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

February 14, 2019 05:06 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Insects are dying off — alarmingly fast – Vox

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

February 14, 2019 05:01 PM

How many things are you subscribed to right now?

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

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

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

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

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

February 14, 2019 05:00 PM

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

[…]

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

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

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

February 14, 2019 04:55 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 11, 2019 10:19 PM

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

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

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

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

Mark Turner : Hengameh Golestan: Witness 1979

February 10, 2019 04:22 PM


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

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

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

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

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

Source: Hengameh Golestan: Witness 1979

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

February 10, 2019 04:07 PM

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

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

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

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

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

February 07, 2019 01:32 PM

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

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

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

February 07, 2019 01:31 PM

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

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

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

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


Callan report can be found here. [PDF]

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

February 01, 2019 01:53 AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 01, 2019 01:34 AM

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

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

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

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

Mark Turner : Let me tell you about Rocket

January 29, 2019 03:48 AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mark Turner : Walking a fine line

January 27, 2019 03:26 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mark Turner : Now he belongs to the ages

January 27, 2019 02:59 PM

The last photo of Rocket


“Now he belongs to the ages.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 27, 2019 02:23 PM

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

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

It’s real, and it’s painful.

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

Source: The Emotional Final Moments Between Pets And Their Owners

Mark Turner : Saying goodbye to Rocket

January 26, 2019 04:20 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is time. It is so obviously time.

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

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

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

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

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

Mark Turner : Isaac Hunter’s Tavern: A new future for the forgotten history of a place critical to Raleigh’s past | abc11.com

January 26, 2019 12:56 AM


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

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

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

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

Source: Isaac Hunter’s Tavern: A new future for the forgotten history of a place critical to Raleigh’s past | abc11.com

Mark Turner : The NASA Space Treatment That Will Cure Your Seasickness – Condé Nast Traveler

January 22, 2019 03:50 PM

Packing for a two-week trip through the Arctic on a nuclear icebreaking ship sounds like an extraordinary endeavor, but it’s all part of the job for Dr. Joanne Feldman, Assistant Clinical Professor at UCLA’s Department of Emergency Medicine and a polar expedition physician with Quark Expeditions. Dr. Feldman, better known as Dr. Jo, has become an expert in motion sickness treatment through many seasons of braving the high seas on expedition ships to both the Arctic and Antarctic; and her specialty in wilderness emergency medicine and experience as a physician with the U.S. Antarctic Program at Palmer Station primed her for the challenges of experiencing life at the extremes. For the less seasoned on the seas, Dr. Jo is a resource as well as a potentially lifesaving presence. Condé Nast Traveler? spoke with her onboard the ship 50 Years of Victory as it powered through ice near the North Pole:

Source: The NASA Space Treatment That Will Cure Your Seasickness – Condé Nast Traveler

Mark Turner : Impeach Trump Now – The Atlantic

January 18, 2019 07:10 PM

On January 20, 2017, Donald Trump stood on the steps of the Capitol, raised his right hand, and solemnly swore to faithfully execute the office of president of the United States and, to the best of his ability, to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. He has not kept that promise.

Instead, he has mounted a concerted challenge to the separation of powers, to the rule of law, and to the civil liberties enshrined in our founding documents. He has purposefully inflamed America’s divisions. He has set himself against the American idea, the principle that all of us—of every race, gender, and creed—are created equal.

This is not a partisan judgment. Many of the president’s fiercest critics have emerged from within his own party. Even officials and observers who support his policies are appalled by his pronouncements, and those who have the most firsthand experience of governance are also the most alarmed by how Trump is governing.

Source: Impeach Trump Now – The Atlantic

Mark Turner : If true, this could be one of the greatest discoveries in human history – U.S. News – Haaretz.com

January 14, 2019 02:56 PM

“I don’t care what people say,” asserts Avi Loeb, chairman of Harvard University’s astronomy department and author of one of the most controversial articles in the realm of science last year (and also one of the most popular in the general media). “It doesn’t matter to me,” he continues. “I say what I think, and if the broad public takes an interest in what I say, that’s a welcome result as far as I’m concerned, but an indirect result. Science isn’t like politics: It is not based on popularity polls.”

Prof. Abraham Loeb, 56, was born in Beit Hanan, a moshav in central Israel, and studied physics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem as part of the Israel Defense Forces’ Talpiot program for recruits who demonstrate outstanding academic ability. Freeman Dyson, the theoretical physicist, and the late astrophysicist John Bahcall admitted Loeb to the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, whose past faculty members included Albert Einstein and J. Robert Oppenheimer. In 2012, Time magazine named Loeb one of the 25 most influential people in the field of space. He has won prizes, written books and published 700 articles in the world’s leading scientific journals. Last October, Loeb and his postdoctoral student Shmuel Bialy, also an Israeli, published an article in the scientific outlet “The Astrophysical Journal Letters,” which seriously raised the possibility that an intelligent species of aliens had sent a spaceship to Earth.

