What's been on my mind lately? Read on...

I was pretty disappointed to hear President Obama’s speech today and also with the accompanying policy directive. I think it falls well short of what ought to be done, and I thought he played fast and loose with facts and was extremely patronizing. Here’s how the EFF scored the suggested reforms (3.5/12 ain’t so hot):

To be clear, Obama is not alone in bearing responsibility for these programs — Bush and Congress created this monstrosity in the first place, and many other officials have perpetuated them since. My disappointment stems more from the opportunity to do the right thing the president passed up today. Faced with evidence that these spying programs were horribly inefficient (dollar-wise), largely ineffective (no known terrorist attacks stopped by intelligence gathered under them), likely illegal, and publicly unpopular, he somehow chose to allow the worst of the programs to go on, and offered little in the way of a road map for implementing the reforms he did suggest.

I don’t hold out a lot of hope that Congress can pick up the rest of the pieces, unfortunately. There is some indication that judges like Richard Leon will bring some logic to bear, but I fear he’s an exception rather than the rule, in this case. Time will tell, and if anything, the call to write your representatives is only stronger now.

posted January 17, 2014 – 10:11 am

I’ve really been enjoying the 3D printer I put together earlier this year — it’s nice to be able to make a (small- to medium-sized, plastic) thing when I want to. Most recently, I made some drawer pulls for our nightstands at home.

A few more pictures are up here.

posted December 29, 2013 – 7:02 pm

I’m done with Facebook, for now.

The long and the short of it is that sometime in the last year, Facebook crossed over from being a useful tool I used to keep track of friends’ lives to a website where it took too much time and effort to find the content I really wanted to see, and a place where it was getting harder and harder to differentiate that content from ads and spam. Though few people pay anything for Facebook explicitly, all users pay implicitly, with their data and their eyeballs. For me, the cost/benefit ratio was no longer in my favor.

Having read a bit about the process of extricating one’s self (and one’s data) from their site, I wasn’t too surprised with how time-consuming it was; that’s no accident, I’m sure. But it’s largely done, and feels good. After a week or two, I will delete my account for good.

If you want to get in touch, you can always write me an email.

posted December 24, 2013 – 11:14 am

The White House released the report on the NSA from a Presidential Advisory Committee last week, supposedly earlier than expected, offering the American people a chance to “draw their own conclusions.” Here’s my open letter in response:

Dear President Obama:

You have lost my support, and the support of many I know, due to the way you’ve handled the unprecedented, unconstitutional and morally indefensible surveillance carried out by the NSA against citizens of the US and the world. Providing continued authorization of programs started by your predecessors was a mistake, and by obstructing public discourse and judicial oversight, you embarrass the United States and unnecessarily bring suspicion and condemnation from business, governments and people the world over. You are recklessly spending hundreds of billions of dollars and frittering away American credibility, debts that I do not want to be responsible for, yet ones that will fall to me as a taxpayer, citizen, and engineer. It’s time for a change.

So far, you and your administration have been unabashedly two-faced about these spying programs. You say you welcome public debate, yet you denied the existence of these programs for years, you allowed the Director of National Intelligence to lie before Congress about the actions of the NSA, and you filled your inquiry committee with biased intelligence insiders, to name just a few of your obstructionist tactics. You claim to defend the rights of whistle blowers, but your administration has prosecuted more of them than all other presidents’, combined, and you have charged the man who brought these unconstitutional actions of the government into the public light with treason. You argue that this data is vital to fighting terrorism, yet you cannot provide a single instance where it was necessary (as opposed to legal means of gathering information), and you continue to allow the data to be used for purposes other that fighting terrorism. That is conduct unbecoming of anyone, let alone a President.

Angela Merkel was not wrong to compare the snooping and data collection of the NSA to the Stasi. Not only is it unconstitutional (as the courts will no doubt find, in spite of your efforts to stand in the way of justice), it is un-American. We do not keep files on everyone. We do not record the whereabouts of our citizens, 24/7. We do not spy on protestors, just because they disagree. We do not hide sources of evidence used in prosecution. We do not have secret courts that rubber stamp requests for surveillance. We do not allow public officials to lie to Congress. We do not allow the government to meddle with technology standards to make it easier to snoop. We do not prosecute whistle blowers who alert the public to illegal behavior, especially when there are no other ways for the public to discover it. You should know all this, truly.

The longer you stall and fight the inevitable, the worse you look, and the more you alienate yourself from the American people. It is time for you to address this situation directly, without double-speak or deception. You have an opportunity on your return from the holidays to make things more right, to show some character, and uphold the principles you once claimed you stood for (the same ones you swore to uphold as President). Come clean, partner with citizens, businesses and lawmakers, and bring the intelligence programs into compliance with the Constitution, human rights standards, and common decency and common sense.

A while back, I posted a few actions you could take if you similarly feel that these spying programs are unacceptable. They are more than ever, actions worth taking, if you haven’t already.

  • Call or write your representatives today. Tell them you want real reform, that you want them to oppose Feinstein’s sham of a bill, and that you aren’t okay with what the NSA (and other agencies) are doing. It takes only a few minutes, and does make a big difference.
  • Join the ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. They are fighting for your civil liberties, and they need your support.
  • Talk to people you know, and get them to take some action as well.
posted December 23, 2013 – 6:37 am

Among many other things (getting settled in Somerville, selling my place in Seattle, etc.) keeping me busy, I’ve relaunched my project/company that I started work on last year, and as part of that effort, I built a 3d printer.

I’m a mechanical engineer, and as such, I’ve gotten to use/play with 3d printers for the past 12 years or so, and of course the idea and some of the technology is much older than that. But the past five years or so have brought significant changes to the industry, at both the consumer and commercial levels, and printers are happily becoming a lot more accessible than they used to be.

I chose to build a printer based on a delta robot configuration called the Mini Kossel. It’s not (yet) a kit, so putting it together entails sourcing a bunch of different parts from different suppliers on the Internet, making a few things on your own, and then a bunch of assembly and tuning — not something the average consumer wants to do. There are plenty of ready-to-go 3d printers on the market, and plenty of kits for those who want to save a little money, but I was happy to have a bit more of a project, and I’m enjoying the results (even though I’m not done tuning things).

I’m putting together a longer write-up of my experience and thoughts, but in the meantime, if you’re looking for info on this printer (or other delta printers), here’s the place to go.

posted November 21, 2013 – 7:02 am
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