Can’t sleep snowflakes will eat me.

Complete side note.

I’m beginning to understand a lot about myself lately (probably the result of the meditation demands of my new group). As much as I try not to show it, I have a lot of anxiety and pent-up fears. I suspect that this is what living a life “on the spectrum” can do to you, my apparent high-functioning notwithstanding.

Part of my ability to function with “farmers” is my exact ability to hide hunter instincts when they don’t suit, although they are there. And the downside to being a hunter is you are always afraid there’s something bigger than you out there with you in mind as dinner. I’ve been observing a lot in housecats their awkward position as predator AND prey (given the small size of felis silvestris) and how many of the behaviors we find rather adorable about cats are actually ways of them dealing with that conflicting instinct. The love of high places. The sleeping in boxes. Raven’s fear of the Grabby Ape.

Medications are wonderful things. One happy accident of some of my recent problems is I got put on a sleep medication that has anti-anxiety properties. Well, that, and maybe the aforementioned meditation is helping as well. I can start to see how anxiety plays into my reactions and interactions, and that I’ve spent a lot of my life in a state of fear.

Maybe that’s what L. has been trying to tell me all these years. I have nothing to be afraid of, after all. I live in a time in history where war is rarely at my doorstep, crime is going down all the time, and (for the moment) I live in a place with freedoms and employment opportunities so that I’m well fed, well medicated, and more or less warm. Day to day, hour to hour, I really have nothing to worry about.

But I still can’t sleep. Snowflakes will eat me.

The Real Reason I’m For $15/hour

It’s no secret to anybody who hangs around me that I’m for the $15/hour minimum wage. But you may not understand all the reasons I’m for it. It may not be why you think.

I truly believe in the concept of The Singularity. We are approaching a society whereby people don’t actually “need” to work to get by. We grow enough food to feed the entire planet (so much so that we can write 40% off of all the food we make as “spoilage” in transport) and we do it with about 2% of the population involved in agriculture.  Automation has turned the family farm into a machine, growing uniform crops that are picked, packaged, and trucked to market with ruthless efficiency, ever in mind of the commodity status of most of the foods we eat.

And the amount of automation that can still be performed is staggering, and increasing.  Because, let’s face it, farm work sucks.  It’s a lot of drudgery and back-breaking work.  Fuck it, let a machine do it.

Increasing the minimum wage to $15 has the effect of making human labor too expensive to waste.  It forces the issues of “how do we support a society where there isn’t enough work for everybody” to the forefront.  Because regardless of what you might think, there isn’t.  I strongly disagree with those who say “well, automation took jobs before, and look what happened: better jobs came along”, and while that might be true for some that’s rapidly changing.

I call this the “third wave” of automation going on now.  There’s a big difference between the automation of the first two.  The First Wave of Automation was the “leverage” phase.  That phase was dominated by using machines as “leverage” of human labor.  The human operator was still highly involved in the process… think of a farmer using a tractor pulling a hay bailer.  You still needed the human to drive the tractor, and typically humans still needed to handle the hay to load it.

Second wave automation went beyond leverage.  Second wave automation was when we started to make machines “think”, at least at a primitive level.  Telephone exchanges went from a human operator to a meshed network of machines that not only handled calls based upon numbers dialed but actually made decisions about how to route around damage and congestion.  Computers started talking to each other over this network, and started automating deliveries.  As products were sold at stores, the computer could order more all on its own.  “JIT” (Just In Time) manufacturing and delivery techniques are the pinnacle of Second Wave Automation, and is the herald of the Next Wave.

Third Wave Automation combines the two: the muscle leverage of the First Wave and the thinking leverage of the Second Wave.  We are now building machines that do.. well, anything.  You want to build a machine to make burgers?  Totally doable (and you can bet McDonald’s already has one in their labs).  3D printing technologies have created that Third Wave: if you can draw it, you can “build” it.  Machines to self-drive?  Here they come.  Machines that program themselves?  Yes, what do you think Watson is, anyway?

Third Wave Automation is coming for your job.  It’s coming for mine, it’s only a matter of time.  What jobs will exist in the near future?  How many people do you think need to fix these robots, and how long until they simply fix themselves?

