Posted in General on April 22nd, 2012 by josh

Getting Lasik on Wednesday! Scared and excited. They’ve cashed the check, so it’s definitely on now.

Protecting yourself from the U.S.A. – Also, random updates

Posted in General on January 22nd, 2012 by josh

I find myself more and more freaked out by how totalitarian the US Government and various agencies below it is becoming. The word ‘Terrorist’ is being used as a catch-all definition to justify actions and place blame.
Our country is falling apart very fast – Some examples:

  • The introduction of SOPA and PIPA and their subsequent shelving after the internet blackout on Jan 18, 2012 – and then that was followed with a US Gov takedown of Megaupload one day later.
  • NYPD and Pentagon to place mobile scanners on the streets on NYC
  • Drones cleared for domestic use across the US
  • Obama signing the National Defense Authorization Act on New Year’s Eve, which allows the US to detain Americans suspected of terrorism indefinitely without due process.
  • Our upcoming war with Iran
  • I can’t really do much about most of this. In fact, I can’t really do anything except make sure I have what I need. And what I need is my privacy and personal security. I don’t commit any crimes or engage in any ‘nefarious’ activities, but I don’t trust our government entities to care about me in any way. If a police officer wanted to detain me for any reason, say for jaywalking and he or she happens to be corrupt or just having a really bad day, they can basically say the word “terrorist” and I’m F’d.

    For that and other reasons, I have decided to increase my use of privacy enhancing tools and procedures to protect myself from any nonsense. I’m looking into removing most of my life from the google cloud (and actually, any cloud at all). My actual online social life is only to be a small piece of my real life. I don’t want to be data mined, profiled or predictable. I believe in protecting my data, my desires, my beliefs, my words and people I care about as well as organizations I work with.
    This may sound all sorts of paranoid, but I don’t think it is. It’s sensible these days.
    It’s important to keep your private info private so no one can use it against you or obtain it – that includes the bad people who might hack your stuff and it includes the good and bad people working under the bad USA laws.

    One of the definitions of terrorist these days, according to the Department of Homeland Security is someone who uses cash instead of credit cards for most purchases.
    With ridiculousness such as that, it’s best to go on the offensive with safeguarding your identity and sovereignty.

    Here’s a list of some of the things I’m doing:

  • Using cash more
  • Encrypting everything
  • Removing everything from gmail
  • Minimizing the things I own and limiting how much I purchase (this helps to simplify things)
  • Staying unpredictable with the times and ways I go places (I do this anyway just because I get bored)

    I don’t think anyone is actually out to get me. I’m just one of billions of people on the planet. However, we should do our best to protect ourselves.

    I have some ideas on helping others achieve the goal of doing what they may feel is right. I’m not a member of anonymous or affiliated with any protest groups. I still do work in the corporate world protecting corporate clients. However, my interests align with others at times and I want to find ways to give people more choices. So far, some ideas I’ve had are:

    A very small computer disguised as a tree branch or a rock or something that can be hidden somewhere.
    It’s weatherproof and uses solar power to recharge it’s batteries. As soon as it’s switched on, it attempts to crack any networks it finds. Once online, it makes itself known in some way and is then available as a proxy server for anyone behind censored networks.
    This project requires access to cheap and small hardware. Fortunately, I found this: The Rasberry PI. It looks like it may have potential.

    A distributed communication system for mobile devices.
    I imagine that it would normally work like twitter, posting updates to a central server. But there would be an additional mode where an entire database of all the posts are kept on any device running the software. When the connection to the server is disrupted, it seeks out other systems running the software within a certain radius (using wifi). When it finds another system using the software, the databases on both systems are synced up. That way, if there’s a large group of people who are protesting something and they need to communicate, they can regardless of network coverage or censorship.

    A way to auto-encrypt all existing email on a server – hopefully on gmail.
    This would encrypt all saved mail and any new mail that comes in. There would be a moment where the mail first arrives in gmail and it’s unencrypted, but still…this could be a fun programming project.

    How to really be untraceable when doing online activities
    I think a lot about the things that lead back to a person in online activities and how the breadcrumb can be stopped.


