for big data analytics. The one after mine is about modern network monitoring, so I hope I tick at least a few boxes on his list.

I hope to see you there (although it looks like it is sold out) but let me know if you are in the area and perhaps I can at least say “hi”.

Mark Turner : Belarus at ‘war’ with imaginary country of Veyshnoria – BBC News

September 01, 2017 12:22 AM

One of the reasons I love the Internet. Wags can give life to their own fake country!

A country invented as part of military exercises in Belarus has caught the imagination of locals, who have created a foreign ministry, flag, history and even its own Wikipedia page for the fictional nation.

Veyshnoria is one of three states made up for the Zapad 2017 military drills, which – according to the scenario – seek to invade Belarus and sow discord between Minsk and Moscow.

The map of the exercise, made public during the General Staff briefing on 29 August, shows Veyshnoria in the north-western regions of today’s Belarus, with Vesbaria and Lubenia lying in Lithuania and Poland, the Nasha Niva website reports.

Some commentators noted that the border between Belarus and Veyshnoria “strongly resembles” the border between the Soviet Union in Poland in 1920-39. “This means that under the Zapad 2017 scenario, Belarusians will have to attack the territory of Belarusians,” lifestyle website kyky.org said.

Political historian Pavel Usov, blurring reality and fiction on his Facebook page, said that “Veyshnoria is a peaceful democratic country which has never been aggressive towards its neighbours.

Source: Belarus at ‘war’ with imaginary country of Veyshnoria – BBC News

Warren Myers : fallocate vs dd for swap file creation

August 31, 2017 08:04 PM

I recently ran across this helpful Digital Ocean community answer about creating a swap file at droplet creation time.

So I decided to test how long using my old method (using dd) takes to run vs using fallocate.

Here’s how long it takes to run fallocate on a fresh 40GB droplet:

root@ubuntu:/# rm swapfile && time fallocate -l 1G /swapfile
real	0m0.003s
user	0m0.000s
sys	0m0.000s

root@ubuntu:/# rm swapfile && time fallocate -l 2G /swapfile
real	0m0.004s
user	0m0.000s
sys	0m0.000s

root@ubuntu:/# rm swapfile && time fallocate -l 4G /swapfile
real	0m0.006s
user	0m0.000s
sys	0m0.004s

root@ubuntu:/# rm swapfile && time fallocate -l 8G /swapfile
real	0m0.007s
user	0m0.000s
sys	0m0.004s

root@ubuntu:/# rm swapfile && time fallocate -l 16G /swapfile
real	0m0.012s
user	0m0.000s
sys	0m0.008s

root@ubuntu:/# rm swapfile && time fallocate -l 32G /swapfile
real	0m0.029s
user	0m0.000s
sys	0m0.020s

Interestingly, the relationship of size to time is non-linear when running fallocate.

Compare to building a 4GB swap file with dd (on the same server, it turned out using either a 16KB or 4KB bs gives the fastest run time):

time dd if=/dev/zero of=/swapfile bs=16384 count=262144 

262144+0 records in
262144+0 records out
4294967296 bytes (4.3 GB, 4.0 GiB) copied, 4.52602 s, 949 MB/s

real	0m4.528s
user	0m0.048s
sys	0m4.072s

Yes, you read that correctly – using dd with an “optimum” bs of 16KB (after much testing different bs settings) takes ~1000x as long as using fallocate to create the same “size” file!

How is fallocate so much faster? The details are in the man pages for it (emphasis added):

fallocate is used to manipulate the allocated disk space for a file, either to deallocate or preallocate it. For filesystems which support the fallocate system call, preallocation is done quickly by allocating blocks and marking them as uninitialized, requiring no IO to the data blocks. This is much faster than creating a file by filling it with zeroes.

dd will “always” work. fallocate will work almostall of the time … but if you happen to be using a filesystem which doesn’t support it, you need to know how to use dd.

But: if your filesystem supports fallocate (and it probably does), it is orders of magnitude more efficient to use it for file creation.

Mark Turner : The Great Mordecai Ferret Escape

August 31, 2017 06:27 PM

A ferret, as NOT seen in Mordecai.


Raleigh’s Mordecai neighborhood is in a panic as a hundred ferrets were reported to have escaped, allegedly from the home of a neighborhood ferret breeder. As neighbor Lauren Carter posted on Facebook last week:

Lauren Carter24 August at 19:23   Attention Mordecai residents in Downtown Raleigh! There is a ferret breeder that lives in Mordecai, and they managed to accidentally let loose over a hundred ferrets in Mordecai over the past day. Watch out for these literal vicious little ankle biters. They are meat eaters, and I hope they don't mess with our local wildlife. Police and Animal Control are out trying to catch them.

Ferret Report

Lauren claims some nearby Raleigh police officers told her of the loose ferrets. To her dismay, she later got a call from the Raleigh Police Department, claiming they were unaware of any ferret invasion.

Though people are posting on Facebook and NextDoor, no one has identified the ferret breeder and no one has reported any roaming packs of ferrets out terrorizing the neighborhood.

It sounds very much like the joke of a bored police officer. 🙂

Update:
Inconceivably, this is not the first ferret report from a Raleigh cop. I found the following tweet from 17 April:

Looks like a Raleigh cop was just having a little fun with the populace!

(Wikimedia Commons photo by Luciando Bernardi)

Warren Myers : simple ip address check – ipv4.cf

August 30, 2017 11:58 PM

I’ve published another super-simple tool.

A la whatismyip.com, but with no extra cruft (and no queer formatting of the IP address under the hood), welcome IPv4.cf to the world with me!

Mark Turner : Houston Is Drowning—In Its Freedom From Regulations

August 30, 2017 12:22 PM

Nice commentary on how Houston’s lack of regulations might, just might have played a role in it being swamped with historic flooding.

We do value our freedom here in Texas. As I write from soggy Central Texas, the cable news is showing people floating down Buffalo Bayou on their principles, proud residents of the largest city in these United States that did not grow in accordance with zoning ordinances.

The feeling there was that persons who own real estate should be free to develop it as they wish. Houston, also known as the Bayou City, is a great location because of its access to international shipping in the Gulf of Mexico. It is not a great location for building, though, because of all its impervious cover. If water could easily sink into the ground, there would be less of it ripping down Houston’s rivers that just a week ago were overcrowded streets.

Source: Houston Is Drowning—In Its Freedom From Regulations