Here’s an example that should scare you if you think “you have to work to eat” is how the future economics are going to work out.  How long until you can live in San Francisco, hail a self-driving cab, it breaks down on the way.  No problem, self-driving car is aware enough to know it’s not moving, it hails you a replacement car, and you ride away in the second car.  What happens to the first?

A self-driving tow truck picks it up, drives it to the recycling yard where it is dismantled (automatically, of course) for parts, and the factory JIT delivers a new “disposable” self-driving cab to town.  They maybe even predicted this failure based upon a MTBF model and have the replacement already there.

Before you get home from your little jaunt to the Embarcadero the car that broke down has already been dismantled and the replacement is the one that takes you home.

This is possible TODAY with the technology we have.  The only thing stopping it is that at the moment it costs less in human labor to deal with the broken cab, the tow truck, and in some cases even the driver.

Guess what the $15/hour minimum wage does.  It makes human labor less competitive with robotic labor.  And it should be: humans can be injured, suffer long-term disabilities and repetitive stress, and overall a lower quality of life when forced to do drudge work.   As a human being, I (and you, and even the Hispanic farm worker) are worth more than $15/hour, period, and we’re worth having a quality of life free of such drudgery.

Is your life worth $15/hour?  Mine isn’t, it’s worth a lot more than that.  So I’m willing to let the machine do the work for me, and I will rejoice on the day I can order a cheap burger and have a robot gleefully fling out that hockey puck that has never been touched by human hands.  That’s one less person subjected to the indignity of wage-slave labor.

What does this mean for jobs is an exercise left for the reader.  But I feel it is going to escalate the arrival of the robotic Singularity, and it’s a future I welcome.

No, you don’t need an app for that.

App fatigue.

It’s a real problem, and something that’s beginning to even rub me the wrong way. Every place has an app. The convenience store has one. My grocery store has one. My credit card has one. My bank has one. Dunkin’ Donuts, Starbucks, and the kiosk on the corner has one The pretzel kiosk at the mall has one..

Knock it the fuck off, people.

Not that long ago people were getting burned out on carrying “frequent shopper cards” for all the places they shopped. Walgreens, Kroger, AutoZone, Chipotle, Blockbuster, and the coffee stand punchcard fattened our wallets needlessly.

Today my phone is stuffed with apps for places. And I’m getting sick and tired of it.

The worst part is the apps we have often don’t work. Walgreens wants me to use Android Pay for everything, which is fine.. except it hardly ever works when I need it to. Walmart Pay also seems to never work when I need it, and I spend five minutes at the cash register scanning the stupid barcode, fiddling with my fingerprint, tapping things on my phone… when I could have simply handed them my debit card and been out the door.

If your app doesn’t make my shopping easier (or give me a substantial discount) you can stuff your app up your ass.

One accident. One fatality. 130 Million Miles.

So, let me get this straight. Tesla’s autopilot has logged millions of miles with not so much as a fender bender. This is the first.

Is it worth a NHTSA investigation? Certainly, as with any new technology from airbags to anti-lock brakes the first time there’s the potential for an unintended consequence it’s worthy of a proper investigation.

However, the news media is going apeshit over this. OMG, a self-driving car was in a fatal accident.

Two things to keep in mind. The first is that even if the car was being driven conventionally (like, with a driver) the same accident could have happened. Neither the driver nor the autopilot system could see the truck backlit by a white sky.

But the second is that this is the first fatality after 130 million miles. On average, automobiles in general go 60 million miles between fatalities.

So right there, even before we look into the cause, the autopilot was statistically safer, by over a factor of two. And even more importantly, now that the system has had an accident in a particular way, it’s possible to engineer the software so this exact accident can never happen again.

So not only is a Tesla on autopilot safer, it can only get even more safe as time goes on.

The point of self-driving cars is not that they will be perfect, just that they will be safer than human drivers.. and they are. Period, end of story.

Checkpoint!

A year ago I began this adventure… I loaded up a few things I care about into my VW and started driving to Denver. If Google Location History is accurate, about this time exactly I was rumbling across the Oregon Desert and getting ready for the potatoes to not eat me.