    Other things since my last update. I’ve done or am doing the following:

  • Left my job working at NASA and joined a company called Mandiant. I’m still doing network and computer security.
  • Went to Amsterdam, Berlin, Vienna and Salzburg over the holidays (Will be posting about this soon).
  • Have travelled so much in the last 4 months that I’ve been on 14 planes!
  • Shaved my head, still have the moustache and grew a beard (to keep my face warm while travelling).
  • Bought a cheap, 25 year old motorcycle, took the motorcycle safety course and got my license updated all in a 3 week period in September.
  • Learning German and re-learning French.
  • Learning Python
  • Mid-summer update

    Posted in General on July 18th, 2011 by josh

    Ok, I’ve been a bit too busy to remember to come in here and update. Here’s what I’ve got:

    Summer is here. Going to buy a motorcycle as soon as I can take the safety class and get a license. Went camping, been swimming, smoked a cigar, still riding my bike everywhere, leaving for NYC in a day for a visit and am bringing my bike, heading to Vegas shortly after that.
    Also, I’m hoping I can make the motorcycle and a trip to Europe work too.

    And a wonderful friend is in my life in a way unlike they ever were before and it’s wonderful.

    Summer is coming! Also, a new post to bayareabiker

    Posted in General on April 14th, 2011 by josh

    I CAN’T WAIT TILL SUMMER! I intend to camp more, be in the sun more, swim more, everything more! I’m going to visit NYC again, will be moving to either a cheaper place in Oakland further away from Berkeley or to a place in SF to make my commute easier.
    When Sept comes, I’ll be going to Europe where I intend to sleep mostly on trains. In fact, that’s where I plan to sleep off my drunkeness after a day of Oktoberfest.

    I have this other blog ( where I write about commuting and riding my bike in the bay area. It’s still new. Mainly, I write about how much I hate BART. I just posted a new thing, which I’ll also post here because I find it pretty funny:

    I’m usually in my own little cycling world when on the bike. I instinctively avoid getting doored or hit by cars or hitting really anything, but I also sort of don’t pay attention. It’s like the part that’s paying attention is my subconscious while my conciousness gets to run amok and look at things like birds. I’ve actually thrown snail-watching (so I don’t run them over) into the subconscious part. Just barely missed a snail yesterday as a matter of fact. I became aware of the snail because the bike seemed to avoid it of its own accord and I was wondering what was going on.

    Anyway, this leads me to other areas of my commute – When I’m heading to the east bay and waiting for the Amtrak train to arrive, I am still in my own world thinking things and whatnot. Actually, I’m pretty much always like that. I often don’t notice people I know who are right next to me. What pulls me out of my world is things that are out of the ordinary or beyond what I expect, such as the snail that was in my path.

    Lately, I’ve been consciously noticing my fellow bike commuters as we get onto the train and what I’ve noticed is that it’s rare to find one who is just a quiet commuter who just wants to be left alone. Some of the regulars really stand out. They seem to be that Berkeley political weird activist type who makes a fuss about certain odd things. The facial hair and/or head hair is scraggly and weird, the stickers on the bikes are looking for arguments and the bike person is looking for camaraderie in their issues with cars, the weather, politics, money or who knows what with their fellow bike enthusiasts.

    Two guys stood out two days ago. One of whom I’ve seen a few times. I got onto a particularly bike crowded car.
    One guy – this older gentleman with a clean shaven head and what looked like an expensive and new minimalist bike that would easily be owned by maybe a 25 year old was leaning his bike against the wall since all the bike storage was gone. I asked him, “Where are you headed” so we could put our bikes together in the correct order for our stops.
    He suddenly said, “No you’re not”. I replied with, “Not what”.
    “You’re just not”.
    “Not what?”, I repeated. Then he moved his bike elsewhere and said I could take the spot. I decided to move and avoid because I’m just trying to commute and he said my bike could be in this spot next to his where it wouldn’t touch his bike. However, it would have taken up a handicapped seat. I told him it was ok, I’m going over here (as I point to somewhere else while waiting for all the other bike people to move out of the way). At this point, I don’t want the first spot he gave up or the new spot. He was determined though and grabbed my bike and secured it with the arm chair in the handicapped spot. I told him I didn’t want to block that seat, but he said, “See, this is perfect”.
    It was pretty annoying, but I’d already been pulled into his stubbornness enough and didn’t press it. I just turned around, sat down quickly and didn’t engage any more. When the ride was over and I got up to get my bike for my coming stop, he asked me if the bike was a certain brand.
    Now I know that feeling…the feeling of saying something friendly to break down the previous tension and show that we’re all in this together…
    I responded in a friendly and professional manner that it’s a bianchi.
    I’m actually not angry, just annoyed that I got a little too close to the bike fringe mentality for my own comfort. To put things to rest though, the guy seemed nice. I’d talk about bikes with him if the opportunity came up again as long as the weird doesn’t come out. What may have happened is he probably got that bike recently and was getting worked up while playing out a scene in his head during some of his recent rides about people trying to touch the bike. I do that kind of thing all the time with all sorts of scenarios. When the scenario happens, I have skipped the necessary stuff and get right to the reaction, making myself look kind of ridiculous. This is one of those things that we all do from time to time.

