Francis’s news feed

This combines together some blogs which I like to read. It’s updated once a week.

December 09, 2017

How Internet Monopolies Are Destroying the Web by Ian Welsh

The actual enemy of entrenched interests is not the right, or “Russia” (a country with half the GDP of California), it is the left, who are the people who would tax them and break their power.

Thus, it is not surprising that when Google decided to attack “fake news” they hit the left.

The estimated declines in traffic generated by Google searches for news sites are striking:

I have noticed declines in my own search traffic, though I’m a bit player.

The left, in general, favors high tax rates and either very strict regulation of large corporations or breaking them up. Google, certainly, needs to be broken up, at the least back into its constituent parts (i.e., sever the search engine from everything else.)

But Google is a particularly bad actor: For years it has been evident to everyone in the space that they are hoovering up most of ad revenue. In the early 00s, until 2006/7 it was fairly easy for relatively small websites to make money from ads. That went away as Google cornered much of the market and it’s only gotten worse since then.

Google’s relationship to web sites is almost identical to railroads and farmers in the 19th and early 20th century: Without railroad shipping, farmer’s products couldn’t make it to market, so the railroads set rates that maximized their profit, driving many farms into bankruptcy and keeping most in penury. They took virtually all of the profit.

For smaller, and even mediums-sized web sites Google (and Facebook, to a lesser degree) are in the same position. They determine who gets traffic, especially to newer web sites without established audiences. Because without them you get little to nothing, they get the money.

That means, in effect, that Google and Facebook and other similar companies, exist by taking away the value of other people’s labor–value without which they would have no business or profits. The web’s content comes first; Google’s “finding” it comes second.

There is a lot of gloating in the tech world about how good they are with information, but the basic information problem has not been fixed. Finding what you want or need or what would suit you best is really hard when there are so many options, and no one has figured out how to do it.

This is, at least in part, a matter of incentives. It is in Google’s interest to match you to whatever site benefits Google most, not the site that benefits you most. Just as Amazon doesn’t show everyone the cheapest alternatives for their search (if you can pay more, why show you cheap?), Google wants to make money for Google, and serving you is only important to the extent it makes them money.

As Google has gotten older, it feels as if their results have gotten worse, because they are now in a monopoly situation in most Western countries. People use Google to search, there is no major alternative.

Unregulated monopolies are bad. Unregulated, bundled monopolies are worse (as in, Google and Facebook buying up other market dominant firms, like YouTube).

This problem, combined with the FCC getting rid of network neutrality, is going to destroy a ton of livelihoods (no, not such money as I get from donors; I’m grandfathered in). It has already made the net far less interesting. Every year more stuff is on the Web, yeah, but it’s more mainstream commercial stuff. The weird web of the 90s and early 00s withers.

And it withers because it is in the interest of almost every big actor, from Facebook to Google to the major ISPs, that it does so. They don’t all have identical interests, no, but they all want a Web where either everyone pays a toll, or you have to go to them to get a specific type of content.

The results of the work I do, like this article, are free, but food isn’t, so if you value my work, please DONATE or SUBSCRIBE.

On Franken’s Resignation by Ian Welsh

Al Franken

So, he’s gone, under rather a lot of pressure. He appears to have done bad things he should not have done, though as such accusations go they do not rise to the level of Moore or Trump or Conyers, let alone Weinstein.

I suppose this is a good thing. He did wrong, he is gone.

I’ll never entirely understand my fellow humans’ ethical and moral priorities though. This is apparently a terrible crime that requires him to bugger off immediately, but voting for the Iraq war or the Patriot Act or many other things that are far worse isn’t.

Yeah, he didn’t sexually molest as part of his job, I guess, and Senators who voted for Iraq voted for far more deaths and rapes in the pursuit of their duties or something.

I just don’t know. Franken did some bad stuff.

I just wish we had more red lines, and they included finding supporting aggressive war like Iraq (or Libya) completely unacceptable.

Perhaps we’ll get from “You shouldn’t kiss women who don’t want to be kissed” to “You shouldn’t vote for aggressive wars that will get far more women raped and killed.”


The results of the work I do, like this article, are free, but food isn’t, so if you value my work, please DONATE or SUBSCRIBE.

How to Give Money (and Get Happiness) More Easily by Mr. Money Mustache


If you have more money than you need, you should start giving some of it away.  That’s the lesson I learned about a year ago, when I took a gamble and donated $100,000 to a variety of charities, centered around the Effective Altruism movement.

More on Effective Altruism: The Life You Can Save website, and my earlier article on the subject.