It’s been a strange year. My health is better than it has been in months, maybe over a year. I have a great job, amazing cow-orkers (Matt has built one hell of a team out here!), a stable place to live, and plenty to keep my occupied. On the downside, I’ve lost about a fifth of my right foot, I need to walk with a cane most days to stay stable, and my blood sugar levels have been “controlled”, but still hover around 200 (which is double what it should be). I have a BiPAP machine to help me sleep, although admittedly I’m still getting used to the infernal thing.

I miss Oregon. I miss friends in Portland, Eugene, and Bend. I miss driving to (and through) the Gorge. I REALLY am missing the coast lately, as one of my favorite things to do on hot days was disappear somewhere out that way. I miss Grocery Outlet (we don’t have them here in Colorado), and I’m sick of driving to Colorado Springs just to get my Bros brews.

But life is good again, if sometimes a little “weird” (which for me means the stuff that “normal” people do every day, like make a car payment and worry about how the rent is getting paid).

I still have money glitches every once and a while. Lots of medical bills and hospital stays the past year. But as long as this cable company keeps me employed things are ok.

I may not always show it (after all, my patron saint is Grumpy Cat), but I’m really appreciative of the life I have today and I wonder how I survived the past two years after my heart attack. There were days I wasn’t sure if I was going to survive: between the dizzy spells, the heart palpitations, and the lack of any kind of money to eat it was a lot to endure.

But I am alive. I am doing well. I am even thriving here…

How to piss me off (and the wrong way to mass E-mail customers)

OK, we all know how anti-spam I can be.  I know, it’s a legacy from when I was young, the Internet was new, and everybody had a .edu address and were generally good citizens.  Then, one day, there was a bunch of new people out there, getting Internet access from *gasp* COMMERCIAL ENTITIES like … well, like Kaiwan.Com, an early employer of mine.

I’ve come to terms with the fact that some E-mail marketing is here to stay.  It’s the equivalent of junk mail in your postal box.  You do remember those, right?  A few times a week your mailbox would be stuffed with flyers from places like Circuit City, Best Buy, JCPenney, and Pizza Hut.  You’d shrug, pick the few things you might be interested in, and threw the rest in the trash.  This kind of mass marketing is wasteful (of paper and the postal service’s time and energy), people often complained, but everybody looked for the latest Sears mini-catalog around Christmas time.  At least they did in my household.

So today we have this mass E-mail marketing thing, what we in the olden days called “spam”.  UCE, that is, “unsolicited commercial E-mail” has become quasi-legitimate, and I can accept that some spam in my inbox is inevitable, and even though a good chunk of UCE is scams between Google’s filters and my own most of the downright bogus shit winds up in “Trash” and I never see it.

Then there’s legitimate companies that you sign up for their E-mails and… well, this happens.

For those with low-res screens (or no visual at all) there are four E-mails from Best Buy in one day.  Really?  FOUR?  And this is a pattern, by the way.  I can go back into my mail and see that Best Buy sends 2-3 messages a day going as far back as January.  and I apologize for the huge graphic, but I can’t think of anyway to really demonstrate this other than to show you…

worstbuy2

You are getting the idea.  This goes back as far as Google keeps my old messages.  Every day there’s one.  Some days there are two.  On even more infrequent days there are 3, 4, or even one day, 5.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I actually WANT to know when there’s something pretty cool on sale at Best Buy.  Micro Center, one of their quasi-competitors (at least in the computer department), does this:

microcenter

 

Notice a few things are missing.  One is E-mailed reciepts: those come from a different E-mail address, so I can filter them out.  Sales flyers come from a helpfully labelled “e-news” address.  Great, and I get 2-3 a week, maybe 4 some weeks… and some of those are when something amazing happens (like them getting Pi Zeros in stock this week!), so I’m generally happy with it.

Ultimately, Micro Center winds up winning.  Best Buy is “the boy who cried wolf”: I just ignore their E-mails entirely as there’s rarely something interesting in them (or for that matter, priced that remarkably).  Micro Center’s are a mixed bag: not always awesome, but usually “timely” and not obnoxiously timed.

