Tuesday, June 28, 2011 

The Department of State is proposing a new questionnaire as a precondition of getting a US passport. If the applicant is a newborn it might not be too much of a burden, but for an adult it reads like it was written by George Orwell.

If you’re a grown up and considering getting a passport, you should check in at the comment site or just email GarciaAA@state.gov and let DoS know that their estimate of 45 minutes to gather the required information is probably off by a couple of years.

A few of the questions, which I swear I am not making up:

5. List your mother's residence one year before your birth:

6. List your mother's residence at the time of your birth:

7. List your mother's residence one year after your birth:

8. Mother's place of employment at the time of your birth:

- Dates of employment:

- Name of employer:

- Address of employer:

9. Did your mother receive pre-natal or post-natal medical care?

- Name of Doctor:

- Dates of appointments:

10. What type of document, if any, did your mother use to enter into the United States before your birth?

11. Please describe the circumstances of your birth including the names (as well as address and phone number, if available) of persons present or in attendance at your birth:

Section D

Please list all of your residences inside and outside of the United States starting with your birth until the present.

Section E

Please list all of your current and former places of employment in the United States and abroad.

Section G

I declare under penalty of perjury that all responses contained in this document are true and correct, to the best of my knowledge.

False statements made knowingly and willfully in passport applications or in affidavits or other supporting documents submitted therewith are
punishable by fine and/or imprisonment under the provisions of 18 U.S.C. 1001 and/or 18 U.S.C. 1542.

This is so far beyond idiotic, so completely utterly absurd, that I’m tempted to believe that someone is pulling a hoax in releasing the document to get people riled up, like claiming there will be death panels or some stupid fabricated outrage like that. I suppose filling in “I’m sorry, but my memory of the circumstances three months before I was a zygote is a little hazy these days” would at least be true and correct, but might not lead to quick issuance of a passport. It is not just the flabbergasting stupidity of asking questions that no adult could possibly answer, but questions that utterly irrelevant to providing a passport that is galling.  Dear DoS: derp?

Posted at 15:59:26 GMT-0700

Category: NegativePoliticsReviewsTravel

Oh No!!

Friday, June 24, 2011 

I got Raging Bitch in special for Carolyn (her favorite) at the local liquor store, and now there won’t be any more. :-(

Apparently there are only 300 cases left in California, no more to come! Why, Flying Dog, why do you hate California so much?

Posted at 19:37:50 GMT-0700

Category: photo

Math Are Hard!

Friday, June 24, 2011 

I can haz parks here from 8-6 for onliez 12 hours?

Posted at 05:11:21 GMT-0700

Category: Funnyphoto

Visiting Radioactive Chernobyl

Tuesday, June 21, 2011 

Carolyn and I visited the Chernobyl reactor site with a Singularity University reunion organized by Andrew Bain (who did an amazing job, BTW, thanks!).

We had a walk to the crippled facility, the visitors center (in the shadow of the west wall of the crippled reactor), and a walk around the town of Pripyat made famous by Elena.

Chernobyl seems a particularly relevant lesson in light of the hysteria over radiation reaching the US from Fukushima. It has been 25 years since the reactor accident at Chernobyl and it is a good test of what will happen in Japan.

In Fukishima the reactor cores melted and cooling water carried radioactive material into the ocean, while there were gaseous emissions of hot materials, including (apparently) some radio isotope emissions. There were a few explosions, but of hydrogen liberated by thermal reaction – that is chemical explosions (not a “hydrogen bomb” as in an explosive fusion reaction). When Chernobyl’s reactor 4 blew up, the core blew open and the 2,000 ton upper plate launched 30 meters in the air, through the roof of the containment building, to crash down 90 degrees rotated into the core base. Without coolant, the core itself vaporized (kind of a fizzle yield bomb, about 3 tons of TNT) which blew almost all of the fuel into the air to disperse over the countryside, mostly into Belarus.

We measured radiation levels on the site as we went:

  • 0.14 µSv/h in Kiev (granite buildings).
  • 0.10 µSv/h at the 30km exclusion zone
  • 0.10 µSv/h at the 10km exclusion zone
  • 0.66 µSv/h at the south fence line of the reactor
  • 3.41 µSv/h at the monument in front of the west wall of the containment
  • 7.04 µSv/h in some dirt at the abandoned amusement park
  • 16.07 µSv/h in the car driving over the plume – that was the only place where it seemed as trees hadn’t returned immediately.

