The World Needs Visionaries

Jeff Bezos is stepping down as CEO of Amazon Monday. I met him briefly at an internal company conference (the Amazon Machine Learning conference) when I worked there 2016. Figure 1: Jeff Bezos I admire him. He’s created things. He built a company that’s changing the world. He had vision. He (and his in-laws) took risks. He provided leadership (see the The Amazon Leadership Principals) and he knew when to get out of the way.

Of Typewriters, Scribe, LaTeX, Org mode, Hugo and Paper

What is this and why was it written?

This is my personal history of putting words-on-page-or-screen-or-blog-entry covering the period from the late 1970s to present (2020-12-05).

It was written (partially) at the request of JTR from whom I borrowed a Hugo blog theme. Thanks JTR.

I was writing a post where I wanted to include the \(\TeX\) symbol in the post, which is perfectly possible in emacs org mode where \(\TeX\) and \(\LaTeX\) are first class citizens, but it wasn’t working.

The blog exports to markdown via the ox-hugo Org exporter back end (lost yet?) which Hugo then translates to HTML which can then be previewed locally with Hugo’s own web server and then pushed to the live site, in my case, this site using git push.

I pinged JTR who, it turns out had little experience with \(\LaTeX\) and so was not able to help. Along the way, he asked me

Is there more you can tell me about use case for it? In other words, can I get you to vent some more about this, it’s interesting.

.bashrc as literate programming

Knuth gets annoyed at his publishers, \(\TeX\) is born.

Back in the late 70s Donald Knuth who was (and still is) publishing a seminal series of Computer Science text books got annoyed at the typesetting, layouts and font choices he was being presented by publishers. So he did what any self-respecting hacker who happened to be Donald Knuth would do: he created his own typesetting system called \(\TeX\) which (along with \(\LaTeX\) which borrowed heavily from SCRIBE) is something of a standard to this day in academic publishing.

Because, you know, why is it unreasonable to expect publishers to render simple equations, right?

\begin{multline*} \vec{E}_{\mathrm{tot}}= q\cdot k_{b}\cdot \dfrac{r}{r^3} \left\lgroup \frac{\hat{r}-\left(\dfrac{d}{2\cdot r}\right)\hat{d}} {\biggl(1+\left(\dfrac{d}{2\cdot r}\right)^2- \left(\dfrac{d}{r}\right)\hat{r}\cdot\hat{d}\cdot\cos(\theta) \biggr)^{3/2}} \right. \\\
\left. {}- \frac{\hat{r}+\left(\dfrac{d}{2\cdot r}\right)\hat{d}} {\biggl(1+\left(\dfrac{d}{2\cdot r}\right)^2+ \left(\dfrac{d}{r}\right)\cdot\hat{r}\cdot\hat{d}\cdot\cos(\theta) \biggr)^{3/2}} \right\rgroup \end{multline*}

But wait, there’s more.

What a day for a daydream

“Ladies and Gentlemen, may I have your attention…” This piece began as some thoughts on “attention” and wound up as reflections on daydreams. I think I’m a fan of daydreaming. Attention Attention is a finite commodity. You only have so much attention to give in your life, in your day. Parents want your attention. Brothers and sisters and friends want your attention. Teachers want your attention. Employers want your attention.

All we are saying, is give init.el a chance

On this Armistice Day, 2020, commemorating the end of “The war to end all wars” 119 years ago, I reflect that if the whole world were busy fiddling with their emacs configs there would be no more war. Well… so the treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations did not work out as planned…so maybe we look for community in the small instead. There is community that has grown out of research labs in Boston (a city notable for its contribution to the birth of other well known communities).

Nixon's The One !!!

For those who remember the “All in the family” sitcom:

Mister, we could use a man like Richard Nixon again

Figure 1: “Richard Nixon” by History In An Hour is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Figure 1: “Richard Nixon” by History In An Hour is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Richard Nixon lost the 1960 election to John F. Kennedy in the closest (popular) election of the 20th century. There was a credible case to be made that voting irregularities in Chicago (read, the Richard Daley political machine) and Texas put Kennedy over the top (in the electoral college). And yet…

History: escape to the past or lessons for the present?

I’ve always liked history. And because the un-examined predilection is not worth having (γνῶθι σεαυτόν), I turn to Livy to understand it:

This I hold to be the chief value and reward of history, to have examples of all kinds set forth as an illustrious record, from which you may choose what is worthy of imitation in public and private life, and what is to be shunned as wrong in inception and ruinous in outcome

Livy, Preface to History of Rome.

