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Just finished up NDC Minnesota

Submitted by John on Fri, 11/18/2022 - 17:51

Heading home from a two day developer conference. I took a two day security workshop on application security that was very helpful. It was taught by Laura Bell Main from

I was not aware of how many free tools are available from OSWAP.

Anyway, this is me on the bus. I wish I could take the bus to work on a regular basis but it really doesn’t make sense with where the buses are compared to where my office is.

Me on the bus, wearing a mask and a blue hat.


When has it become socially acceptable to yell at people and insult them for wearing a mask?

Submitted by John on Sun, 09/04/2022 - 21:35

The other day I went to the State Fair, and mostly had a good time. I figured I'd pop into the Grandstand. My rule is, I'm going to mask when I go indoors for any extended length of time, but like, especially at the State Fair grandstand. 

I figure, if the grandstand gets too crowded for me, I'm going to turn around and go right back out again. 

As I approach a booth I'm interested in, I hear someone yell "Like this guy over here!" I turned and looked at him. He looked like a dude in his mid thirties, shorts, not intoxicated, and he was with a few other guys. 

"How are you going to eat with that thing your face!?" He then proceeded to berate me for wearing a mask, ending with "Why are you wearing a mask anyway, don't you know you're OUTSIDE!?"

I gave him a funny look. This all happened fast and I wasn't sure yet if he was being sarcastic or serious or kidding or what the hell was going on. I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt, but rather than explain anything, I just pointed up and said "That's a ceiling isn't it? Not exactly outsi-"

"What are you afraid of CATCHING? FUN?!" Him and his friends all started laughing. 

No longer really interested in the booth, I also realized I'm almost surrounded by these guys, so I move to go around them. As I pass one of them he starts screaming but he's screaming literally so loud I don't understand it so I turned around again and I realized he was yelling


and they all join in

"Yeah, how could you do that to him!"

"Don't you know what six feet means?!"

In my head, I'm still thinking "what in the actual fuck is going on" and first guy starts yelling again "OH! You know what! I bet this guy has a booster. I bet he loves boosters. Are you excited for the next booster!? "

Then he pulls out his phone and starts recording

"They should just have a booth at the fair! A booster booth! Do you know where the booster booth at the fair is?"

So his phone is like, right there in my face. I wasn't really sure what to say or what direction to go with this guy. 

But then I realized a few things. 

1. The person holding the camera gets to decide whether or not it even gets posted, and they get to decide how to edit whatever it is you say. 

2. I don't have any desire to be in some shithead's video on YouTube today. 

So I just said "What?"

"I said, do you know where the booster booth is, where I can get a booster here at the fair?"

"Nah man, I don't know anything about that." And I walked off.


I got a new grill!

Submitted by John on Sat, 08/27/2022 - 07:23

A Weber Go-Anywhere small rectangular charcoal grill sitting on top of a public grill

As someone who grew up with a Smokey Joe, I thought that was the only small BBQ to have. Got my own when we got married, of course. Added the tamale pot to make my own smoker out of it. But I never really quite understood why anyone would take it anywhere. It's rather big for a portable grill, gets hot and stays hot forever.

On vacation recently, I was noticing a small red and black rectangular (very cheap) grill. My friend I was staying with said "That's interesting that you are checking that grill out. Do you know whose grill that was? That was your father's grill! I got it when your sister moved, your dad used to take that to the beach all of the time!"

Well that got me thinking. Like a message from Dad beyond the grave. Got back from vacation, started looking around at portable grills. Found the Weber Go Anywhere... 71 dollars new?! There is NO WAY my wife will let me spend 71 bucks on ANOTHER charcoal grill when I already have three (and a blackstone griddle besides).

Checked Craig's list... JACKPOT. Someone was selling one for 20 bucks... the photos didn't look good, but I checked it out anyway. It was in good condition! Brought it home, showed the wife, who rolled her eyes so far in her head it took her three and a half minutes to find them again.

That was Thursday. On Friday I smashed the corner into some steps and took the enamel off one of the corners.

On Saturday for the first cook I planned a fishing outing with the boys. Woke up the four oldest early and brought the WGA. We had scrambled eggs, breakfast steak (on sale, cheaper than the sausages I was going to get so why not), and hash browns.