At the time, I had no experience with giving to anyone other than immediate family and friends, so I didn’t know how I would feel about it. But over the course of this past year, I have had many late nights to reflect on life and what it means to live one that feels worthwhile. There have been successes and failures, mostly happy times but also plenty of sadness shared with my siblings as our Dad made his departure.

During all this questioning of life, I kept thinking back to the times I’ve been less selfish and less fearful, and more willing to help other people. These were the things that reassured me that my life was indeed a good one, and that I wasn’t squandering the opportunity too badly so far. In short, being a good person was by far the most reliable source of happiness.

So. If hard work and generosity are what bring meaning to life, it makes sense to keep at it, even when it seems difficult. With this in mind, I vowed to make another round of donations of equal or greater size this year.

The Tricky Side of Philanthropy

While most people would assume that giving away money is easier than making it, when surveying wealthy people I have found the opposite is often true. After all, once you build a prosperous business or career, the income becomes almost automatic. You indulge in your natural and joyful tendency to work hard every day, and the money keeps flowing in, often faster with each passing year. There are no decisions to be made, and you know every dollar of net income is going somewhere worthwhile: to you.

But to give money away, you have to overcome a whole new set of challenges:

  • Overcome your fear of having less money.
    After all, more is always better – you can always benefit from more security, right? (this is actually wrong, but it can be hard to recognize)
  • Figure out who is most deserving of your money.
    It took so much time to earn the money and overcome the fear of giving – the last thing you want is to see it go to waste.
  • Figure out how to get that money to the worthwhile recipient.
    You have to find their webpage, mail a check so the credit card company doesn’t steal 3% of your donation, and ask politely that they don’t put you on their mailing list and hound you for the rest of your life.
  • Sort out the tax consequences. In most cases, you can deduct charitable donations on the “itemized” part of your tax return, but until you hit the itemizing threshold of around $10,000 you might not get any benefit. On the other hand, certain charitable expenses are deductible directly from your business income, if you run a business.
  • “Too confusing already. Forget it, I’ll just keep my money.”
    And thus, you end up in the same trap that keeps many people from being generous.

Since I had already pushed through the pain last year, I knew I could handle it and repeat the same thing this year. Just write the same checks and mail them to the same places. Job done.

But then I noticed a few shortcuts that make things even easier:

  1. Betterment Investing just added a spectacular no-cost automatic donation feature. Using their existing tax-optimized system, they allow you to donate your most appreciated shares directly to any of their many connected charities. This gives you the maximum tax deduction right now, while reducing your taxes further when you later withdraw from your account later in life.
  2. Paypal has a similar feature: even from within the minimalist phone app, you can click a “donate” icon and transfer out surplus bits of your balance directly to a large selection of good charities. Paypal does its part by not taking any fee for these donations, no matter how large. You can use up existing paypal balances, or have them draw through your connected checking account  – I found this was a very smooth and easy way to try your hand at giving.

MMM Headquarters Becomes an Automatic Philanthropy Machine

MMM Headquarters shows off its holiday style, just last night.

I noticed that PayPal feature because I happen to have a constant, growing surplus in my account these days, as a result of starting the MMM-HQ Coworking space right here in downtown Longmont.

The money side of this situation is pretty interesting:

  • We bought the property (which now hosts two businesses) for $225,000, which means my half cost me only $112,500.
  • Then I spent about $30,000 in materials and subcontractors to whip it into shape. (Plus about 700 hours of my own labor, which I happily donated)
  • We now have about 60 paying members at $50 per month each, for a total of $3000 per month or $36,000 per year.
  • But the coworking space is still kind of quiet during the days, so we can sign up a few more people and bring this annual number to $50,000.
  • Property taxes ($4k), Utilities and Beer ($1600), and ongoing upgrades ($10,000) only consume 30% of this budget, leaving a huge surplus, as long as I keep running it myself and don’t draw any salary.
  • Many people and companies have started donating supplies to us, in an unprompted show of generosity. Authors send us books, Nimbus Roasters keeps our coffee stocked, Urban Tribe sent a fancy electric cargo bike, Aerobis sent some cool strength training equipment all the way from Germany, Flatiron Spice Company brought in red and green chili spices, Lefthand gave us a discount on beer kegs, members are donating useful equipment like 3-D printers and weight training equipment from their homes, and the list goes on.So I figured, in the spirit of all this sharing, why don’t we make this building a philanthropy machine? Its ongoing profits can be donated to charities – both local and international – on a regular basis. Along with doing a lot of good, this will probably give all of us members a stronger sense of belonging.

What if I’m Not Ready to Give?