    The other guy, with the whispy and weird shoulder-length hair and recumbant style bike beard said this with an awkward laugh as we got on the train that day, “Priority should be given to anyone who had to ride in the rain!”. This was said while seeking eye contact from the others. Someone else asked, “How can you tell?”. “By the rust on the chain.”, he replied. I wanted to chime in and say, “I rode all winter every day, but I took care of my chain so there’s no rust on it”, but again, that would bring me into his annoying ‘I’m an outsider and so are you and we are together in this fight’ conversation and mentality. I just sat down.

    Both of these interactions happened at the same time.

    I’ve noticed that people on Caltrain are a little less fringe-oriented. There are a lot more people who just want to do their commute like a minimal security prison sentence instead of like a movement of bike empowerment. Maybe it’s an east bay thing (Amtrak goes up the east bay while Caltrain is on the West).

    The dangerous thing here is that I could be seen as a member of this fringe. I am political about bike riding, I have stickers on my bike (although they all say NASA), I have a weird old fashioned moustache, etc etc… However, as long as I keep my opinions to myself and don’t try to seek validation for my beliefs from those who I think will support my cause, maybe it’ll be ok….maybe.


    Posted in General on March 21st, 2011 by josh

    Had a really hard work week last week, but it was sprinkled with a visit that involved dinners, hot tubs and fanciness.
    The weekend was really great. I stayed in pajamas almost the entire time, watching prison break and doing things around the house.
    Also, on Sunday, I started the ‘Insanity workout program’ and almost threw up, but it was a good almost throw up kind of situation. I did the second day today and it was literally insane. My muscles are sore, but it’s good. I’ll be doing this for the next 8 weeks, 6 days a week.

    Can’t close down or open up

    Posted in General on February 27th, 2011 by josh

    Over the past two or three years, I learned that when I close down to others, they go away.
    Off and on, but especially recently, I learned that when I open up to others, they also go away.
    If I stop opening myself up to people, I won’t get hurt, but I also won’t love anyone. Why are people like this?

    No car, lots of biking, birthday things, moustache

    Posted in General on January 27th, 2011 by josh

    Wow. It’s been a long time since posting.

    First: No more car:
    In Sept, I was driving down 880 to work when my transmission went out. I had the car towed to a shop near work and headed into the office. The mechanic later called me to explain that it was the transmission and would cost $3000. I still had to do about $1300 of other work above that.
    Originally, I paid $5000 for it, but as of Sept, it’s worth $2500. I signed it over to the shop to be junked. Totally sucked at the time, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.

    Since then, I’ve been biking and occasionally renting a car from zipcar when needed. For work, I either take Amtrak or bart and caltrain and then ride the rest of the way and end up riding about 15 miles a day. So far, the cold and wet of winter has been somewhat enjoyable as long as I’m wearing my wool and raingear.
    I didn’t really have any fat to lose, but whatever I did have is gone. I thought my legs would get huge, but they’re actually more fit looking. I still do Bikram yoga as much as possible. It really helps stretch out the kinks and keep my body and mind balanced.

    Birthday things
    My 36th birthday is upon me in a little over a week. I’m heading to NYC to visit a dear friend who just moved there. It’s about 20 – 30 degrees colder there, so that should be fun. I don’t even know what to wear, but I seriously can’t wait.

    Finally, I have decided to stop fantasizing about growing an amazing moustache and have begun growing it. It’s been about 2.5 or maybe 3 weeks since shaving it. It definitely looks like a moustache. I’ve been told I look like a bad cop. Eventually, I’ll have the little bits that curl and then it will be officially awesome.
    I wore a fake moustache on top of it last weekend at the Edwardian Ball. My real moustache is going to be modelled off it. Here’s a picture with my friend Jen:

    I finally get time travel (in theory)!