And Best Buy had the GALL to treat me like it was MY FAULT I had signed up for so many ads.  Guys, no.  It should be trivial for you to install some kind of “awareness” filter on your outbound sales mail generator to say “hey, I’ve already E-mailed this person twice in the last 72 hours, maybe I need to back off a bit”.  Or just in general queue them up into one E-mail every week-ish.

91.x.x.x/8 is banned.

I just spent a piece of my (very beautiful in Denver, tankuveddymuch) morning cleaning up after a r0dent hammered the hell out of feedle.net’s webserver and brought a few things down. I don’t know if it was a DDoS targeted specifically at me, or at my hosting provider in general (it’s worth noting none of the other boxes at the same company seem impacted, however they are hosted in Texas where the webserver is in Northern California).

So, after getting things restarted, I went digging in my hosts.deny file. The great thing about running things like “Denyhosts” is you get a pretty clear picture of who the bad actors are. And one /8 keeps showing up in my hosts.deny file: 91./8. So, for the first time in my entire life of running feedle.net (15 years and counting) I’ve banned an entire chunk of the Internet from even accessing my site.

The last time I did anything close to this was when I added microsoft.com to my apache configs as “personæ non gratæ”, and that was for a short time until their bot started behaving and doing reasonable crawls and not taking up a significant chunk of my entire monthly transit. However, in digging around a bit, 91./8 is responsible for almost 3% of all bogosity against feedle.net servers. That’s a lot for one network, and it’s a lot for feedle.net to bear.

So, effective immediately, 91./8 is permanently banned from feedle.net servers. If you have a reason to be accessing anything on my personal network from that network please contact me via a Google service (ie. Gmail or Hangouts, or comment on the eventual propagation of this to G+) and I’ll whitelist your individual IP. Note that if you get a DHCP address that may change I will be very unlikely to whitelist multiple addresses or anything larger than a /26.

Anaheim and change

I have a huge dose of the crank today. It may be because I spent the afternoon chatting with an old friend from The OC, found out a big mixed bag of news (most of it not good), and communally cried over the loss of things we both loved about growing up in Anaheim. I suspect maybe my last piece of childhood innocence may have gotten killed on that phone call.

The place I grew up has changed, and the place I moved to and loved in my early 30’s has changed, too… and when I’m REALLY old and grey I won’t recognize either one I suspect. And that really upsets me: I want things to change for the better, not for the worse, and all I feel anymore is the wind continuing to smell foul when it blows.

I suspect the winds of this change were already blowing when I was a teenager. Anaheim was never as idyllic as perhaps I thought it was, Portland was always a little too hip for its britches back at the turn of the century when I moved there. 1  Recent events in Anaheim harken back to its history (not only the written history, but the verbal history passed to me by my maternal adopted family) of Ku Klux Klan.  Today it is different only in which side the Klan is on, not their presence in Anaheim’s ever-evolving story.  From German utopia, to Klan-controlled, to the Autopia designed by a mouse, to the auto-centric city of my childhood, and who knows where it will go.  Maybe ARTIC will undue the freeway snarls (ha, yeah, that’ll happen).  Maybe.  Around the time Portland becomes affordable again.

Ultimately this is likely the fact that I’m getting old.  My beard is now salt-and-pepper, and now and then I find a silver strand in my otherwise dark-brown-to-black hair.  I’ve already noticed I’m getting less tolerant, more gruff, and certainly grumpier.  My normal humorous curmudgeonly exterior is becoming darker and more sinister.

I’m becoming an old man.

How ironic it is to this soul that seems.  And it feels… a bit scary.  I don’t want to be that old man sitting on the bench at Pearson Park I remember from my childhood, feeding the birds from a loaf of bread grumbling about this, that, or the other thing (I remember rants ranging from Jimmy Carter to the teardown of the Fox Theater).  I want to stay vibrant and ever changing.

I want to keep growing.  And not for the worse.