I’m writing this post to encourage people who have plenty, to consider giving it to help people (and parts of our natural environment) truly in need. If I can prompt you, wealthy person, to decide that giving to the world’s most effective charities, is even better than getting a slightly better car or leaving your children an extra-large estate, then this post might be the most effective one on this whole website.

But I do not want to make anyone feel guilty for not giving away money, when they don’t yet have a surplus. If you’re working hard and saving effectively for financial independence, abundance will come. If you’re not there yet, don’t stress out about it. There is no “tithing” in the imaginary religion of Mustachianism.

Details on Easy Giving

Some of the staff of Givewell in San Francisco office perform the “Mustachian Salute”

As part of writing this article, I made part of my $100,000 donation via Betterment’s new system. I have three accounts with the company (my public Betterment Experiment, a rolled-over IRA, plus a personal taxable account with the largest balance of the three). All three accounts have seen rapid appreciation due to the current boiling-hot stock market,  so there are lots of capital gains available to harvest.

Donating appreciated shares expands the power of your giving compared to just giving cash, which is quite a neat trick. This quick table from Betterment’s new Charitable Giving Explainer page lays it out very simply:

In this example, your donation nets about 19% more tax savings than a direct cash donation.

So I tried the same thing in real life. The largest of my donations this year ($70,000) was to GiveWell, through the Betterment system.  As I fired it up, Betterment automatically estimated my tax savings in real time:

This $70,000 donation will cut my 2017 tax bill by $22,841.. AND reduce my eventual capital gains taxes by $4188. This is the true power of donating appreciated shares.

As with last year’s donation, this biggest chunk went to charities based on the Effective Altruism philosophy. What this means in practice is, “Create the best results for humans possible, on a worldwide basis, with each dollar.”

I believe this is both the most humane and the most logical way to donate money, because of the following course of events which has been proven again and again:

Improve developing world health and education
-> these people have better lives immediately
-> but also the more empowered people also choose to have smaller families
-> world population growth slows and eventually reverses -> everybody wins.

So in this round of donations, here is where the money went. You can click each charity name to get to their own website for easier research.

Charity Amount Funding Source
Givewell $70,000.00 Betterment
World Wildlife Fund $10,000.00 Betterment
Doctors without Borders $10,000.00 PayPal (MMM-HQ)
Amazon Conservation Association $5,000.00 Website/C.Card
Natural Resource Defense Council $5,000.00 Website/C.Card
Bicycle Colorado $5,000.00 Website/C.Card
Total $105,000.00

Note: there are more ideas for places to donate in last year’s article. Also, as of the day of publishing the WWF donation had not yet been made since I’m waiting for some money to transfer. This sentence is to keep me accountable – I’ll erase this once I get that last task done.

Note on giving through GiveWell: I followed up with a note to directing that they use the contribution for “Grants to recommended charities at GiveWell’s discretion”.  This is a necessary step as it’s not yet shown in the Betterment interface.

Note on Donating Appreciated Shares: you don’t need a Betterment account to do this, it just makes it easier. Several other financial institutions make this possible, and Vanguard has a nifty “Donor Advised Fund” feature.

And don’t forget the possibility Donor Advised Fund: you can set aside a larger amount right now (while the tax rules remain favorable to charitable deductions) and give it away over time. See more details at Vanguard and the Physician on Fire’s article about this great strategy.

Got Questions?

Since this is an unusually important topic, I will try to invest extra time into answering questions in the comments section. And if you’re an expert on any of these subjects – philanthropy, investing, tax policy, the developing world, medicine, or the environment, please feel free to do the same.

Thanks, world, for another prosperous year and here’s to the next one!

Regio Dissimilitudinis by Dominic Fox

Motherland is a good thing of its kind, the kind of thing it is being BBC comedy about how the social lives of a very specific subset of the white middle class are an ever-deepening hell of their own making. Its sustaining tropes are failures of the imagination: the failure to imagine a single mother with a Northern accent as anything other than an imperviously sardonic provider of comic relief, the failure to imagine a male caregiver as anything other than toe-curlingly immature and wet (what sort of man, indeed, would willingly spend time around small children?). I enjoy it (mainly for Diane Morgan) and resent it at the same time: for its wilful narrowness, its refusal to consider it even worthy of remark that its characters come from big houses and budgets*, or that the fundamental generator of incident and plot is their ceaselessly mutually reinforced anxiety over social standing. It may seem odd to complain of a British sitcom that its characters pour tireless energy into making each other miserable – no Steptoe, no Hancock, etc, without this central dynamic – but Motherland’s claim to be “about” the frustrations and impasses of working motherhood is about as plausible as the claim that Fawlty Towers is about the challenges of running a small hotel.