Quoted from “Classics In Translation: Volume II, Latin Literature”, MacKendrick and Howe, 1982

So, history provides examples for present living. It provides a moral and practical purpose, helping to guide our interactions with others in the present, but also…

Joy in the sorrows of others?

“Why is it that man desires to be made sad, beholding miserable and tragic things which he himself would by no means wish to suffer? Yet he desires as a spectator to feel sorrow, and this sorrow is his pleasure…”

Was this guy watching too much news, political mudslinging or maybe just hanging out on Facebook?

Goodbye Twitter

1 of 2 Goodbye twitter. In 2016 Facebook got too political so I dropped it. Now, Twitter. You can reach me as gmj AT pobox DOT com. Please drop an email if you to stay in touch. I blog semi-regularly at 2 of 2 is a free, open source, ad-free, distributed twitter-like thing. No corporation algorithmically manipulates your timeline and AUPs are set by the community. I’m on the https://fosstodon.

Source Code Distribution From Printouts to Github

Source code distribution has changed over the years. Today we all love (hate?) git, github and friends, but, believe it or not there were ways to distribute source code even before the Internet. In fact, this was the world in which the GNU Public License was created. Below are a few of the ways I’ve gotten/transferred source code through the years, in something like chronological order

Figure 1: Code on the Europython 2009 bag” by Thomas Guest is licensed with CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit

Figure 1: Code on the Europython 2009 bag” by Thomas Guest is licensed with CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit

Post 30 of #100DaysToOffload

Privacy: The view from 1987 and Antiquity - or why I'm deleting Google,Facebook and Twitter

“A History of Private Life”

There is, I think, an urgent need to protect the essence of individuality from headlong technological progress. For unless we are careful, individual men and women may soon be reduced to little more than numbers in immense and terrifying data bank.

Georges Duby, Forward to A History of Private Life, 1987

I’m in the process of deleting Facebook, Twitter and Google from my life. I think Duby et al. were on to something a little ahead of their time.

Figure 1: A History of Private Life

Figure 1: A History of Private Life

Post 30 of #100DaysToOffload

Privacy: Motion activated cameras in the woods?

I recently went backpacking on the Appalachian Trail in Massachusetts. One of the reasons I go out is to “get away”, to go “off the grid”, to enjoy nature and get away from adds, trackers, social media, etc.

But a funny thing happened at my last campsite. There was a camera strapped to a tree taking my picture every time I put my food in or out of the “bear box”. The sign on the camera, in addition to asking us not disturb the camera (duct tape, anyone ?) assured us that they were only using the images to track bear activity at the campsite and the images would be destroyed after being used for their intended purpose. Right. They would not be fed to facial recognition software, and the results would not be passed to law enforcement. Right.

Figure 1: “Caméra de vidéo-surveillance” by zigazou76 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Figure 1: “Caméra de vidéo-surveillance” by zigazou76 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Privacy: what is it and why do we care? …

In this world where Big Internet firms track you to sell you stuff (and to sell YOU), big Government tracks you because, well, they can, and where I found myself on a motion activated camera when backpacking alone in the “backcountry” in an attempt to “get away from it all”, I’ve spend some time thinking about privacy. Life is short. I could spend a lot of time registering domain names, managing certificates, running my own mail server, de-googling, convincing my friends and family to use nifty new security and privacy apps, and generally fighting the privacy fight as an individual against entire well-funded industries and governments.

AT Hiking 2020: 1500 miles down, 700 to go

1500 miles down, 700 to go to finish section hiking the Appalachian Trail with 215 miles completed this year in 3 trips.

Of course, I have some of the hardest miles left: the Smokies, Mt. Washington, the Whites, the Presidentials, the Bigelows, but with persistence, luck, health, constant gear tweaks (and some HARD hiking) I should finish in a few years.

Figure 1: Miles to go before I sleep

Figure 1: Miles to go before I sleep

#100daystooffload #hiking

HOWTO: See SOME lines from a file

Sometimes you want to see the head of a file. Sometimes you want to see the tail. Sometimes you just want to see some lines from a file.

The bash function below gives you some lines:

gmj@ed bash [master] $ cat <<END > lines.txt
> 1
> 2
> 3
> 4
> 5
> 6
> 7
> 8
> 9
> 10
> 11
> 12
> 13
> 14
> 15
gmj@ed bash [master] $ source some.t
gmj@ed bash [master] $
gmj@ed bash [master] $ some -2 lines.txt
gmj@ed bash [master] $ some -2 lines.txt
gmj@ed bash [master] $ some -2 lines.txt
gmj@ed bash [master] $ cat

HOWTO: /bin/ed by example

Below I show an editing session that uses basic /bin/ed commands.