Source: If true, this could be one of the greatest discoveries in human history – U.S. News – Haaretz.com

Mark Turner : Earth’s magnetic field is acting up and geologists don’t know why

January 11, 2019 12:27 PM

Something strange is going on at the top of the world. Earth’s north magnetic pole has been skittering away from Canada and towards Siberia, driven by liquid iron sloshing within the planet’s core. The magnetic pole is moving so quickly that it has forced the world’s geomagnetism experts into a rare move.

On 15 January, they are set to update the World Magnetic Model, which describes the planet’s magnetic field and underlies all modern navigation, from the systems that steer ships at sea to Google Maps on smartphones.

The most recent version of the model came out in 2015 and was supposed to last until 2020 — but the magnetic field is changing so rapidly that researchers have to fix the model now. “The error is increasing all the time,” says Arnaud Chulliat, a geomagnetist at the University of Colorado Boulder and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) National Centers for Environmental Information.

Source: Earth’s magnetic field is acting up and geologists don’t know why

Mark Turner : Opinion | Our Cellphones Aren’t Safe – The New York Times

January 09, 2019 02:18 PM

America’s cellular network is as vital to society as the highway system and power grids. Vulnerabilities in the mobile phone infrastructure threaten not only personal privacy and security, but also the country’s. According to intelligence reports, spies are eavesdropping on President Trump’s cellphone conversations and using fake cellular towers in Washington to intercept phone calls. Cellular communication infrastructure, the system at the heart of modern communication, commerce and governance, is woefully insecure. And we are doing nothing to fix it.

Source: Opinion | Our Cellphones Aren’t Safe – The New York Times

Mark Turner : The Lincoln Memorial During the Government Shutdown – The Atlantic

January 09, 2019 02:18 PM

We had made plans to go to Washington weeks ago, and there was no way to change the trip. The train was almost empty when it pulled into Union Station on Friday night. The next morning, we went out into the dead heart of the city. The government shutdown was in its third week. Nearly all the museums that would have interested the kids were closed, and so were the ones that would have bored them. There was nothing to do except wander around, but the crowds we expected in the district center were absent, the streets and sidewalks almost empty. Without people, the scale of the capital dwarfed us. Each mid-century concrete building looked like its own walled city, the National Mall was a vast plain, and an endless highway separated the White House and the Capitol dome. It was as if Washington had been stricken by a grotesque illness that caused the body to swell up and suffocate the spirit within. The federal city was one great sarcophagus.

Source: The Lincoln Memorial During the Government Shutdown – The Atlantic

Mark Turner : Gutenberg WordPress editor

January 09, 2019 02:47 AM

Tried WordPress’s new Gutenberg editor.

Hated it.

Back to Classic Editor for me.

Mark Turner : Rob Nordman

January 08, 2019 03:53 AM


The wonders of Facebook has connected me with new friends and reconnected me with old. It has allowed me to connect with people I would’ve given up for “lost” just ten years ago. I have been especially happy to rekindle friendships made while I served in the U.S. Navy aboard USS Elliot DD-967. There is nothing like the bond built by shipmates, forged in the unforgiving environment of the sea.

My shipmates are family, and like families everywhere we may have our differences but there’s no denying that bond. This brings me to my friend Robert P. Nordman.

Nordman, as I called him, joined Elliot about the time I did. He was trained as a Gas Turbine Systems Electrician Fireman (GSEFN) – an engineer or “snipe” as they’re proudly known. Nordman and I worked on completely different levels of the ship, him workspace being the engine room and mine the topmost deck of the ship. Still, I would joke with him on the messdecks, chat on the fantail during a break, or see him out on liberty. More often than not, though, Nordman would be late for liberty (or miss it altogether) because of the demands of his job. He would spend a lot of his liberty either preparing the ship to depart or preparing it to be in port.

Nordman’s dedication caught the attention of our captain, CDR T.W. LaFleur, who said:

“Fireman Nordman is one of the technicians responsible for maintaining the electronics which keep the electrical and gas turbine plants operating. Despite only limited formal Navy schooling, GSEFN Nordman is always there working, learning, questioning and striving to keep the engineering plant at peak efficiency. Despite incredible long hours and often missing out on liberty in some of the best ports in our cruise, you never find Fireman Nordman without a smile. Whenever we need a volunteer for a special project or a sporting event, Fireman Nordman is there. He is proud of ELLIOT and his contributions.”

Occasionally he would be the hero while underday. He liked to tell the tale of how the ship once lost power while underway, off the coast of the Philippines, I believe. The security alert team had locked down the ship’s passageways in the event it had been sabotage (a by-the-book precaution). When the power went out, Nordman knew what happened and raced down the passageways to restart the generators. A foolish sailor named TM1 Gorden on the security team challenged him as he approached.

“Sswitchboard operator, make a hole!” Nordman bellowed but still he was blocked.

Petty Officer Gorden challenged him again and Nordman got even angrier. “SWITCHBOARD OPERATOR! MAKE A HOLE!”

Nordman barrelled into Gorden, knocking him off his feet, and raced aft to the generator space.