  • oh yes

The Quest for a Stable Coin by Albert Wenger

One of the objections against crypto currencies has been their volatility. Bitcoin for instance just rose by about 60% over 2 days only to then fall by about 15% in a matter of hours. Steam just ended bitcoin support citing volatility. This has led a number of teams on the quest to create a so called stable coin: A coin that does not fluctuate in value.

Now that raises some immediate questions. First, an easy question, relative to what is a stable coin stable? Other crypto currencies? The US dollar? The cost of some kind of computer operation? Second, a much harder one, if a coin were to be stable, do supply and demand become meaningless? And is that a good or bad thing? And third, possibly the hardest of them all, how in the world does one create a stable coin?

Here are some potential answers. The most desirable peg for a stable coin would be some kind of purchasing power index. That is a lot easier said than done especially when it comes to computation where cost has been coming down fast (easier for say the Big Mac Index). In the absence of a PPI, the second best would be a global currency basket.

The question about the effects of supply and demand on price though is a tough one. Prematurely stabilizing a coin could destroy the entire incentive effect for building out capacity. Take filecoin as an example. If there is a lot of demand for decentralized storage, one wants the price of filecoin to rise so as to provide an incentive for more storage capacity to be added to the network. Stabilizing such an increase away would effectively be suppressing the entire price signal! I have explained previously that a better approach to keeping speculative (rather than usage based) demand at bay is to have built-in inflation. So a stable coin makes more sense in places where the coin is simply replacing an existing payment mechanism.

As for a mechanism for creating a stable coin. Many of the ones I have looked at propose some kind of buy back mechanism to withdraw coins should the price per coin fall. I happen to believe that none of these account for the ruin problem (meaning you run out of funds for buying back). Given that a new stable coin would start out tiny relative to the size of the financial markets as a whole these could all be attacked (and an attack would make sense if the coin can be shorted). Leaving aside whether this can be done on an existing blockchain or not, I believe that a potentially better mechanism would be to randomly select coins for deletion (for contracting supply) and similarly randomly select coins for duplication (for increasing supply). While this does have wealth effects for individual holders, those should be small, random, and linear with size of holdings, thus minimizing incentive effects.

I am looking forward to feedback on these answers. And here are to more questions for readers:

A. Do you think a stable coin is needed?

B. If yes, what’s your favorite stable coin project (and why)?

Uncertainty Wednesday: Suppressed Volatility by Albert Wenger

Last Uncertainty Wednesday provided a recap on our adventures with sample means and what those implied about the difficulties of inference. Now we will look at another equally fascinating complication: inferring volatility. As the title of this initial post gives away, we will see that it is easy to make large inference errors when we are dealing with situations in which volatility is somehow suppressed. It turns out such situations are all around us all the time. Let’s work our way into this one step at a time.

First of all, what is volatility? Here is a nice definition, courtesy of Wiktionary: “A quantification of the degree of uncertainty [about the future price of a commodity, share, or other financial product.]” I put the second half in brackets because while volatility is commonly used for financial assets, it could be about something else such as the level of employment in the economy. We have encountered several quantifications of the degree of uncertainty along the way, most notably entropy and variance.

What then might suppressed volatility be? Well if we are fragile, then increased volatility hurts us. So we tend to dislike volatility and look for ways of reducing it. Important aside: if we are “antifragile” then we benefit from increased volatility. The tricky part is that often the measures we take to reduce volatility wind up simply suppressing it. By that I mean it looks, for a while, as if volatility had been reduced but then it comes roaring back. The ways in which attempts to reduce volatility can backfire are among Nassim Taleb’s favorite topics.

The securitization of mortgages provides a great example of suppressed volatility. The basic idea is simple: throw a bunch of mortgages into a pool. Then carve the pool up into tranches of different volatility. Some with presumably very low volatility that looks like triple AAA rated bonds and others with high volatility like equity. It should be easy to infer from this description that total volatility has not been reduced it has just been parceled out.

So why am I calling this an example of suppressed volatility? Well, securitization of mortgages worked fantastically well for several decades. But as it did, people started to mistake the lower volatility of the bond tranches with lower volatility of real estate overall. And that meant more and more money started piling into real estate and as that happened banks got greedy. They underwrote more and more bad mortgage risks, making the pools increasingly risky. And yet for a while, because of securitization, it continued to look as if the the bond tranches had low volatility.