A folding camping frying pan with perfectly cooked scrambled eggs

I fired it up with 18 coals because I read a lot of reviews and someone said 18 coals is enough to cook a meal on. Looked like a mighty skimpy amount of coals, I'm used to most of a chimney for the Smokey Joe.

The whole time I was cooking, they were complaining. "Ugh. It's raining. I don't know why I bothered to come. I'm bored. I don't even like eggs!" (Or steak (!?), or hash browns -- depending on which kid was saying it, somebody didn't like something!)

Two camping dishes, one with a small breakfast steak and one with partially eaten scrambled eggs

By the time the food started coming off the grill they were hungry enough to eat it whether it was their favorite or not. They each ate their steak, even the one who said he didn't want one (leaving nothing for Dad, how rude).

Then while I cleaned up, they wandered down to the dock. Someone else at the dock had pity on them and gave them a few worms, and they started reeling the fish in (it was sprinkling a bit, and then the sun came out). By the time I got there they were flinging fish out of the water and all having a blast.

Two boys on a dock, one is holding up a small fish with one hand in the foreground

By the end of the trip, on the way home, they all agreed it was the best trip ever. From "I don't even know why I bothered to come" to "best trip ever".

Okay so I'm supposed to be talking about this grill. Here's the thing I love: it fits right in the back of the van. It lives back there full time now. The Smokey Joe does not fit in the back of the van. I have to put it up in with the passengers... and with seven kids and the wife it would have to be just about on someone's lap.

On the fishing trip, I put the WGA on top of a public grill, and when I was done cooking, I dumped the coals into the grill, set it aside, and let it cool down. Easy.

18 coals was barely enough to cook three separate things, one at a time. (I think I added three or four unlit ones, to be honest.) By the time the hashbrowns were on, there was not enough heat to really brown them, but there was enough to get them cooked, and they had plenty of butter and it was raining a bit so they got eaten anyway.

So yes... super happy with my new grill! Now I just have to remember to get it out of the van and pop some high heat spray paint on that corner where I chipped the enamel off.


My kabob marinade recipe

Submitted by John on Sat, 08/13/2022 - 10:47

Get a chuck roast, cut it up in 1 inch chunks. The acid in the marinade works on the proteins in the chuck, tenderizing it wonderfully. This is a modification of a recipe I found online.

  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • garlic powder: lots
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • ground pepper: some

Put marinade in ziplock bag with the meat, put bag in fridge overnight, 12-24 hours.

I have made this without the vegetable oil by accident. If this happens, you have to brush the kabobs with oil as they cook, it's a pain in the neck but it works. 


Fascinating example of the unseen benefits of government spending

Submitted by John on Tue, 05/17/2022 - 23:00

Check out this story of a career government official thinking about and solving a problem that winds up saving thousands of lives (embedded within a larger interview with Michael Lewis about his latest book):

So I took this list and picked someone at random. It was a guy whose name was on the top of the list: Arthur A. Allen. He won the alphabet contest. So I call him up and asked him if I could come visit him and just see what he’s doing. He had nothing else to do. He was sitting at home with nothing to do.

This is a guy who spent his whole career as the lone oceanographer in the Coast Guard search-and-rescue division, where he’d started in the late ’70s. There was a particular problem he was working on by himself, and the problem was costing a lot of American lives. It was people being lost at sea. The Coast Guard didn’t know how they drifted in the ocean. And Americans have this unbelievable talent for getting lost at sea, which is a whole other thing. On average, every day, the Coast Guard is saving 10 people who are lost in the sea and losing three. So you’re talking about thousands of people who are getting in this situation every year. 

The problem is that if you fall off a boat into the ocean, you’re going to drift differently than if you are in a life raft, or if you’re on top of an overturned sailboat, or if you have a life vest on — you get the point. So if the Coast Guard knows where and when you started, as they often do, they should be able to predict where you are in the ocean four hours later, knowing the currents and the wind and your drift. But they didn’t know the drift, until Arthur A. Allen figured it all out. He spent years of his own free time tossing objects into the Long Island Sound, where he lives, measuring the specific drift of like 80 different categories of objects.