By that time, every officer and chief onboard converged on the generator room where they found Gorden standing in front of Nordman with a loaded shotgun, yelling at each other. At least Nordman had time to restart the generator.

“If you EVER get in the way of my switchboard operator again, I’ll shoot YOU!” the captain screamed at the hapless guard. Nordman still laughed at it all these years later.

I became friends on Facebook with Rob in December 2010. We traded comments on each others posts from time to time, with him supporting a conservative view to my liberal one. Despite these differences in political outlooks we remained friends. After a spate of points and counterpoints in December 2015, I wrote an appreciation on his wall:

Though we may disagree sometimes, I do enjoy hearing your point of view, shipmate. Here’s wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas!

He responded:

Merry Christmas and a safe and Happy New Year. I wish others could disagree respectfully. Vigorously is great. Debating is how we get to the best solution. Respect is rooted relationally and need to be the block we are all common with

So while I was one of his dirty hippie friends, I was without a doubt his friend. And he, mine.

Time marched on. Facebook was a stream of endless updates from others, both meaningful and meaningless. Somehow in the noise I missed Rob’s post in April announcing his diagnosis of non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. He was in and out of Rex Hospital for treatment, chemotherapy and the like. His hair fell out, he grew weaker, yet he still found time to volunteer for the Battleship North Carolina in Wilmington.

He called me out of the blue one evening and we spoke for the first time in over two decades, telling me he was proud of how civically-minded I was, how he was proud of the kids he saw through my Facebook page, and how he respected me. It was great hearing from him, and though I thought it might be awkward speaking again to someone I hadn’t seen in a quarter-century, Rob made it very easy to simply pick up where we left off.

Then one night in October, fuming from some political idiocy I had seen on Facebook from what I thought were better-thinking friends, I reached out to my other local shipmate, Orlando. I wanted to chat about the state of American politics with Orlando since he thinks like I do. Orlando suggested we meet at a dive bar near his home. I agreed and drove out to the boonies way north of Raleigh to the bar near where he lives.

As I rounded the corner to the tables, I saw Orlando was there with Rob. The two lived within spitting distance of each other and occasionally got together. Though I hadn’t invited Rob I was overjoyed to see him and the plans for the discussion went straight out the window. Instead, old sea stories were shared again, injuries and illnesses were compared, and smiles more fit for twentysomethings appeared again on our faces.

It seemed like those decades in-between had simply vanished and we were all kids again. Especially for Rob. Cancer by then had consumed a lot of Rob’s body but his smile never left his face. Last call arrived early (it was a weeknight) and we said our goodbyes, snapping a few photos to capture the moment. Rob was exhausted (and almost certainly in great pain) yet kept smiling and hung in there til the last. I had no idea it would be the last time I would see him.

Rob died on December 17th, surrounded by his family. He was just 48 years old. A great procession of firetrucks led to his funeral at Providence Baptist Church last Saturday and three of his Elliot shipmates were in attendance: Orlando; myself; and Jaime Lanaro, one of his engineering buddies. Many more offered their condolences.

Fair winds and following seas, GSE2 Rob Nordman. Until we meet again, shipmate.

Jaime, me, and Orlando at Rob’s funeral

Mark Turner : Repair Cafes Aim to Fix Our Throwaway Culture – CityLab

January 07, 2019 02:52 PM

Repair cafes. What a brilliant idea!

We were at a “repair cafe” inside the Elkridge Library in Howard County, Maryland. Instead of silence, we were surrounded by the buzzing of power drills and the whirring of sewing machines. Goedeke was one of the “master fixers” there. He doesn’t like the term, though; he says it should be reserved for the professionals. “We’re all just amateurs at this, and we’re just having fun, mostly,” the 67-year-old retired engineer said.

Around the room, 10 others were helping residents repair everything from tables and lamps to jewelry and clothing. In one corner, a handful of vacuums had begun to accumulate. These were things people normally threw away when they malfunction. “[Our society] has been inculcated in the last 50 years with this disposable concept and to buy the best and the latest,” Goedeke said. “We just don’t expect to keeps things around.”

Source: Repair Cafes Aim to Fix Our Throwaway Culture – CityLab

Mark Turner : Defense Department Announces Departure of Chief of Staff > U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE > News Release View

January 07, 2019 02:22 PM

RADM Kevin Sweeney stepped down as SECDEF chief of staff this weekend. I served with Sweeney when he was a mere lieutenant serving as Combat Systems Officer (CSO) on the USS Elliot DD-967. Though some considered him an “arrogant prick,” Sweeney seemed to me to be a brusque-yet-squared-away sailor and I have been pleased to learn of his career success.

Rear Admiral Kevin Sweeney, USN (Ret.), has stepped down as Chief of Staff to the Secretary of Defense. He has served in this role since January 2017. “After two years in the Pentagon, I’ve decided the time is right to return to the private sector. It has been an honor to serve again alongside the men and women of the Department of Defense,” said Sweeney.