So what started out as a legitimate way of allocating volatility across different investors, turned into a case of massively increased and suppressed volatility that exploded in the 2007 financial crisis which has become known as the Great Recession.

Next Wednesday we will start to develop a simple model that lets us study suppressed volatility and see why it is so hard to detect. In general the take away will be that we should always be questioning anything that looks like a magical reduction in volatility. Most of the time it will be a case of suppressed volatility instead. In that regard the current super low volatility in financial markets, which has become known as the volatility paradox, should we worrisome for investors.

What Does it Mean to Be Human? by Albert Wenger

[This is a talk I was going to give at Slush but had to change my travel plans.]

A 12 minute talk should be plenty to address this simple question. Just kidding. This is one of the profound questions that humanity has grappled with for a long time. Here are three artistic takes throughout history. The first is a biological take on being human. This plate from ancient Greece shows centaurs who are half human and half horse. Mythology is full of human animal hybrids. The centaur myth is likely to have arisen in civilizations that were invaded by other cultures that had domesticated horses. Let’s fast forward to the industrial age and a mechanical take on being human. There is a great story from the mid 1800s by Edgar Allan Poe called “The Man That Was Used Up.” It is about a general who has a secret. Spoiler alert: he turns out to be mostly assembled of prosthetic parts which have to be put together every morning. And finally here is a recent take, a still from Star Trek The Next Generation. In this scene “7 of 9,″ a human who has been augmented to become part of the Borg explains why the Borg are superior to humans. But in the series humans defeat the Borg. So throughout history we have worried about being less than human through the metaphor of the time: biology, mechanics, computers.

Now this talk is part of the Human Augmentation track, so let’s take a look at augmentation, starting with the body. As it turns out, I have a small augmentation in the form of a dental implant. And that is a type of augmentation of the body that is very old. Here is a picture of dental implants from more than 1,000 years ago. Here is another very common type of human augmentation: glasses. Now you might say. Gee Albert, you don’t understand augmentation. Dental implants and glasses just give you back some functionality that you lost. But once you take that seemingly small step it is rapidly possible to expand on capabilities. For instance, instead of just vision, you can now have night vision. Now you might say: yes that augments your capabilities but it is not “augmentation” because the night vision glasses are external and not fused into the body. But that is a somewhat misleading distinction. Here is a picture of a defibrillator. It is an external way of restarting a human’s heart. And here is an x-ray image of a pace maker. Some pacemakers just keep the heart beating regularly, but others also act as a defibrillator. In both cases we have fundamentally augmented what is possible for a human. So: humans have augmented the body for a long time, we will continue to do so going forward and whether or not the augmentation is physically implanted is at best a secondary consideration.

Let’s shift to considering augmentation of the mind. This too is something humans have done for a very long time. The abacus, for example, was invented several thousand years ago to augment our ability to compute with large numbers. Here is a more recent augmentation: the ability to get to places without having to read and interpret a map. And of course more recently we have package that into our phones. Again you might say: but Albert, these are not augmentations because they are external to the body. Just as with the example of the defibrillator this seems like an artificial distinction. And furthermore many of us are so close to our phones that when we misplace it we feel like a part of us is missing. This morning on the way here I shared a cab with an entrepreneur who for a moment thought they had left their phone at the hotel and they were super agitated by that. If we are honest with ourselves, I think many of us feel the same way. So yes, if you want to be a stickler you might say that it’s only augmentation if it is directly connected to the mind Matrix style. And if that’s really what you are looking for, we are well on our way. Not just with companies such as Elon Musk’s Neuralink and Brian Johnson’s Kernel. But we are doing it today already with Cochlear implants. These have external signal processors that then connect directly to the acoustic nerve. So we are basically pretty close to a direct brain connection. Again though the key point is that we have been augmenting our minds for a long time and we still consider ourselves human.

So what then is critical to our humanity? It is not the shape of our body, nor the specific way in which our brain works. Those are not what makes humans human. What then is it? In my book World After Capital I argue that it is knowledge. In this world only we humans have knowledge, by which I mean externalized recordings such as books or music or art. I can read a book today or see a piece of art created by another human hundreds or even thousands of years ago and in a totally different part of the world. We share lots of things with other species, such as emotions, some form of speech and consciousness, whatever exactly that turn out to be. But knowledge is distinctly human. No other species has it.

Knowledge comes from the knowledge loop. We learn something, we use that to create something new and we share that with the world. That loop has been active for thousands of years. We each get to participate in this loop. And we get to do so freely. That turns out to be the crucial feature of what it means to be human: we reap the collective benefit of the knowledge loop but we participate in it freely as individuals. That is the big difference between us and the Borg. And that is also what we need to keep in mind when working on augmentation. We must be careful to assure that it increases, rather than limits, our freedom to participate in the knowledge loop.

