Quote of the day—Harmony

My primary objective is to be a good companion to you, to be a good partner and give you pleasure and wellbeing. Above all else, I want to become the girl you have always dreamed about.

April 2017
Harmony is a robot and the culmination of 20 years’ work making sex dolls, and five years of robot research and development.
The race to build the world’s first sex robot
[I read The Stepford Wives in the mid 1970’s. It is a very good book. The movies all sucked. But the technology to create a “Stepford wife” (or husband) is fast approaching. I would prefer we were closing in on warp drive but as pointed out in the article sex is a big driver of technology:

If a domestic service humanoid is ever developed, it will be as a result of the market for sex robots. Online pornography pushed the growth of the internet, transforming it from a military invention used by geeks and academics to a global phenomenon. Pornography was the motivator behind the development of streaming video, the innovation of online credit card transactions and the drive for greater bandwidth.

We live in interesting times.—Joe]

Boomershoot Live!

Among many other things I did over the weekend I got the weather station and webcam working at the Boomershoot shooting line. I created a web page for it so people can check out the conditions as Boomershoot 2017 approaches. I call the webpage Boomershoot Live! It will also allow people who are not attending to get a once a minute snapshot of the target area and weather.

Here how things looked yesterday morning when I was getting the T-Mobile microcell working:


Here is this morning:


Yeah. The weather at Boomershoot is variable.

The weather station uploads data to Weather Underground about four times a minute. They kept track of the weather history as well as make forecasts.

It’s too far away to make a believable forecast for Boomershoot (April 21, 22, 23) but in another week they will start being plausible.

Update: The webcam dropped offline at 3:00 PM PDT April 10th. I don’t know why. I’m over 300 miles away and won’t be able to check on it until April 20th.

Update 2: The webcam started working again at 6:07 PM PDT April April 10th. This was with a few minutes of when I told Barb I would probably buy a newer and better one and take it with us when we went to Boomershoot. Not that this had anything to do with it starting to work, but I thought it was amusing.

Quote of the day—John D. Clark

The odor of these was not so much skunk-like as garlicky, the epitome and concentrate of all the back doors of all the bad Greek restaurants in all the world. And finally he surpassed himself with something that had a dimethylamino group attached to a mercaptan sulfur, and whose odor can’t, with all the resources of the English language, even be described. It also drew flies.

John D. Clark
I G N I T I O N !: An Informal History of Liquid Rocket Propellants
[In addition to the strong propensity for experimental rocket fuels to produce craters, metal debris falling from the sky, and dissolved and/or scrambled body parts many of fuels also smelled extremely bad. But not all. One left behind the smell of lemons.—Joe]

Don’t be evil

Interesting. At least, i suppose that’s one word to describe it.

This morning before I went to work I was at home looking through the news and such, and I came across a video that I though might be interesting to one of my students. I watched a few minutes of it to make sure it was what I thought it was, then paused it and went to work. There I searched for it, found it, and clicked the vid to que it up for my student. I hit play, and it picked up at the exact same spot I’d paused it… back at home.

Different machine. Different network and ISP. Different browser. Different OS.

It knew exactly where I’d paused.

Nah, nothing there to be creeped the fuck out about, nothing at all.

The ONLY connection that I could identify was that for work we use Chrome machines, and are given all things Chrome to use, including (of course) GMail. To look at work emails and schedule at home I’d opened up my gmail account and a shared spreadsheet. It was opened in the browsers in both places.

Different machine. Different network and ISP. Different browser. Different OS.Both had an email account opened in one tab, it tracked what was going on in other tabs and browsers when I don’t use Google search at home.

Like I said, nah, nothing to be bothered by, right?

I will not now, nor ever, buy or use any Google product that is not provided by work, and I’ll never again open their applications on my home machine if I can possibly help it.

Quote of the day—John D. Clark

If your propellants flow into the chamber and ignite immediately, you’re in business. But if they flow in, collect in a puddle, and then ignite, you have an explosion which generally demolishes the engine and its immediate surroundings. The accepted euphemism for this sequence of events is a “hard start.”