Source: Defense Department Announces Departure of Chief of Staff > U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE > News Release View

Mark Turner : My daughter, Laura Riddick, is in prison. There’s nothing ‘light’ about her punishment. | News & Observer

January 07, 2019 02:16 PM

Cue the tiny violins. I understand the desire for Riddick’s father to defend his daughter but sometimes by doing so one does more harm than good.

In October, a News & Observer editorial endorsing Democratic Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman asserted that Freeman had agreed to “a relatively light sentence” in the embezzlement case of my daughter, former Wake County Register of Deeds Laura M. Riddick.

The newspaper was hardly alone in that assessment, but the common assumption is wrong. The truth is the opposite — and it’s time to respond to mistaken claims of “a relatively light sentence.”

Relative to what, exactly? Not compared to other embezzlers. Not as to other public officials across North Carolina, either. Not even other public-figure embezzlers in Wake County.

Source: My daughter, Laura Riddick, is in prison. There’s nothing ‘light’ about her punishment. | News & Observer

Mark Turner : Amazon and Facebook Reportedly Had a Secret Data-Sharing Agreement, and It Explains So Much

January 07, 2019 02:14 PM

Back in 2015, a woman named Imy Santiago wrote an Amazon review of a novel that she had read and liked. Amazon immediately took the review down and told Santiago she had “violated its policies.” Santiago re-read her review, didn’t see anything objectionable about it, so she tried to post it again. “You’re not eligible to review this product,” an Amazon prompt informed her.

When she wrote to Amazon about it, the company told her that her “account activity indicates you know the author personally.” Santiago did not know the author, so she wrote an angry email to Amazon and blogged about Amazon’s “big brother” surveillance.

I reached out to both Santiago and Amazon at the time to try to figure out what the hell happened here. Santiago, who is an indie book writer herself, told me that she’d been in the same ballroom with the author in New York a few months before at a book signing event, but had not talked to her, and that she had followed the author on Twitter and Facebook after reading her books. Santiago had never connected her Facebook account to Amazon, she said.

Source: Amazon and Facebook Reportedly Had a Secret Data-Sharing Agreement, and It Explains So Much

Mark Turner : Virginia Tech and UVa: Trademarks and tradition before the football begins | Webmin | roanoke.com

January 07, 2019 02:13 PM

“Every once in awhile, somebody new will come to our tailgate, and it will come up, ‘This is the guy that helped design the VT logo,’ and people are like, ‘No way,’ ” Craft said.

“I have to say, ‘Well, yeah, and I got $50 for it.’ ”

It could have been worse. Welsh said he received no compensation for designing the V-sabers logo, although he later turned it into an online business venture, thesabre.com.

Source: Virginia Tech and UVa: Trademarks and tradition before the football begins | Webmin | roanoke.com

Mark Turner : Mickey Mouse will be public domain soon—here’s what that means | Ars Technica

January 07, 2019 02:08 PM

As the ball dropped over Times Square last night, all copyrighted works published in 1923 fell into the public domain (with a few exceptions). Everyone now has the right to republish them or adapt them for use in new works.

It’s the first time this has happened in 21 years.

In 1998, works published in 1922 or earlier were in the public domain, with 1923 works scheduled to expire at the beginning of 1999. But then Congress passed the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act. It added 20 years to the terms of older works, keeping 1923 works locked up until 2019.

Many people—including me—expected another fight over copyright extension in 2018. But it never happened. Congress left the existing law in place, and so those 1923 copyrights expired on schedule this morning.

And assuming Congress doesn’t interfere, more works will fall into the public domain each January from now on.

Source: Mickey Mouse will be public domain soon—here’s what that means | Ars Technica

Mark Turner : I worked in a video store for 25 years. Here’s what I learned as my industry died. – Vox

December 30, 2018 11:17 PM

The independent video store where I’ve worked for 15 years is finally dead. After 28 years in business, we succumbed to the “disruption” of Netflix and Hulu, bled to death by the long, slow defection of our customer base. Once we announced our closing, the few who remained mourned — then we locked the doors. Our permanent collection is gone: boxed up and shipped off to the local library.

Videoport, of Portland, Maine, lasted longer than most. It was better than most. It owed its longevity to a single, engaged owner, to strong ties to the local film scene and a collection that put others to shame. I was proud to work there, alongside a staff that paired film knowledge and exceptional customer service skills like few other places I’ve known. We were a fixture in town, until we weren’t.

It hasn’t been so long since independent rental joints had the opposite problem. Before Videoport, I spent 10 years working at Matt & Dave’s Video Venture. In retrospect, it’s hard to believe that our downfall came at the hands of a buyout by a major rental chain. Suspiciously well-dressed guys with clipboards started dropping in; soon enough, we were gone, one of the estimated 30,000 video stores in America gobbled up by Blockbuster or Movie Gallery or Hollywood Video, each eager to dominate the booming VHS rental racket. If only those chains knew that within a decade, they’d be goners t

Source: I worked in a video store for 25 years. Here’s what I learned as my industry died. – Vox

Mark Turner : How naked World War II sailors ended up riding Mongolian ponies in the Gobi Desert to shoot bazookas at the Japanese

December 30, 2018 06:49 PM

“What the hell is the Navy doing here?”