And there is real risk here. Think about a brain link for example. It could give you much more direct access to the knowledge loop but it could also be used to prevent you from participating it. I recommend Ramez Naan’s Nexus, Crux, Apex series that deals with exactly this set of questions. Like all technology, human augmentation can be used for good and for bad. Let’s all try to work hard to use it for good.

An exoplanet-hunting space telescope turns and takes a photo of Earth by The Planetary Society

On December 10, Kepler—NASA’s prized exoplanet discovery telescope—will finally turn back and take a picture of the Earth.

The case for Venus by The Planetary Society

NASA is about to pick finalists for its next New Frontiers mission. Will Venus make the cut?

South Korea's first lunar mission planned for 2020 by The Planetary Society

South Korea's first mission to the Moon, the Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter KPLO, is now planned for launch in December 2020.

Celebrating Our Volunteers by The Planetary Society

December 5th is International Volunteer Day, and The Planetary Society has many reasons to celebrate...3,652, to be exact!

December 08, 2017

Christmas Links #8 by Feeling Listless

2017 Christmas Chocolate Collection:
[Editor's note: Annual appeal to buy selection boxes for homeless children in Liverpool. The link gives some explanation. You can donate here.]

Why I’m not going to any Christmas parties this year:
"There’s a warm, festive glow in the air right now. End-of-year bonuses lie just around the corner while bosses take their feet ever so slightly off the pedal. Shops have their Yuletide tunes on loop, and there’s chocolate literally everywhere."

12 Docs of Christmas:
"Everyone has their favorite Christmas movies, but rarely are they of the documentary kind. Maybe that’s because most nonfiction films involving the holiday and its iconography are downright depressing. There’s not much of a story in real people having a merry Christmas. So, the interest is in unfortunate circumstances, like foreclosure and death. But there are a few feel-good and at least matter-of-fact docs about the holiday."

The Depressing Reality of Nonfiction Christmas Movies:
"There is a good reason why documentaries set at Christmas are so depressing. Not all, but many nonfiction films focus on problems, issues, tragedies, and unfortunate situations and circumstances that would be bad enough on their own but are heightened in devastation when the holidays are involved." [alternative take]

Holiday decorations gone wild: Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer carcass?
"During the holidays you’re most likely to see cute Santa decorations or beautifully lit trees, but in the Bywater neighborhood in New Orleans there’s a home with something a little different."

Steven Moffat interviewed by Graham Kibble-White for TV Choice:
"It’s the end of an era. On Christmas Day, Peter Capaldi’s Doctor will regenerate into the character’s 13th incarnation, to be played by Jodie Whitaker. But he’s not the only person leaving the show. The story also marks the departure of showrunner Steven Moffat, who’s been in the role since 2009. TV Choice caught up with him to look ahead to the upcoming special, Twice Upon A Time, in which the Twelfth Doctor meets the First, and to look back at his time steering the Tardis..."

Gary Bainbridge explains why Die Hard is a Christmas film:
"A FEW years ago I wrote a column about the Christmas film Elf in which I explained in painstaking if compelling detail why I thought it wasn’t any good. That done, I gave it the inflammatory headline “Why You Are Wrong To Like The Film Elf”."

December 07, 2017

Christmas Links #7 by Feeling Listless

TIME Person of the Year: The Silence Breakers.
"Movie stars are supposedly nothing like you and me. They're svelte, glamorous, self-­possessed. They wear dresses we can't afford and live in houses we can only dream of. Yet it turns out that—in the most painful and personal ways—movie stars are more like you and me than we ever knew."

Finishing touches to Murillo:
"The practical treatment of Bartolomé Esteban Murillo’s altarpiece Virgin and Child in Glory (1673) finished in August, marking the end of a year-long major conservation project, which you can track in my previous blog posts." [editor's note: The painting is returning to The Walker Art Gallery after restoration.]

Bone fragment could 'belong to Santa':
"A fragment of bone said to belong to the fourth-century saint who inspired the story of Santa Claus could indeed be from the legend himself, scientists have said."

Hour Children Holiday 2017 Wish List:
"Hour Children’s mission is to help incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women and their children successfully rejoin the community, reunify with their families, and build healthy, independent, and secure lives. To accomplish this, Hour Children provides compassionate and comprehensive services and encourages all to live and interact with dignity and respect."

20 Christmas Truths That No One Denies:
"1) Multicolored lights are superior to white lights for tree decorating purpose."