/bin/ed is the standard Unix Editor

ed was written round 1969. It’s still here. grep comes from /bin/ed: g/re/p works as an ed command to search globally for a regular expression and print the matching lines. ed commands will be familiar to users of sed, as sed is the “stream editor” with a very similar set of commands. ed commands will be familiar to vi users. If you type “:” in vi, you get, basically, an ed prompt. You can type ed commands (see below) and they work. “vi” is the “visual interface” to ed (or one of it’s successors). Though I am a die hard emacs user, often when I just want to do a quick edit or take some note I just fire up /bin/ed and go….

A sample /bin/ed session…

There's a lot to be said for climbing mountains

Vulgate (Latin): Matthew Chapter 5

1 Videns autem Jesus turbas, ascendit in montem...

or, roughly (my translation):

Jesus, however, seeing the crowd/mob/political disturbance went up on
the mountain...

The word “turba” per my paper dictionary tends towards a crowd that is politically disturbed. It can also mean an eddy (water) or a child’s spinning top. Per it means…

Latin Flash Cards in the 21st century (2773 AUC)

Latin flash cards are not what they were in 1983: It’s got a thing where you can pop in a sentence (say, one form Cicro or random #Latin conversations on twitter (yes, they exist)), and you can click on the words (yellow above), it shows you all the possible words that particular inflected word might be and then offers to build flash cards for you…complete with citations/examples from the literature….

The History Of Rome - nihil novi

I’ve been listening to “The History of Rome” podcast recently. There is nothing new under the sun: Plagues (er, “pandemics”), riots, xenophobia, wars, greed, ambition, and political factions.

It’s filling in a lot of gaps and details for me. I would recommend if you’re interested in history. Today’s basic problems are not new.

Figure 1: Life-Size Lego Roman Soldier, Lego Store, Rome, 2019

Figure 1: Life-Size Lego Roman Soldier, Lego Store, Rome, 2019

Post 22 #100DaysToOffload


The opinions expressed in this [FOO] are mine, and not those of my employer. In fact, they may not even be mine. I may have changed my mind. I may have grown beyond a particular opinion. I may be trolling you. I may be engaging in Socratic dialog to tear down your beliefs. I may be tearing down my own beliefs. γνῶθι σεαυτόν!

40 years of walled gardens & open platforms: Part I

This the first in a series of articles where I do a brain dump pf something like 40 years experience with “social media” of various forms: Dial-up BBSs, Fidonet, Usenet, IRC, CompuServe, AOL, Slashdot, Sourceforge, blogspot, Facebook, Jabber, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn, Mastadon “…we didn’t start the fire (flame-war?)…” OK, maybe we did.

I hope this is useful, or at least interesting. It may wind up just being a mix of introspection, hubris or narcissism, it may be part of working up the nerve to quit Twitter as I quit Facebook in 2016, maybe I’ll even work up the nerve to go cold turkey as tychi is doing.

Figure 1: RS-232 pin-outs

Figure 1: RS-232 pin-outs

Post 20 of #100DaysToOffload

Publishing a blog on Github with Org and Hugo

If you ever thought to yourself, “Gee, Emacs Org mode is a great outlining and authoring tool, and I wish there were a powerful and simple way use it to publish static websites on github or in S3 buckets, I wish my blog could look as slick ast” your’re in luck, All but the simple part. Here are some of the references I used.

Post 19 of #100DaysToOffload

Plato's Cave: a plea for good leadership

You learn things when you read original sources for yourself.

I recently picked up a copy of Plato’s allegory of “The Cave”. I had known some of the highlights of the story before, the shadows on the wall, prisoners thinking that the shadows were reality, since that’s all they ever knew, of one prisoner being taken out to see the sun and seeing the true light, coming back down and trying to, literally, enlighten his fellows, and being thought crazy.

Figure 1: Shadows on the wall

Figure 1: Shadows on the wall

The science is settled? Who says so?

I recently picked up reader of samples of important ancient texts that I’ve had for a LONG time and read excerpts from Socrates Apology. Short version: Oracle of Delphi “Socrates is the wisest man” Socrates Nice hypothesis, Apollo, you may be a god, but let’s test it…. Socrates Seeks out “The Wise” of his day, Politicians, Poets, Artisans … questions them … has them all expose themselves as blithering idiots.

