Archive for the ‘Geek’ Category

Accidentally like a machine.

Thursday, February 15th, 2018

By way of the Hacker News Twitter:

A list of things that were not intended to be “Turing Complete”, but are.

(For the non-initiated, “Turing Completeness” sort of explained here.)

Nostalgia is (kind of) a moron…

Thursday, February 8th, 2018

Back when I was a small child, I loved “Emergency“.

Now that I’m an adult, and have the chance to work from home some days, I can watch the show on one of those retro TV networks. And you know…I hate to admit this…and maybe it is just the episodes I’ve caught…but it’s not as good as I remember it.

There are two episodes that I recall, but haven’t seen come round yet: one where Dr. Brackett and the paramedics have to do emergency field surgery on a guy who fired a grenade round into his gut, and another where the paramedics may have to do a field amputation to rescue a man trapped by a building collapse. (I don’t remember if they actually took the guy’s leg off or not.)

What brings this to mind? About six months ago, Collin County (where Plano is) realized they had a problem: there’s a lot of construction going on, and with that, a lot of potential for workers to become badly trapped by construction accidents. Collin County firefighters worked with a local hospital (Medical City Plano, also a Level 1 trauma center) to develop something called the “pre-hospital amputation team” in case it was ever needed.

Last week, it was.

Firefighters called Gamber on their way to the accident scene. He summoned trauma surgeon Al West, who arrived by helicopter 41 minutes after the accident.
He carried a black plastic toolbox that held everything he would need to free Palma: a saw, scissors, clamps, dressings. This was the first time in his 20 years operating on trauma patients that he wouldn’t have a sterile operating room.

Firefighters held Palma’s body so he wouldn’t fall after the amputation and West began cutting above the right knee. The machine had already partially severed the leg and West cut the remaining tissue. Palma’s left leg was also injured — with a fracture and muscle damage, tests would later show.

Ten minutes after West arrived, Palma was free, said Vetterick, a former flight medic, who supervised the 20 or so firefighters working with the doctors near Main Street and Independence Parkway.

The guy’s still in critical condition, but expected to live. The doctors say there’s about a 75% chance he’ll be able to walk normally with a prosthetic leg. Here’s his GoFundMe, if you feel like kicking in a few bucks for the family.

Hattip: SwiftOnSecurity.

Obit watch: February 8, 2018.

Thursday, February 8th, 2018

I haven’t found a good mainstream source for this yet, but John Perry Barlow, former lyricist for the Grateful Dead and co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, passed away yesterday.

EFF. Mike Godwin’s Twitter feed has a lot of good tributes.

Edited to add 2/9: NYT obit.

Ken is the man that we all need.

Wednesday, January 24th, 2018

Ken White is my new favorite person in the world.

At least, for the rest of the day today.

(Subject line hattip. Yes, I realize it’s about a vastly different Ken in a vastly different context, but I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to reference one of Kate’s more obscure but still rocking songs.)

Cray Cray.

Thursday, January 18th, 2018

When I was younger, I desperately wanted a desktop Cray.

Moore’s Law and all that (stuff), but this really brings home how much things have changed in (mumble mumble) years:

Obit watch: January 8, 2018.

Monday, January 8th, 2018

A roundup of obits from the past couple of days:

John Young, Gemini, Apollo, and Shuttle astronaut. NASA.

Jerry Van Dyke, noted television actor (“My Mother the Car”).

Peggy Cummins. She’s mostly forgotten now – she stopped acting in the 1960s – but she was the female lead opposite John Dall in the famous 1950 noir film “Gun Crazy”.

Start with a badass, end with a badass: Ulrich Wegener, founder of the German Border Protection Group 9 (aka Grenzschutzgruppe 9):

The unit, also known as GSG-9, was created after the September 1972 attack on the Summer Olympics in Munich, when Palestinian militants kidnapped 11 Israeli athletes. Ill prepared for terrorism, and lacking a tactical sniper team, the German police botched an attempt to rescue the athletes, who were killed, along with one police officer and five of the eight kidnappers.

One of his first accomplishments: Lufthansa Flight 181.

Around 2 a.m. on Oct. 18, Somali soldiers lit a fire 65 yards in front of the jet, creating a diversion. As the hostage takers entered the cockpit to see what was going on, Colonel Wegener and his commandos stormed the aircraft. Over the next seven minutes, three militants were killed and the fourth was wounded. Three passengers, a flight attendant and a commando were injured. But all 86 passengers, along with the four surviving crew members, were saved.

Later that night, three members of the Red Army Faction — Gudrun Ensslin, Jan-Carl Raspe and Andreas Baader — were found dead in their cells, having committed suicide, and Mr. Schleyer, the abducted executive, was murdered.