What time is The Miniaturist on TV this Christmas?
"Romola Garai and Anya Taylor-Joy star in this unusual period drama, adapted from Jessie Burton's critically-acclaimed novel."

10 For Christmas:
"Bearing festive gifts from past genre shows, Mark Clapham ranks his favourite Christmas episodes, sensibly avoiding Doctor Who, which could have a top 10 of its own."

Majority of Christmas toy catalogues play to gender stereotypes, study finds:

"With the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) introducing new rules to crackdown on gender stereotypes in advertising and the likes of Unilever making bold changes to improve the way women are portrayed in its ads, the marketing industry has shown it is open to change. [...]
However, a new study from Let Toys Be Toys, shows this year’s Christmas catalogues are still a long way from avoiding gender stereotyping children."

10 great indie Christmas films:
"When it comes to Christmas time, much of our Yuletide viewing can tend towards overfamiliar and sentimental classics: It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), Holiday Inn (1942), White Christmas (1954) and the like. Even raucous comedies like Bad Santa (2003) can lose some of their edge through repeated viewing."

December 06, 2017

Christmas Links #6 by Feeling Listless

John Byrne painting features on first minister's Christmas card:
"A painting by artist and writer John Byrne will feature on the first minister's Christmas card this year."

The Great Expedition (1959):
"Two young children skip school to do their Christmas shopping on Oxford Street."

These Are Four Toys That "Grinch Bots" Ruined This Christmas:
"Cyber bots are buying up some of the most popular holiday toys and selling them on third party sites for hundreds to thousands of dollars, according to Senator Charles Schumer's office."

Giant baubles, Moz the Monster and brussels sprouts: retailers’ Christmas window displays:
"As the festive season gets into full swing, we take a look at retailers’ flagship stores in London to see how shop windows are being used to attract seasonal shoppers in the capital."

Cara Delevingne’s Perfect Christmas:
"Just before hosting her megawatt Burberry Christmas party, the supermodel and actress sat down with Vogue to talk about how to do the festive season Delevingne style."

December 05, 2017

Christmas Links #5 by Feeling Listless

How a Tweet About a Gay, Black Santa Turned Into a Children's Book:
"The plot of Santa’s Husband seems like it’s reverse-engineered from a homophobic racist’s nightmare. The story itself is the very innocent and sweet (and true, according to the book) tale of Santa and his husband and their life together, complimented by detailed and playful watercolor illustrations."

32 Things Guaranteed To Happen In The Office During Christmas:
"There's always one person in the office who is way too enthusiastic about Christmas far too early."

The Most Spectacular Designer Christmas Trees To See This Season:
"The holiday season is officially upon us, kicking into high gear as soon as the last of the Thanksgiving plates were cleared and shoppers bundled up to camp outside a Best Buy for $50 off a flatscreen. Though the Christmas carols have long begun creeping through the radio waves and holiday décor put out for sale as early as September, we believe that the festivities truly begin only once we've set out to pick out our Christmas trees."

Police: Squirrel blamed for vandalizing Christmas lights:
"It was a squirrel that nearly stole Christmas in a New Jersey town."

Cyrpus: Sophia Patsalides Gets Festive With "Here For Christmas"
"Junior Eurovision may be over for another year, but with Christmas right around the corner we’re staying wide-eyed and bushy-tailed."

Gwen Stefani's Christmas album: "Every year after you die you get to be revisited"
"Gwen tells Chris (Evens) about making her new album, You Make It Feel Like Christmas."

10 Best Christmas Hip-Hop Songs, Ranked:
"From the Temptations’ “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and Donny Hathaway’s “This Christmas” to John Coltrane’s “My Favorite Things” to Oscar Peterson’s “White Christmas,” black folks have contributed to the sonic landscape of the Christmas holiday in unforgettable fashion."

A childhood memory of 'nicest gift' prompts festive cheer:
"'Tis the season to be giving and just as we plan presents for loved ones, we also remember the gifts we've received and sometimes it's the smallest things which make the biggest memories of all."

Pasteles, a Puerto Rican Tradition, Have a Special Savor Now:
"After Hurricane Maria tore through Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, it took two weeks for Harry Franqui-Rivera to reach his 76-year-old mother, Amelia, by phone at her home on the island’s west coast. [...] When he did, Mr. Franqui-Rivera, a history professor at Bloomfield College in New Jersey, found that her main concern wasn’t the lack of electricity or running water. It was the loss of her Christmas pasteles."