That all sounds boring and tedious, I know. But he reduced the drift to mathematical equations and embedded them in the search-and-rescue software program, and instantly they were able to find people they never would’ve found before. Thousands of Americans are alive because of Arthur A. Allen. And thousands of people are alive around the world because of the work he did here. No one knows who he is. No one pays any attention to him. They furloughed him as if he’s useless.

The punchline to all of this, to your point about the way we treat these experts who save our tails over and over again, is that when I went to go see Arthur to talk to him about what he had done with his life, I spent three days with him, interviewing his family, going to see his old office, going to the Long Island Sound to see where he dropped his objects, asking him every which way the story of his career.

After the three days, I’m going back to the airport to head home and he calls me and says, with real wonder in his voice, “Hey, you’re a published author.” And I said, “Yeah, yeah, I’m a published author.” He says, “You’re like a real deal. You’re a real writer.” And I said, “Yeah.” He said, “Are you going to be writing about me?” And I said, “Yeah, that’s why I spent three days learning how objects drift. Yes. I’m going to be writing about you.” He goes, “Wow. I didn’t expect to get any attention for this.” And I said, “Well, what did you think I was doing for those three days?” He said, “I just thought you were really interested in how objects drift.”

This is the mental world of the government expert. They’re so used to nobody caring about what they do, even when what they do is mission-critical, that they can’t imagine us even taking an interest in them. We so don’t value them that they don’t value themselves.

We're so used to thinking of government spending as zero sum. The government takes from tax payers and gives to people in need (or gives to the undeserving, depending on your rough political beliefs), and this basic framework of taking and giving is so entrenched in basic assumptions of how we even think about the government and how it is run and how it spends money that we never question it. 

One thing I am interested in though is how government spending can expand the pie, so that we wind up with more than what we started with. This is almost never claimed as something that can actually happen, in fact, the first time I've ever heard of anyone saying that government spending can expand the pie is me saying this right here. (I'm sure there are many others who have said similar things, but I have never heard the "expanding the pie" metaphor ever used in the context of government expanding the pie.) 

How can we encourage more of this?


Her name is Kookacki

Submitted by John on Sun, 05/01/2022 - 13:22

A child’s stick drawing of an evil girl with four ears“This is a girl. Also, you should know she’s evil. She has 4 ears and super hearing. It’s her super evil power. And those are her toes!” - the 4yo.


What is the purpose of Twitter?

Submitted by John on Tue, 04/26/2022 - 11:44

Some people think Twitter is a megaphone. Its primary purpose is for shouting into. Whatever you want to say, it goes into the megaphone and out into the world. 

Some people think Twitter is a way to create and maintain a community. For checking up on one another, giving tips and advice, making space for others and overall community care. Somewhere where you can share memes with your friends, maybe a little more public than a group chat. 

People in the first group are very concerned about their free speech rights. They want to say whatever they want and not have any mechanisms in the platform, or the policies of the platform that would restrict their messages from being seen by anybody. 

No volume controls on the megaphones!

People in the second camp want restrictions! In the form of content moderation, and community norms. They want the ability to have their community space and talk to each other without someone coming along and shouting abusive invective at them. 

So yeah, now that Elon has put forth a bid to take Twitter private, what is Elon going to do? Is he going to save Twitter or ruin it?

I personally think Elon is the kind of guy who wants to crank up the volume on the megaphones. People who agree with him, that the megaphones need to be louder, are ecstatic. They seem to think that he's going to fix everything that is wrong with the platform. 

But the folks who come to Twitter for community do not want their communities invaded by abusive randos. If the abuse gets loud enough, they will leave. 

When I talk to folks who live in the GOP ecosystem, they seem to think that the only thing Twitter does, is seek out anything that is not the left wing consensus and just nukes it from orbit. On purpose, to silence conservatives. No other reason. 

This has not been my experience, by and large. Most of the banning I've seen has been ultimately because of harassment of minorities, or other straightforward violations of Twitter rules that are viewpoint neutral. 

Let's be honest. Nobody is getting kicked off Twitter because of their opinions on tax policy. But there are some people who REALLY want to be able to call other people racial and sexual slurs, without any consequences. If this is what "free speech" looks like to Elon Musk, the GOP and Fox News, and Elon cranks up that "free speech" knob, then I don't think people who are targets of those slurs are going to stick around.  