That’s how U.S. Navy radioman Richard Rutan was greeted when he stepped down from a C-47 plane in central China in June 1944.

The question was somehow fitting for Rutan, a member of the Sino-American Cooperative Organization, or SACO.Its official insignia, after all, was a string of punctuation marks on a pennant, like cuss words in a comic strip, symbolizing SACO’s unofficial slogan, “What the Hell?”

Rutan’s arrival at Lüliang drew a crowd of Army Air Forces men eager to greet the first plane ever to land at the new base.He was almost as baffled about his presence on the desolate airstrip as they were. A few days earlier, the 21-year-old had been at Guilin, about 300 miles inland from Hong Kong, intercepting Japanese code with a dozen other radio operators when his officer tapped him on the shoulder and told him to get his gear together.

He flew into Lüliang with orders to find the major in charge and request private space without offering an explanation. To his astonishment, the major handed him the keys to an empty building.

Source: How naked World War II sailors ended up riding Mongolian ponies in the Gobi Desert to shoot bazookas at the Japanese

Mark Turner : Mattis Proved You Can’t Serve Both Trump and America – The Atlantic

December 23, 2018 06:42 PM

The story is told of Jim Mattis, when he was the commanding general at Quantico, relieving a young lance corporal on Christmas. The rest of that wintry day, those entering the front gate of the Marine base were startled to see that the sentry was a general, checking passes and waving cars through so that a young man could spend the holiday with his family. It is the kind of behavior animated by sentiments Donald Trump could not understand, and it reflected a kind of code by which he cannot live.

Source: Mattis Proved You Can’t Serve Both Trump and America – The Atlantic

Mark Turner : Rocket has cancer

December 23, 2018 03:22 PM

Our family dog, Rocket, has been a part of the Turner crew for ten years now. We’ve taken him on family vacations around the region, sailing at Lake Gaston, and on countless walks around the neighborhood.

We’d noticed recently that he was slowing down but some of that is to be expected for a dog that’s around 13 years old. He used to bound up and down stairs but now took his time. His hind legs appeared much weaker than his front legs. He sometimes stumbled, dragging his rear paw. We chalked that up to old age.

But then several weeks ago we noticed a occasional small drop of blood in his drool. A trip to the vet indicated a mass was growing on the back of his tongue, too far back (and attached to an uncooperative dog) for the vet to properly examine it. We were sent home with antibiotics in the off chance that our boneheaded dog had simply eaten something that scratched his tongue and created an infection.

As the weeks passed, the antibiotics did nothing to stem the blood. This blood became more common and frequent, soon erupting into full-scale bleeding. A trip back to the vet became a bloody mess when a vet tech offered Rocket a treat. After he gleefully accepted it, Rocket’s mouth became a bloody mess, thoroughly coating the exam room. We scheduled him for a real exam.

The next five days were dark days indeed. Worn out from the constant bleeding, Rocket became still and depressed. He showed no interest in his walks and at a meal he actually left food in his dish for the first time ever.  Kelly and I steeled ourselves and our kids for the possibility that Rocket would not be with us much longer.

The following week, Rocket was examined under sedative and the vet confirmed our fear: the growth was too far along to successfully remove. A chest X-ray showed no cancer in his lungs, however. Fortunately, in the day or two before his exam he had perked up considerably.

Thus it seems we may be facing a bittersweet future where the cancer won’t take Rocket’s life any time soon but those weeks or months will be bloody and likely painful for him. Our downstairs floor is covered in old towels to accommodate his bleeding as best we can, while he spends his nights secured in his crate.

A few veterinarian websites I’ve found seem to say that dogs with pigmented skin tend to be more susceptible to cancer (emphasis mine):

The growths found in a dog’s mouth may be identical in outward appearance. However, the severity of the harm they can do will depend on the type of tumor. Further investigation is paramount in order to assure a return to full health for your dog. Causes for a growth may be:

  • Older, male dogs are diagnosed with oral cancer more so than younger canines, or their female counterparts
  • Dogs with dark pigmented mucosa are more often diagnosed with cancerous growths
  • Periodontal disease can lead to a noncancerous lump
  • A damaged salivary gland may prompt the development of a growth

Since before he joined our family, Rocket has had a multi-colored tongue, with a large dark streak on his otherwise pink tongue. I’ve always though this was a cute quirk of our dog, perhaps a bit of Chow mixed into his Lab heritage, but it may have been evidence all along that he was susceptible to cancer.

Now we watch and wait, keeping him comfortable, relatively exercised, and as pain-free as possible while we manage the mess his damaged tongue is making and we await his ultimate fate. At least his spirits are high. As long as he continues to seem happy we will follow his lead and do what we need to do.

No matter what your species, growing old sucks.




Mark Turner : Hate To Break It To You, But The Amazing Glitter Bomb Package Video Is Pretty Much Staged

December 23, 2018 02:13 PM

Hey there, I’m back. This time with sort of sad but, “welp, obviously because it’s still 2018” news. Like most pure things, the fun, satisfying, viral video of a former NASA engineer pranking package thieves, which made the entire internet feel vindicated, is not what it seems.