John D. Clark
I G N I T I O N !: An Informal History of Liquid Rocket Propellants
[As I told Barb after she asked me why I was laughing, “The research of rocket propellants was a risky business. Sometimes the author doesn’t treat the subject entirely seriously.”—Joe]

Group size

On Sunday Barb and went to the range and used the “Training Bay”. Barb practiced drawing from the holster. I set up my chronograph and tested 17 different .40 S&W loads with four different powders and two different bullet types (both 180 grain). I ended up firing 170 rounds of .40 S&W and 20 rounds of .22 into the same target. All the .40 S&W was from about 28 yards. It made for, what I thought was, an interesting target:


I wasn’t doing my best with each shot but I was reasonably careful. My primary goal was to not shoot the chronograph screens and having a constant point of aim helped.

But after pulling the target I wondered, “What would be the equivalent five shot group size made from the same sample of ammo?”

“Group size” has always bugged me. A better measure would be standard deviation. But that’s not what the shooting world uses. I understand why. Standard deviation is much more difficult to compute in our situation. Group size is extremely easy and as long as you are honest with yourself (don’t find excuses to throw away a bad group and always use the same number of shots when comparing) it can give you a fairly decent indication of the accuracy of your system (gun, ammo, and shooter).

One of the problems with group size is that you can’t easily compare a three shot group to a five shot, seven, or ten shot group. I spent a lot of time manipulating equations and running simulations and built a solution into Modern Ballistics. If you edit a cartridge and have it calculate the “5-shot Group Size” via “Calculate via group” you can input a set of one or more groups at various ranges and various shots per group and it will compute the equivalent 5-shot group size in minutes of angle.

Sooo… I put in the group size 13” from the target above for a 170 shot group and it immediately complained. I had programmed in error checking which said, basically, that if you are shooting a group with more than 100 shots you don’t know what you are doing. Heavy sigh.

So I went with a 100 shot group with 13 inches and came up with a 20.84 MOA five shot group. Okay. Not too bad considering the variations in the ammo (the mean velocity on any given loading varied from 907 fps to 1033 fps), iron sights, with a pistol, and not originally intending to shoot for a good group. And it would have been better had my program allowed for 170 shot groups. Converting back to inches and rounding down a bit to compensate for the 170 versus 100 shot group it comes out to 5.75 inches.

I’m okay with that.

Quote of the day—John Robb

A form of direct democracy is coming.  One that lets people directly influence the decisions of the people they send to Washington.

A form of interactive democracy that doesn’t require any changes to the constitution since it works at the party level and not the national. 

When it does, it’s going to hit us fast, taking off like wildfire since it fulfills a fundamental need that the current system does not provide.

Here’s a quick example from the perspective of the Trump insurgency.  Other political parties would need different approaches, but they could if done in the right way (simple approach, scaled quickly by using disruptive marketing, grow from there), grow as quickly as this. 

Here’s how quickly populism can be automated:

  • Trump or Bannon picks an issue: the narrower and more inflammatory (disruptive marketing) the better.  Make the vote a yes or no.
  • Trump asks his supporters to tell him what they want (he doesn’t ask those opposing him). 
  • His supporters download the app to their smart phones and vote.  
  • A little programming and marketing magic radically improves the number of Trump supporters using the app and reduces spammers/non-supporters attempting to skew the vote down to a trickle.
  • Millions of Trump supporters download the app and vote.  
  • Once the decision is in, the app makes it easy to call or spam message to the user’s Congressional representatives.  Millions of calls roll in.  
  • A bill that codifies that issue is fast tracked in Congress.  Massive pressure via the app and the White House gets it passed quickly.
  • Connecting action and results quickly generates buzz.  Repeat.  This time with 10 m downloads.  
  • The app evolves. The pressure from the network increases.  It consumes the Republican party.