According to XKCD, a NY-LA flight = 5 hrs = 40µSV = 8µSv/h.

Thank you Luca, for the picture

Working at the visitors center, right next to the destroyed reactor, results in an exposure rate less than half that a flight attendant gets. Not that it would be smart to dig around (the contaminated dust from the explosion is estimated to be buried about 10cm by now), nor would I suggest eating the local produce, but walking around one needs only minor precautions such as long pants and closed shoes as beta emissions are highest at ground level and are significantly absorbed by the air before getting to head level. The ground we walked on had been cleaned, radioactivity levels were higher in the woods and other areas that hadn’t been scrubbed and stripped, but by now are no longer particularly dangerous.

25 years after the explosion there is a lot of activity on the site and on a nice summer day, we were told, 1,000 tourists might visit. We were one of three small groups when we were there, a bit early in the season, and at 8, the largest.

The site itself has become very beautiful, pretty woods with lots of birds and apparently moose and other large animals roaming around more or less happily free of people. The degree to which the surrounding forest has overtaken the abandoned town of Pripyat is quite amazing and shows the transience of human construction. Like every tour group, we visited the iconic school and amusement park, which are particularly poignant.

On the way out, we had to pass through a tourniquet (or turnstile in alternate translation) with radiation detectors. We were told that if we were contaminated we would have to try to clean up to get a passing score and anything that couldn’t pass had to remain. Nobody set off any alarms.

Lots of pictures below:
Posted at 23:39:46 GMT-0700

Category: photoPlacesTechnologyTravel


Friday, June 17, 2011 

Carolyn and I visited Chernobyl with the Singularity University reunion in Kiev.  Tours will take your right up to the containment structure covering the destroyed reactor.
This is the reactor containment building.  There are places inside that are still very radioactive, but the grounds are not.   They have been generally decontaminated and over the 25 years since the explosion, the topsoil has increased 10cm or so, so most of the radioisotopes are buried and surface radiation is low.
Construction is happening now on the new containment structure, a gigantic concrete shell that will be constructed just west of the containment building and will be moved over the entire building shown here and is designed to protect the site for the next 100 years.

Part of the tour took us to a school in Pryp’yat that was abandoned the day after the accident.  There are some iconic pictures that all visitors take and which I also took and will share later (including the famous Ferris wheel), but a room with a sea of gas masks was striking and I hadn’t seen it before.
Posted at 22:28:26 GMT-0700

Category: photoPlacesTravel


Monday, June 13, 2011 

Or effective comarketing.

The ice cream is $5/gallon and the Diabetes is FREE!
Posted at 15:53:41 GMT-0700

Category: FunnyGeopostphoto

How the “cloud” REALLY works

Tuesday, June 7, 2011 

Remember: everything you post to the cloud is ephemeral and public, no matter what the vendor promises.

Only use the cloud in cases where it does not matter if the data is there tomorrow or not or never again, and data you’d be willing to publish on a tumblr page.  If the data is sensitive or the remote record is important, do not trust 3rd party services.  Don’t be stupid.

Posted at 08:02:34 GMT-0700

Category: Funny

TLS 1.0 Hatin’ the Game

Wednesday, June 1, 2011 

After much reading and interpreting, it became clear there was no more advice for configuration variations to get client cert login working. It seemed Chrome was doing it right, IE not even trying, and Firefox failing. No advice as to why and setting LogLevel to debug didn’t add much in the way of useful hints.


Jared Davenport, for reasons that would never have occurred to me, tried turning off TLS 1.0 in firefox as an allowed protocol. PCI compliance requires turning off a bunch of weaker/compromised protocols and ciphers anyway, so I already had:

SSLProtocol -ALL +SSLv3 +TLSv1

A quick test of

SSLProtocol -ALL +SSLv3

solved the problem with firefox. IE still refuses to talk to SSL, but IE is a stupidhead anyway. OK, it annoys me as the same client cert works on CACert.org’s site so something there is working right that isn’t on my box, but as I never use IE, I think I can let it go

Posted at 01:21:25 GMT-0700

Category: FreeBSDLinux