Earlier this week, Mark Rober, an inventor-turned-YouTuber who worked on NASA’s Curiosity rover, among other impressive things, published an 11-minute video detailing how he spent six months creating the ultimate revenge contraption after someone stole an Amazon package off his porch. He called it his “Magnum Opus,” and it went mega, mega-viral, garnering more than 38 million views in three days, and elicited a collective “HELL YES” of joy and satisfaction from everyone who has ever had their stuff taken.

But shortly after the ode to all the packages we’ve lost before swept across the media landscape, viewers on the internet did what they do best: pick it apart.

Source: Hate To Break It To You, But The Amazing Glitter Bomb Package Video Is Pretty Much Staged

Mark Turner : North Carolina Republicans have a laughable new plan to save their gerrymander.

December 23, 2018 01:15 PM

North Carolina Republicans are in trouble. On Nov. 6, voters elected Anita Earls, a civil rights attorney, to the state Supreme Court, cementing a 5–2 progressive majority. One week later, voting rights advocates filed a lawsuit in state court alleging that North Carolina’s gerrymandered legislative districts run afoul of the state constitution. Because the case revolves around the North Carolina Constitution and does not even touch on federal law, Republican legislators would seem to be stuck in the state judiciary, hurtling toward Earls’ court. There is simply no federal question for federal judges to adjudicate.

Source: North Carolina Republicans have a laughable new plan to save their gerrymander.

Mark Turner : Tech Workers Got Paid in Company Stock. They Used It to Agitate for Change. – The New York Times

December 18, 2018 04:12 PM

SAN FRANCISCO — Silicon Valley technology firms are known for giving stock to their workers, a form of compensation that often helps employees feel invested in their companies.

But tech workers are now starting to use those shares to turn the tables on their employers. As many tech employees take a more activist approach to how their innovations are being deployed and increasingly speak out on a range of issues, some are using the stock as a way to demand changes at their companies.

Source: Tech Workers Got Paid in Company Stock. They Used It to Agitate for Change. – The New York Times

Tarus Balog : Review: Serval WS Laptop by System76

December 17, 2018 03:36 PM

TL;DR; When I found myself in the market for a beefy laptop, I immediately ordered the Serval WS from System76. I had always had a great experience dealing with them, but times have changed. It has been sent back.

I can’t remember the first time I heard about the Serval laptop by System76. In a world where laptops were getting smaller and thinner, they were producing a monster of a rig. Weighing ten pounds without the power brick, the goal was to squeeze a high performance desktop into a (somewhat) portable form factor.

I never thought I’d need one, as I tend to use desktops most of the time (including a Wild Dog Pro at the office) and I want a light laptop for travel as it pretty much just serves as a terminal and I keep minimal information on it.

Recently we’ve been experimenting with office layouts, and our latest configuration has me trading my office for a desk with the rest of the team, and I needed something that could be moved in case I need to get on a call, record a video or get some extra privacy.

Heh, I thought, perhaps I could use the Serval after all.

I like voting for open source with my wallet. My last two laptops have been Dell “Sputnik” systems (2nd gen and 5th gen) since I wanted to support Dell shipping Linux systems, and when we decided back in 2015 that the iMacs we used for training needed to be replaced, I ordered six Sable Touch “all in one” systems from System 76. The ordering process was smooth as silk and the devices were awesome. We still get compliments from our students.

A year later when my HP desktop died, I bought the aforementioned Wild Dog Pro. Again, customer service to match if not rival the best in the business, and I was extremely happy with my new computer.

Jump forward to the present. Since I was in the market for a “luggable” system, performance was more important than size or weight, so I ordered a loaded Serval WS, complete with the latest Intel i9 processor, 64GB of speedy RAM, NVidia 1080 graphics card, and oodles of disk space. Bwah ha ha.

When it showed up, even I was surprised at how big it was.

Serval WS and Brick

Here you can see it in comparison to a old Apple keyboard. Solidly built, I was eager to plug it in and turn it on.

Serval WS

The screen was really bright, even though so was my office at the time. You can see from the picture that it was big enough to contain a full-sized keyboard and a numeric keypad. This didn’t really matter much to me as I was planning on using it with an awesome external monitor and keyboard, but it was a nice touch. I still like having a second screen since we rely heavily on Mattermost and I always like to keep a window in view and I figured I could use the laptop screen for that.

I had ordered the system with Ubuntu installed. My current favorite operating system is Linux Mint but I decided to play with Ubuntu for a little bit. This was my first experience with Ubuntu post Unity and I must say, I really liked it. Kind of made me eager to try out Pop!_OS which is the System76 distro based on Ubuntu.

When installing Mint I discovered that I made a small mistake when placing my Serval order. I meant to use a 2TB drive as the primary leaving a 1TB drive for use by TimeShift for backup. I reversed them. No real issue, as I was able to install Mint on the 2TB drive just fine after some creative partition manipulation.