    Posted in General on November 4th, 2010 by josh

    I was reading an article called ‘10 Strange Things About the Universe‘ and came across the next two paragraphs. The part that’s bold and italic actually finally made me understand how time travel would theoretically work. It’s interesting though as a thought experiment to imagine how fast you’d have to travel if you wanted to go back to any amount of time further than a few nanoseconds.

    Here’s the excerpt:

    The relativity of simultaneity is the idea that whether two events occur simultaneously or not is relative and depends on the observer. It is a strange consequence of the special theory of relativity, and applies to any events that happen that are separated by some distance. For example, if a firework is let off on Mars and another on Venus, one observer traveling through space one way might say they happen at the same time (compensating for the time light takes to reach them), while another observer traveling another way might say the one on Mars went off first, and yet another might say the one on Venus went off first. It is caused by the way different viewpoints become distorted compared to each other in special relativity. And because they are all relative, no observer can be said to have the correct viewpoint.

    This can lead to very unusual scenarios, such as an observer witnessing effect before cause (for example, seeing a bomb go off, then later seeing someone light the fuse). However, once the observer sees the effect, they cannot interact with the cause without traveling faster than the speed of light, which was one of the first reasons faster-than-light travel was believed to be forbidden, because it is akin to time travel, and a universe where you can interact with the cause after the effect makes no sense.

    Small tent-wet-wonderful day

    Posted in General on September 21st, 2010 by josh

    I bought an awesome tent while travelling recently. It’s a one man camouflaged tent.
    Recently, I camped near the coast with it for the first time.
    It’s pretty much like what I imagine sleeping in a coffin to be like, except I loved it (I might love a coffin, but haven’t tried).
    The bad news is: it rained all night. All my clothes were soaked, as was my sleeping bag and I slept for about 6 hours in a puddle. I remember in a haze waking up throughout the night thinking that I must not move in order to keep the water from getting me any more than it had and to keep the condensation that was still clinging to the tent from falling down on me. Getting out of the tent wasn’t an option as I was actually fairly comfortable as long as I didn’t move too much.
    The alarm on my phone was set for 6 am so I could get home at a decent hour (and it was well protected in the pocket of my jeans, by my head). When it went off, I laid there for about 10 minutes trying to figure out if there was any way to get dressed without upsetting the water balance. Since the legs of my jeans were wet, it was going to be really hard to squeeze into them while in a sleeping bag without making everything horrible.
    I just said, “F it” and got out. I peeled off my shirt and was left standing in my underwear on the cold tarp with rain falling onto me. It was cold, but I was kind of enjoying it. I began to enjoy it more as I discovered my emergency backpack (for things such as earthquakes, which I also bring along while camping) had kept my long wool underwear dry. I also found some thick wool socks that I didn’t realized I’d brought along. Once those things were on, the jeans went on fine. I discovered a dry hoodie in my car (The one I had worn the night before was soaking wet too), and that further increased my morale. The sun started coming up, but it was more like a gentle lighting of the sky than the usual piercing rays of color because of the rain and fog of the northern coast.
    I haphazardly took everything out of the tent and broke the tent down without folding anything up and threw it all into my trunk. Then I started driving towards Ukiah. The drive was beautiful and became more so as I drove through the redwoods. They brought the words, ‘Natures Cathedral’ to mind as I occasionally stopped to take pictures and try to smell the air. I was really hungry and found the rest of a breakfast burrito that I’d left in the trunk the day before. It was absolutely delicious. My feet were warming up and the socks were drying (the wool socks got a little damp). Finally, I made it to Ukiah just before 9 am. I went to Bikram yoga in Ukiah and had a fantastic class. The temperature was perfect and the instructor was great. It was nice to get warm, move around and then even nicer to take a shower afterwards.
    After the yoga, I ate a large breakfast. Then I paid a quick visit to my junior high school, high school and the house I grew up in. It was all very nostalgic. Finally, I drove back to the bay.
    It was a really nice day.


    Posted in General on July 21st, 2010 by josh

    I’m pretty sad about someone special moving away.
    Otherwise, things are good. I’m speaking at Defcon in a week and a half and going to join my brother on a bike tour from LA to Seattle. I’ll be joining in Oregon.