Show 1 footnote

  1. Yes, we can say that now, it’s ok, I checked.

Thoughts on the FBI, Apple, and a side order of WTF…

OK, so I’ve been thinking about this whole kerfuffle (or has it elevated to a brouhaha at this point?) about the FBI going to court and forcing Apple to (as I understand it) develop a special version of iOS that doesn’t have the “10 attempts and data self-destructs” option.  I’ve got thoughts, believe me, and some of them disturb even me.

Let’s start with the whole request in the first place.  Tim Cook is right: not only is the request potentially improper on its face, but even the creation of a special software stack that doesn’t have the self-destruct feature opens a big can of worms probably nobody wants to open.  It’s not that the Fed would use it improperly: they would, no questions asked.  It’s that the moment Apple creates it there’s the potential for naer-do-wells to get the code.  No airlock is ever 100% airtight, and even as secure as I know Apple’s campus to be it would leak out somehow.  It’s … pun totally intended here … forbidden fruit almost worthy of a 007 movie-plot scenario to get.  Somebody would, you know it.

But then I start thinking of the implications here.  The FBI can’t unlock it?  Now, I know more than one person is saying “oh, it’s not that they can’t, they just want the legal precedent!”  I can accept that, but it still lingers in the back of my mind that all my life as a hacker and somebody who often skirts right up to the edge of “legal” on certain things that I’ve wasted a hell of a lot of time covering my tracks.  I mean, think about this seriously. Going to court, especially in northern California (Apple’s home turf) to get this writ required some pretty serious lawyering.  If you’ve read the docket, it actually is a novel approach to the problem, and that wasn’t done by some first-year law intern.  Real lawyers had to craft those briefs, and to this armchair legal scholar I can honestly say it was VERY well done.  It had the hallmarks of someone who knew exactly what they were doing.

And the Fed never wastes lawyers on trivial shit.  I believe that the FBI can’t crack it, or at least crack it easily.

As a teenager I heard horror stories of the FBI using data recovery techniques to do discovery on hard drives of BBSes and the like to get evidence of warez that were deleted.  I’ve heard some wild theories as to how the FBI did some of these things, probably fueled by too many teenagers watching too many X-Files episodes.  But even saner and cooler heads thought the FBI had some pretty good tech, and could do some pretty impressive things with the then-primitive tech of the 80s.  Hell, some of the equipment we regularly used back then was so dodgy even the owner couldn’t guarantee his files were there at any given moment.

So here we have the FiBbys asking Apple to help them crack this with (what amount to) a copy protection defeat just about any skript kiddie could hack.

I’ve pointed this out glibly in my Facebook post, but.. don’t they have code crackers at the FBI?  I mean, really.  How hard is it to JMP instruction around the 10-times-and-your-out code?  Isn’t there some way you could just pull the WRITE line from the memory store so that a delete couldn’t happen?

Oh, wait.  Mmmmmmaybe it’s not that simple.  Maybe Apple not only won’t code around this, maybe they can’t.

Consider this possibility.  Apple now does most of their own chip design and production.  And we know that newer models of the iPhone use some of the more advanced techniques to guard sensitive data in a secure part of the machine with its own rings and stuff.  But the 5C (the phone in question) doesn’t have that protected partition.

But what if the crypto is handed off to an internal cypher chip that has a “bad password” function INSIDE THE CHIP, not easily rewritable in the firmware, that destroys the data after 10 password attempts are recorded?  There’s no signals to mine on the bus, and no easy way to just (theoretically) fiddle with IO pins and get the behavior to stop.  Ten passwords, data store is corrupted, all done inside Apple’s A6 little magic box.  It may even be coded in the microcode of either the CPU or GPU portions of the chip, and that’s not likely easily changed (assuming it can be changed at all).

This is theory.  But I think it’s a valid point: Apple thought this through. They’re going to fight this in the courts, and if they lose they’re going to throw their hands up and then publically say “we can’t even do it, and here’s why.”  Congress will argue, and we’ll wind up with another lousy key-escrow proposal (or something even more idiotic), it’s already starting.  But in the end there’s millions of iPhones out there that CAN’T BE HACKED.

Steve Jobs may have been an ok guy after all.  One of his (likely) design decisions may cause McAfee to eat a shoe.