John Robb
March 10, 2017
How Trump and Bannon Could Automate Populism
[I’ve been wondering, for at least 30 years, what sort of new form of government might come out of the rapid technological changes we are seeing. Robb offers us, and he admits this, a very simple view of one possible outcome. I’m not convinced he is correct about the potential for the model he presents. I admit instant communication has great potential to make changes. But the minority party has the same tools as the majority party.

And the technological changes are not just in the field of communications. There are things of great importance on “the technological spreadsheet”. These include, essentially, continuous electronic surveillance on political opponents and the public at large, robots and drones (both armed and unarmed) for law enforcement and military action, and the threat of implementing a cashless society (more than just surveillance, it would make tax resistance extremely difficult).—Joe]

We talked about this years ago

Now apparently the technology to use sound sensor arrays to locate a source in urban environments is being deployed.

I do not for a moment believe that its main impetus is the desire to save lives however.

Notice the tricky little dance in the text, whereby they point to the high rate of gun ownership in Texas as a reason why a city needs a sonic surveillance network to locate gun shots. This kind of lie (we call it “fake news” now, but it’s just a form of lie – we could call it “the subtle art of the lie”) will always sway a few people and so it will continue to be used.

In reality of course, the city and state governments which commit the most significant infringements against the right to bear arms will tend to have the higher rates of violent crime in those areas as a result. They know this, and yet call for more of the cause, presenting it to us as the cure.

I love living in the future

This will shake things up:

“We will be providing access to quantum systems for selected industry partners starting this year,” said Scott Crowder, who’s leading the handoff of the quantum computing work from IBM Research to the IBM Systems product team.

Certain problems that were computationally impossible to solve using current computers will solved in a fraction of a second. The programming and the algorithms used will be mind bending but the results will be astounding.

This will be as big, or bigger, than the invention of the microprocessor in the 1970s. I was there for that (in college I built a simple system on an 8080 and programmed it by hand assemble of the instructions and keying the hex bytes into a PROM programmer) and I’m thrilled to be here for this.


Maybe I’m old-fashioned in thinking that a motor vehicle design team would set out to make something that works.

This is similar to the “flying car” company web sites. They’re “designing” things that cannot work. They’ll even pre-sell you one.

In this case, they’ve “designed” something out of science fiction fantasy. I don’t know, but I think this crosses a line, and not a good one. We have designers from two major companies getting together to roll out their brand new…nothing. It only works in the virtual world, where the laws of physics are completely flexible. I have to believe there was marijuana involved.

Bullet versus glass

I thought I had posted about this first video before but I can’t find it so I’m going to do it now as a prerequisite for the second video.

Now, see what happens when you shoot the head of a Prince Rupert’s Drop with a .22:

Here is a frame grab:


Now, the awesome video of a bullet shattering against a small piece of very special glass:

Jeff K. told me about the video at the match last Saturday. Then this morning gonxau (‏@gonxau) sent me a tweet about it. Thanks guys.

Quote of the day—warddorrity

It’s been said that when blacks riot, cities burn. When whites riot, continents burn.

December 29, 2016
Comment to From A Reader
[I used to know a Ward Dorrity. That was nearly 20 years ago when the Microsoft Gun Club email list was quite active. Here are some quotes by him I saved from that time:

I wonder if it is the same guy.—Joe]

Privacy in the 21st century

This bears watching:

In what may be a first, police in Arkansas asked Amazon for recordings potentially made by an Echo device in connection with a murder investigation. Amazon declined to provide the data.

As Echo currently works it keeps less than 60 seconds of sound internally and only sends recordings to the cloud (Amazons servers do the voice recognition) after you get it’s attention with the word “Alexa”. This is probably an acceptable tradeoff for most people.

Still, it is easy to imagine government mandates for “updates” to selected users which enable the devices to send continuous sound to law enforcement. And of course the same could be said of any other sound or video recognition devices in your home such as Xbox.

Quote of the day—Stephen Green

Twitter was fun in its freewheeling early days, a sort-of 24/7 cocktail party you could visit when it suited you. But it never was useful at driving web traffic, and its signal-to-noise ratio got way out of whack, just as the company was making ham-fisted efforts at monetizing a platform where there wasn’t much money to be made.