Everything was cool until late afternoon when the sun went away. I was rebooting the system and found myself looking at a blank screen (for some reason the screen stays blank for a minute or so after powering on the laptop, I assume due to it having 64GB of RAM). There was a tremendous amount of “bleed” around the edges of the LCD.

Serval WS LCD Bleed

Damn.

Although it probably wouldn’t have impacted me much in day to day use, especially with an external monitor, I would know about it, and as I’m somewhere on the OCD spectrum it would bother me. Plus I paid a lot of money for this system and want it to be as close to perfect as possible.

For those of you who don’t know, the liquid crystals in LCD displays emit no light of their own and they get their illumination usually from a fluorescent source. If there are issues with the way the LCD panel is constructed, this light can “bleed” around the edges and degrade the display quality (it is also why it is hard to get really black images on LCD displays and this is fueling a lot of the excitement around OLED technology).

I’ve had issues with this before on laptops but nothing this bad. Not to worry, I have System76 to rely on, along with their superlative customer service.

I called the number and soon I was speaking with a support technician. When I described the problem they opened a ticket and asked me to send in a picture. I did and then waited for a response.

And waited.

And waited.

I commented on the ticket.

And I continued to wait.

The next day I waited a bit (Denver is two hours behind where I live) but when I got no response I decided, well, I’ll just return the thing. I called to get an RMA number but this time I wasn’t connected with a person and was asked to leave a message. I did, and I should note that I never got that return call.

At this point I’m frustrated, so I decided an angry tweet was in order. That got a response to my ticket, where they offered to send me a new unit.

Yay, here was a spark of the customer service I was used to getting. I’ve noticed a number of tech companies are willing to deal with defective equipment by sending out a new unit before the old unit is returned. In this day and age of instant gratification it is pretty awesome.

I wrote back that I was willing to try another unit, but would it be possible to put Pop!_OS on the new unit on the 2TB drive so that I could try it out of the box and know that all of the System76 specific packages were installed.

A little while later I got a reply that it wouldn’t be possible to install it on the 2TB drive, so I would end up having to reinstall in any case.

(sigh)

When I complained on Twitter I was told “Sorry to hear this, you’ll receive a phone call before EOD to discuss your case.” I worked until 8pm that night with no phone call, so I just decided to return the thing.

Of course, this would be at my expense and the RMA instructions were strict about requiring shipping insurance: “System76 cannot refund your purchase if the machine arrives damaged. For this reason, it is urgent that you insure your package”. The total cost was well over $100.

So I’m out a chunk of change and I’ve lost faith in a vendor of which I was extremely fond. This is a shame since they are doing some cool things such as building computers in the United States, but since they’ve lost sight of what made them great in the first place I have doubts about their continued success.

In any case, I ordered a Dell Precision 5530, which is one of the models available with Ubuntu. Much smaller and not as powerful as the Serval WS, it is also not as expensive. I’ll post as review in a couple of weeks when I get it.

Tarus Balog : #OSMC 2018 – Day 3: Hackathon

December 15, 2018 05:21 PM

For several years now the OSMC has been extended by one day in the form of a “hackathon”. As I do not consider myself a developer I usually skip this day, but since I wanted to spend more time with Ronny Trommer and to explore the OpenNMS MQTT plugin, I decided to attend this year.

I’m glad I did, especially because the table where we sat was also home to Dave Kempe, and he brought Tim Tams from Australia:

OSMC 2018 Tim Tams

Yum.

You can find them in the US on occasion, but they aren’t as good.

I have been hearing about MQTT for several years now. According to Wikipedia, MQTT (Message Queuing Telemetry Transport) is a messaging protocol designed for connections with remote locations where a “small code footprint” is required or the network bandwidth is limited, thus making it useful for IoT devices.

Dr. Craig Gallen has been working on a plugin to allow OpenNMS to consume MQTT messages, and I was eager to try it out. First, we needed a MQTT broker.

I found that the OpenHAB project supports an MQTT broker called Mosquitto, so we decided to go with that. This immediately created a discussion about the differences between OpenHAB and Home Assistant, the latter being a favorite of Dave. They looked comparable, but we decided to stick with OpenHAB because a) I already had an instance installed on a Raspberry Pi, and b) it is written in Java, which is probably why others prefer Home Assistant.

Ronny worked on getting the MQTT plugin installed while I created a dummy sensor in OpenHAB called “Gas”.