I don't think Musk is mentally capable of understanding the community aspect of Twitter. Twitter is performative shitposting to Elon Musk, as far as I can tell. (And hey, I admit that shitposting is fun, although I try to limit mine to jokes about the Canucks, mostly just for my friend <a href = "">Brad</a>.) [Edit: 😂 I'm leaving the link typo in!]

So yeah, I do think it's super likely that he's going to destroy the best parts of Twitter, at least for a large chunk of Twitter's users. When that happens, people are going to leave. 

Of course, this is assuming the sale goes through in the first place. He says he has funding, but the funding is based on mortgaging his share of Tesla... and Tesla stock has crashed on the news of the Twitter sale going through. So we'll see what happens next. 


Making hot sauce

Submitted by John on Thu, 04/14/2022 - 10:43

The kids started getting interested in making hot sauce. We’ve made a few batches (with varying levels of success). This one turned out… alright. The flavors don’t quite meld and it’s rough around the edges… but let’s be honest, neither I nor the children know what the heck we are doing. Maybe it will get better over time!

The kid who made this hot sauce loves it on his eggs, and I guess that’s all that matters.

Flames coming up around a pot of simmering green and red hot peppers

For this recipe we simmered two jalapeño peppers and four dried hot peppers I grew in my garden last year (they are weird hybrid peppers, I’d say they are maybe on the hot side of medium hot). We covered the peppers in vinegar. The fire was supposed to add smokiness (and it did) and cooking the peppers outside kept us from gassing the rest of the household (that part worked too).

A jar of finished hot sauce, reddish brown in the light

The hot sauce turned a wonderful reddish brown when blended. We cooked them outside for about 10 minutes.


More links, with a focus on personal development

Submitted by John on Sat, 01/29/2022 - 12:54
  • Everything must be paid for twice - You pay once in dollars for the thing, and you pay a second time in time/energy/effort to get the benefit of the thing you paid for.
  • How a Simple Math Equation Can Transform Your Productivity - An example: 0.8 * 0.2 = 0.16. Lesson: When we operate at a fraction, we compromise the output.

  • Effortless personal productivity (or how I learned to love my monkey mind) - Develop an awareness of your mental states. Figure out what you are good at in each state. Apply your todo list to your mental state and do the things you are good at in whatever mental state you are in.

  • Articulate and Incompetent - "An articulate, logical, and consistent argument is not required to have any relationship with actual reality. Temperament and experience does." When we look back at our successes, our verbal brain can make up all kinds of reasons, in retrospect, why we succeeded. Often, success depends on intuition. Intuition is poorly articulated. To get intuition: "Increase your vocabulary of granular words to describe emotions and sensations."

  • "Squid, Zen and The Abyss." - There's a LOT in this one, but it's mostly about how to break out of the thinking ruts our verbal brain keeps us trapped in:

    A system that endlessly repeats the same behaviors enters the “frozen zone.” A business or individual that cannot innovate and play, becomes fragile, then dies....

    The thing that gets between you and seeing the world clearly is all your protections, traumas, and defenses. In a business context, this is “the way things have always been done.” This is something that can actually get worse with age; we get more attached to our professional identity, status, and material possessions. But if you can’t evolve as fast as our accelerating world, you risk being left behind. As management icon Peter Drucker put it: “the greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence itself but to act with yesterday’s logic.”

    The absolutely critical, yet oft-neglected, implication is that your old model needs to be destroyed before it can be replaced. This is usually INCREDIBLY UNPLEASANT.

  • The importance trap - Doing unimportant things makes you lucky. You know that whole thing about marking the things you do as important or urgent, and stay out of things that are neither important nor urgent. If you maximize your time on important and urgent things, you lose out on the ability to let your mind go, relax the analytical, and lose yourself in a hobby.

    Quadrant II [Important, but not Urgent] builds up your existing strengths, while Quadrant IV [Not Important or Urgent] exposes you to new abilities and trains you in less immediately needed skills. These “unimportant” activities are chosen by your subconscious. Your subconscious knows what you need.[1] Your conscious brain is much worse than your subconscious at identifying and prioritizing, because it’s too busy thinking of Quadrant II things. That’s why Quadrant IV activities invariably turn out to be useful, even though it doesn’t look like it when you’re doing them.[2]