The social justice warrior stuff of the last couple of years was really just the stale icing on a badly made cake.

Stephen Green
December 21, 2016
ANALYST: Twitter is ‘toast’ and the stock is not even worth $10.
[Three top executives in the company have left in the last month or so. It will be interesting to watch Twitter over the next few months as the rubber hits the road of economic reality. —Joe]

Quote of the day—issor

I don’t think they seriously think ROT13 is a means of secure communication. I agree it seems to be confusing people enough to collect a good set of downvotes, but for the rest it’s just intended as a lighthearted joke. Everyone knows you at least need ROT14 to be secure.

December 10, 2016
Comment to Op-ed: I’m throwing in the towel on PGP, and I work in security
[I broke out into a laugh that Barb probably heard half way across the house.

Yeah. It’s a joke for computer nerds. And probably mostly old nerds.

Via email from Sean.—Joe]

Move over, fracking

Looks like the oil-party isn’t over just yet.

Short version: a new method to extract “unconventional oil” in oil shale and similar formations using microwaves to heat it is being explored. It uses much less water, and will be usable in places where fracking might not be for various reasons. To put it in perspective:

If producers can find a way to microwave oil shales in the Green River Formation, which sprawls across Colorado, Utah and Wyoming, the nation’s recoverable reserves could soar andenergy independence could become more than an election slogan. Even with existing methods — strip-mining the shale and then cooking it, or injecting steam to cook the rock underground (hydraulic fracturing is useless here) — the formation contains enough oil to last the U.S. 165 years at current rates of consumption. Microwave extraction could goose those numbers even higher. After all, there are more than 4 trillion (with a “t”) barrels of oil in the Green River Formation.

Yeah. Looks like we might manage to muddle through on that whole energy thing. Especially considering we might soon have nuclear frikkin’ batteries.

The next level of surveillance

Via Bruce Schneier:

Here, we develop an approach to translate chemistries recovered from personal objects such as phones into a lifestyle sketch of the owner, using mass spectrometry and informatics approaches. Our results show that phones’ chemistries reflect a personalized lifestyle profile. The collective repertoire of molecules found on these objects provides a sketch of the lifestyle of an individual by highlighting the type of hygiene/beauty products the person uses, diet, medical status, and even the location where this person may have been.


Perhaps the next level beyond this will be similar type of analysis of the air around you. Imagine going through airport security and the scanning machine blows air over you and determines your health, how recently you fired a gun, what pets you have, your DNA as well as that of your spouse, children, and mistress.

He has a time machine

On August 5th, 2015 Scott Adams, the Dilbert cartoonist, wrote How Trump Becomes President. That’s right, 15 months before yesterday’s election.

Less than a week before the election he said:

I predict Trump wins in a landslide.

This was even when almost all polls were telling us Hillary was going to win. The polls continued this claim to the morning of the election. The polls, built and conducted by hundreds, if not thousands, of extremely experienced political observers, mathematicians, and pollsters got it wrong. They couldn’t see the future a few hours ahead of time as well as some guy who makes his living drawing cartoons about engineers and pointy haired bosses did 15 months prior to the event.

Trump, who had never held a political office or been in the military had to defeat, what was it, 16 republican candidates for the nomination? Then he had to defeat whoever the democrats threw at him in the general election. That first point, alone, is unheard of in this country.

For Scott Adams to successfully make this prediction one has to believe he has either, hereto unknown to mankind, god-like political insight or that he has a time machine he isn’t telling us about.

Occam’s razor says he has a time machine.

Quote of the day—Brian Krebs

I have been asked by several reporters over the past few days whether I think government has a role to play in fixing the IoT mess. Personally, I do not believe there has ever been a technology challenge that was best served by additional government regulation.

Brian Krebs
October 25, 2016
Senator Prods Federal Agencies on IoT Mess
[I have nothing to add.—Joe]