Adding uncertainty in uncertain times

So, when life turns uncertain you have two choices. Cling to things that seem to add stability and certainty, i.e. try to “stay safe”, or embrace the uncertainty, live now, carpe diem, and do things would seem to be fulfilling now. I’m choosing the latter. At 58, in the middle of a pandemic and social unrest, I’m moving to a startup. The following are notes from a friend who has been playing the silicon valley startup game for a few decades.

#100DaysToOffload stalled, but that's OK

So my attempt at “just blogging something” for 100 straight days as part of #100DaysToOffload has stalled, but that’s OK.

I have a home painting project going that keeps expanding in scope every time I look at it. I’ve gone on a couple weekend backpacking/canoeing trips, and (biggest time sync of all), I’m in the middle of a job change. That sucks down time and energy. Oh yeah, and the country/world is in a little turmoil right now (COVID-19 and protests) which is, to say the least, distracting, disorienting, disturbing, destructive and otherwise detrimental to a simple goal of blogging every day.

Figure 1: The ever-exapanding painting project

Figure 1: The ever-exapanding painting project

Cincinnati Reds Opening Day 2020

Opening day [of baseball] in Cincinnati has always been a time of hope and optimism, a time to look forward to, a time to enjoy being with family and friends, a time to enjoy looking at the forsythia and daffodils heralding spring, to walk across the Ohio River on the Roebling bridge, to take in the annual Findlay Market Parade, and to hear the umpire (or Marty and Joe on the radio) say “Play Ball.” I am declaring today my personal “Opening Day 2020”

Figure 1: In Yankee Stadium

Figure 1: In Yankee Stadium

Thoughts on the OODA loop and falling out of a canoe

In my never ending quest for synthesis, this post combines thoughts on the OODA loop and falling out of a canoe twice this weekend in rapids on the Shenandoah river. There is a connection. Maybe.

If you want to see the full trip report, pictures, etc. go here Things that fall in the river get wet. If you’re interested in how this relates to the OODA loop or, better, if you have experience/thoughts on applying the OODA loop to operational cybersecurity settings, read on (and comment !)

Figure 1: On the river during calm between crisis events

Figure 1: On the river during calm between crisis events

More Thoughts on More Stuff

Figure 1: Things on our mantle What is this and who is it for? This is written primarily as a personal reflection to my cousin about us both winding up with tons of family “stuff”. Secondarily it is intended for a family newsletter. Tertiarily, for my sons to document snippets of family history, and lastly (quarternarily ?) it is written as an “open letter”. To John John, you and I both have a lot of “family stuff”, for different reasons I think.

Tuscarora Trek

May 15-17, 2020 Son Bryan (“Music Man”), Jason Boyle (“Alaska”) and I (“Curious George”) hiked 30 miles on the Tuscarora trail.

The picture below shows Bryan standing on Eagles Rock with the first 11 miles of the hike on the ridge behind him.

Figure 1: Bryan at Eagles Rock

Figure 1: Bryan at Eagles Rock

My Computer ?

The windows desktop has (had? I don’t pay attention) icons labeled “My Computer”. I always thought that was odd, or at least very often out of context as many (most?) instances of Windows ran on machines at people’s jobs. They didn’t own the computer. It was not “My Computer”. Similarly, Apple has a long history of asserting they know what’s best for other people and their computers. The last time I had to go to “The Apple Store” all I wanted was a power cable.

9 days of #100DaysToOffload

Experiences after 9 days of blogging

About 3 weeks ago I decided to start blogging. For various still ill-defined reasons, some of which I explored in a blog post contemplating the fate of writing and writers great and small. But it’s still somewhat mushy.

I spent some time coming up the curve on the Hugo framework for building static web sites and the emacs org mode counterpart ox-hugo which let me put up my Curious Musings blog.

The a few days after that on Fosstodon (open source distributed social media) I came across the challenge which, basically encourages you to “just write”. Good timing. Here it is.

Life imitates…

And to get away from it all tonight we played (well, continued) a game of Civilization: Famine, Strife, Civil War, Flood, Earthquakes, Volcanoes, but strangely no epidemic (yet).

Figure 1: Civilization

Figure 1: Civilization

Awesome online singing from Denmark to Australia, and social distancing too!

There are some amazing online singing events happening now around the world: Denmark, Australia, Nashville, etc. I want to highlight a couple examples of that to add brightness to these dark times.

Human beings have an unquenchable desire to live in community. Singing has always been an expression of that. Modern technology has enabled it.