Briefly held by American troops as a prisoner of war, he returned home, to what became East Germany, to finish his schooling.
Caught handing out leaflets critical of the Communist government, he was jailed for 18 months. Upon his release in 1952, he fled to West Berlin, where he went on to join the police.

(I haven’t found a source I consider completely trustworthy for this, but there are reports that Colonel (at the time) Wegener also participated with the Israeli Sayeret Matkal in the raid on Entebbe.)

Urgent security news!

Friday, December 22nd, 2017

The iPhone X’s FaceID can be bypassed using “specially prepared printouts of photographs”! Gott in Himmel! Doesn’t this make the feature useless?

Oh, wait. Did I say “iPhone X FaceID”? I’m sorry. I meant “Windows Hello facial recognition”. My bad.

Obit watch: September 18, 2017.

Monday, September 18th, 2017

I don’t know exactly why this surprises me, but for the historical record: NYT obit for Jerry Pournelle.

The obit is actually pretty respectful (if a week late) and covers his work as a computer columnist almost as much as it does his SF writing.

Obit watch: September 9, 2017.

Saturday, September 9th, 2017

Dr. Jerry Pournelle, noted SF writer and longtime computer columnist for Byte magazine back in the day.

Official website. Lawrence. Borepatch.

I don’t have a lot to add here. I never met Dr. Pournelle, and I don’t think I’ve read any of his solo SF. I’m spotty on his collaborations with Larry Niven, though the ones I have read I think are better than Niven’s solo work.

I enjoyed his Byte column, though at the time some of his recurring tropes did kind of grate on my nerves. (See also: Gregg Easterbroook.)

(For the younger set, and/or those who may not know: the Internet Archive has a large digital collection of Byte.)

I’m very fond of Oath of Fealty. And I believe Lucifer’s Hammer has been a huge influence on a lot of people (including me, somewhat),

The only other thing I have to say is: I’m ordering a copy of The Survival of Freedom, as my personal tribute to the good doctor.

Also among the dead: Don Williams, noted country musician.

Troy Gentry, also a country musician with Montgomery Gentry, was killed in a helicopter crash yesterday.

And finally, Rick Stevens, not a country musician, but a funk-soul one. He sang with the group Tower of Power, and did the lead vocal on “You’re Still a Young Man” from the 1972 album “Bump City”.

Then he got into heroin and other drugs. Over about a two-day period in 1976, he killed three men. He was convicted of murder and sentenced to death, but California declared the death penalty unconstitutional and he was resentenced to life. He was paroled in 2012 and started working again.

In January 2013 his old band brought him onstage at the Oakland club Yoshi’s to sing his signature song.
“When he got back onstage with Tower of Power for the first time in 40 years,” Mr. Maloney said, “he felt like he was levitating. That’s what he told me.”

While he was in prison, he became a Christian. He also did counseling and mentoring for other inmates, and formed prison bands.

He remained remorseful for the deadly events of 1976, which he said occurred during a time in his life when he was going from one drug high to another and not thinking clearly — “a jackass in a jumpsuit,” he would describe himself years later. When he began performing again after his release from prison he was realistic about his past.
“I know a lot of people won’t forget,” he said in a 2013 interview. “I won’t forget.”

Not exactly an obit, but:

Leslie Van Houten, who was convicted along with other members of Charles Manson’s cult in the 1969 killings of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, was granted parole Wednesday by a panel of state commissioners in Chino.

Her parole still has to be approved by the governor. Jerry Brown rejected her bid for parole last year.

Quote of the day.

Wednesday, August 30th, 2017

We have sort of a trifecta today, because we can’t choose. All three by way of the Hacker News Twitter, the first two from the same source:

“Blindly trusting authority to make our ethical decisions for us is the best way to separate ourselves from the Nazis!”

The IRB listened patiently to all this, then said that it had to be in pen. You know who else had people sign consent forms in pencil…?

The third one really isn’t a quote of the day. You should just read the whole thing: “Laser Products I Hate”. Including why you shouldn’t give money to Kickstarter for that Cubiio piece of crap.


Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

By way of Patrick Non-White: a series of tweets from Matt Corbett‏ about how flood planning and storm runoff works in Houston.

If you click on that first one, you should be able to follow the rest of the (long) thread from there, though you might have to skip over some stuff about cheerleading.

I’m also not an expert, and haven’t lived in Houston for (mumble mumble) years now, but this fits in with what I do know. I especially appreciate his discussion of the evacuate/don’t evacuate decision: it was more than just partisan politics, it also involved differing sets of priorities.

Now I’m only falling apart…

Monday, August 21st, 2017