OSMC 2018 Hackathon

This involved creating a “sitemap” in /etc/openhab2:

sitemap opennms label="My home automation" {
    Frame label="Date" {
        Text item=Date
    }
    Frame label="Gas" {
        Text item=mqtt_kitchen_gas icon="gas"
    }
}

and then an item that we could manipulate with MQTT:

Number mqtt_kitchen_gas "Gas Level [%.1f]" {mqtt="<[mosquitto:Home/Floor1/Kitchen/Gas_Sensor:state:default]"}

To install the MQTT plugin:

Ronny added the following to the configuration to connect to our Mosquitto broker on OpenHAB:

<mqttclients>
  <client clientinstanceid="client1">
    <brokerurl>tcp://172.20.11.8:1883</brokerurl>
    <clientid>opennms</clientid>
   <connectionretryinterval>3000</connectionretryinterval>
    <clientconnectionmaxwait>20000</clientconnectionmaxwait>
    <topiclist>
      <topic qos="0" topic="iot/#">
    </topic>
    <username>openhabian</username>
    <password>openhabian</password>
    </client>
</mqttClients>

Now that we had a connection between our OpenHAB Mosquitto broker and OpenNMS, we could try to send information. The MQTT plugin handles both event information and data collection. To test both we used the mosquitto_pub command on the CLI.

For an event one can use something like this:

#/bin/bash
mosquitto_pub -u openhabian --pw openhabian -t "iot/timtam" -m "{ \"name\": \"6114163\",  \"sensordatavalues\": [ { \"value_type\": \"Gas\", \"value\": \"$RANDOM\"  } ] }"

On the OpenNMS side you need to configure the MQTT plugin to look for it:

<messageEventParsers>
  <messageEventParser foreignSource="$topicLevels[5]" payloadType="JSON" compression="UNCOMPRESSED">
    <subscriptionTopics>
      <topic>iot/timtam/event/kitchen/mysensor/doorlock</topic>
    </subscriptionTopics>

    <xml-groups xmlns="http://xmlns.opennms.org/xsd/config/xml-datacollection">
      <xml-group name="timtam-mqtt-lab" resource-type="sensors" resource-xpath="/" key-xpath="@name">
        <xml-object name="instanceResourceID" type="string" xpath="@name"/>
        <xml-object name="gas" type="gauge" xpath="sensordatavalues[@value_type="Gas"]/value"/>
      </xml-group>
    </xml-groups>
    <ueiRoot>uei.opennms.org/plugin/MqttReceiver/timtam/kitchen
  </messageEventParser>
</messageEventParsers>

Note how Ronny worked our Tim Tam obsession into the configuration.

To make this useful, you would want to configure an event definition for the event with the Unique Event Identifier (UEI) of uei.opennms.org/plugin/MqttReceiver/timtam/kitchen:

<events xmlns="http://xmlns.opennms.org/xsd/eventconf">
  <event>
    <uei>uei.opennms.org/plugin/MqttReceiver/timtam/kitchen</uei>
    <event-label>MQTT: Timtam kitchen lab event</event-label>
    <descr>This is our Timtam kitchen lab event</descr>
    <logmsg dest="logndisplay">
      All the parameters: %parm[all]%
    </logmsg>
    <severity>Normal</severity>
    <alarm-data reduction-key="%uei%:%dpname%:%nodeid%:%interface%:%service%" alarm-type="1" auto-clean="false"/>
  </event>
</events>

Once we had that working, the next step was to use the MQTT plugin to collect performance data from the messages. We used this script:

#!/bin/bash
while [ true ]
do
mosquitto_pub -u openhabian --pw openhabian -t "Home/Floor1/Kitchen/Gas_Sensor" -m "{ \"name\": \"6114163\",  \"sensordatavalues\": [ { \"value_type\": \"Gas\", \"value\": \"$RANDOM\"  } ] }"
sleep 10
done

This will create a message including a random number every ten seconds.

To have OpenNMS look for it, the MQTT configuration is:

<messageDataParsers>
  <messageDataParser foreignSource="$topicLevels[5]" payloadType="JSON" compression="UNCOMPRESSED">
    <subscriptionTopics>
      <topic>iot/timtam/metric/kitchen/mysensor/gas</topic>
    </subscriptionTopics>
    <xml-groups xmlns="http://xmlns.opennms.org/xsd/config/xml-datacollection">
      <xml-group name="timtam-kitchen-sensor" resource-type="sensors" resource-xpath="/" key-xpath="@name">
        <xml-object name="instanceResourceID" type="string" xpath="@name" />
        <xml-object name="gas" type="gauge" xpath="sensordatavalues[@value_type="Gas"]/value"/>
      </xml-group>
    </xml-groups>
    <xmlRrd step="10">
      <rra>RRA:AVERAGE:0.5:1:20160</rra>
      <rra>RRA:AVERAGE:0.5:12:14880</rra>
      <rra>RRA:AVERAGE:0.5:288:3660</rra>
      <rra>RRA:MAX:0.5:288:3660</rra>
      <rra>RRA:MIN:0.5:288:3660</rra>
    </xmlRrd>
  </messageDataParser>
</messageDataParsers>

This will store the values in an RRD file which can then be graphed within OpenNMS or through Grafana with the Helm plugin.

It was pretty straightforward to get the OpenNMS MQTT plugin working. While I’ve focused mainly on what was accomplished, it was a lot of fun chatting with others at our table and in the room. As usual, Netways did a great job with organization and I think everyone had fun.

Plus, I got to be reminded of all the amazing stuff being done by the OpenNMS team, and how the view is great up here while standing on the shoulders of giants like Ronny and Craig.

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