Figure 1: The Sacred Harp Quarantine Chorus

Figure 1: The Sacred Harp Quarantine Chorus

Day 07 of #100DaysToOffload.

Getting started in life is harder right now

Getting started in life is harder right now. I have two college age sons who both just finished up their year with online classes, and both are home now. In “normal” times they would be working summer jobs or participating in other activities that would help them advance toward their chosen careers. Jobs may or may not happen. Even getting out of the house may not happen much. These are weird times.

Vis tibi sit

On the occasion of the ancient Roman Festival Bella Stellaria, I wish you Vis tibi sit Lucas Skywalker magis de bella stellaria hic: et hic Day 05 of #100DaysToOffload.

HOWTO: Using Pi-hole DNS to block ads. The struggle continues…

This article is a work in progress. Updated: 2020-05-02. This is turning into a bit of a catch-up on the state of DNS for me.

Day 03 and 04 of #100DaysToOffload.


The war against ads continues. looks like a reasonable, good, new?, open source entry in the war against ads. Get ‘yer source/install for linux at

Per Paul Vixie

not even non-technical users need a “public DNS” to shield themselves from a lot of known-evil internet sites. check out @The_Pi_Hole or have your 12yo child or cousin install it.

..but I always make things harder.

Figure 1: pi-hole console after a few hours on my system

Figure 1: pi-hole console after a few hours on my system

Poetry in the trash

A few years ago, my mother went through the effects of her cousin after she died. It turns out Thelma Jane wrote poetry. Nobody knew. It wound up in the trash.

Thelma lived alone. Her husband had died in his 40s. They had no children. Her mother, my great-aunt Bess, lived to 102 and took her first motorcycle ride at 100. My mom had to go through Thelma’s stuff and Aunt Bess’ stuff, most of which Thelma still had. I now have some of the leftovers. But nobody wanted the poetry. So it’s gone.

This brings me to the question this article explores: why write?

#100daystooffload #whywrite #poetry

Digital chimney smoke?

Daniel Boone is quoted (via Hubert Humphrey) as saying

when he could see the smoke from another chimney, felt himself too crowded and moved further out into the wilderness.

Mark Twain said

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.

All is not doom and gloom: go for a walk !!!

I find that when I stay glued to twitter (pick your social-media-of-doom-amplifier) I tend to get a rather gloomy view of life. There is indeed a lot one can be gloomy about these days. But if you just go for a walk and look around you may be surprised:

I found this art sidewalk art at just about the exact place where last fall I had purchased a cup of lemonade from 4 eager young entrepreneurs. I suspect the ring leader of that optimistic young bunch.

Figure 1: Sidewalk art

Figure 1: Sidewalk art

Fixing GNU bash associative array insert speed

Bash uses linear search to insert values in to associative arrays. This is all well and good for small numbers of keys. I was adding millions1. I went poking around the bash source code today (2020-04-18) to confirm my suspicion and gauge the difficulty of adding an option to do something more sensible.

In less than a day after I reported it, there is a patch My timing code and pre and post patch timings are here:

Bear attacks, no-win situations and cybersecurity

I spend a good amount of time hiking in Shenandoah National Park and surrounding areas. I’ve seen quite a few #bears and I’ve followed one down the trail. I’ve been growled at by a mother bear when I unknowingly came between her and her cubs. This is going somewhere related to #cybersecurity. I promise. You can’t outrun a bear. Climbing a tree won’t help. If a bear actually decides to attack you, the odds are not in your favor, but fortunately they almost never attack.

"​I'm passionate about…"​

“I’m passionate about…” I’ve always hated that phrase. Because I thought it was fake. I thought it was trendy. I’ve reflexively reacted against trendy things for decades. Pet Rocks, Disco, TED talks, cryptocurrency… But I am coming to see what the phrase is getting at. And I think I like it. In a work world where human beings are called “resources”, where intelligent, creative, inquisitive, motivated people are subjected to management practices derived from 19th century steel mills and automotive assembly line production, the phrase “I’m passionate about…” is (can be) an attempt to re-assert humanity.

​Reproducible security analytics?

I’m looking for repositories of “reproducible security analytics”. As an addict of Emacs Org mode, one of the papers that got me started thinking along these lines was A Multi-Language Computing Environment for Literate Programming and Reproducible Research. I realize for most of the rest of the world this vision is now realized more in things like Jupyter and Zeppelin notebooks. Your loss :-) One thing that looks promising is mitre’s cyber analytics repository.