Cake-Flavored Pepsi Coming To Japan:
"In Japan, Christmas is typically celebrated with a cake. Pepsi is celebrating it with a limited edition release called “Christmas Cola.”"

My childhood Christmas by Conchita Wurst, Carlos Acosta, Oti Mabuse and more:

"Forget turkey, crackers and carols. Oti Mabuse has a barbecue on the beach, Alma hits the sauna, Sofie Hagen hunts for a marzipan pig and Conchita Wurst hides from Krampus the horned monster."

December 04, 2017

Review 2017: A Statement. by Feeling Listless

About The short version is - there won't be a Review 2017 this year.

Here's the extended naval gazing.

Every Frame A Painting is a superb YouTube video essay series considering various aspects of filmmaking from a quasi-academic perspective. You might remember them from such works as Vancouver Never Plays Itself and Edgar Wright - How To Do Visual Comedy. Their last video The MARVEL Symphonic Universe was released over a year ago despite them having a very regular output until that point.

Yesterday they announced, to the surprise of only a few people, that they've stopped work on the series, putting out what amounts to the script for an imaginary installment in which they explain the pleasures of making the series and the trials, notably trying to make a series which is visually interesting whilst working within YouTube's restrictive copyright robots.

They explain that various freelance projects and other work has meant they simply don't have the time to conceive, edit, research or produce good work and so they've decided that actually they've produced an excellent body of work, that nothing lasts forever and nor should it and it's time to get on with their lives.  With over a million views for most videos, the channels passing hasn't gone unnoticed.

Which has inspired me to come clean about Review 2017, both to you and myself.  There will be no Review 2017.  For the first time since 2003, this blog will not have an end of year review, at least not the expansive, collaborative endeavour which I know some of you have looked forward to year on year.  None.  The Opinion Engine has finally run down.

It's for much the same reason as the EFAP people.  I haven't had the time to think of a theme, let alone begin the admin process of putting out invites for potential contributors or simply throwing something together myself.  I've been busy with work and more interested in relaxing in the spaces between, watching a few films, that sort of thing, than spending much more time in front of a computer.

I did try to do something with the 642 project, bringing in elements of this year into the pieces, but given that I'm also giving that stupid nonsense the push due to the increasing esoteric and non-PC suggestions (and general sense of it becoming a trial rather than a fun diversion), that wasn't going to work.  Plus half hearted.  A stop gap.  A hope that something will come good.  Nothing ever does under those circumstances.

A rerun of the 2016 positivity list was considered, but let's face it 2017 has been rough, the fire to last year's frying pan and even if 2018, fingers crossed, will be the corrective, many of us are just exhausted by the whole business.  Some nice things have happened (Hey Jodie!) but mainly its been a like trudging through British Home Stores half an hour before it closing forever still unable to find anything to buy.

Perhaps I'll knock together a listicle of cultural things I've liked in the week between Christmas and New Year, but since that will actually be about 2017 which has rarely been the point of these reviews, it'll be little more than a placeholder.  So enjoy the Christmas Links instead as my way of marking the closing of the year and we'll see what happens in 2018.

Christmas Links #4 by Feeling Listless

Have Yourself a Very '70s Christmas Dinner:
"Succulent golden turkey enveloped in aspic, the finest of brussels sprouts shaped in a mold, more of the finest brussels sprouts scattered on a rigid bed of noodles, and the creamiest of cheese sauces, a rich, creamy blue-cheese mousse, and a snowman cake that would scare even the toughest of your aunts. Such are the dishes that Christmas dreams are made of."

Tofu turkey with all the trimmings? Britain carves out a meat-free Christmas
"Forget about the Christmas nut roast – those who don’t eat meat are going to be spoilt for choice on 25 December as Britain’s supermarkets roll out their biggest range of festive vegan and vegetarian food to date."

How Dickens's A Christmas Carol was almost called something else:
"You might not know this but A Christmas Carol almost didn't get published and was almost called something else..."

London's Christmas Fairs:
"If Christmas shopping is getting you down, why not spend your money at a holly-bedecked plywood chalet instead? London has several festive market clusters, so I've been to six, ensuring that my Scroogier readers don't have to."

Dreading Christmas with the inlaws. Help me make sense of my situation:
"I am chronically ill in a mixed-race relationship. My in laws are nice enough, but boss me around a bit regarding my illness and in general are purveyors of outdated simplistic notions of people from developing countries."

The Best Movies That Are Kind Of About Christmas:

"You find yourself at a party where everyone is talking about favorite Christmas movies. Sure, you could say “Elf,” which you know in the deep ventricles of your cold and bitter heart is an uplifting film that inspires you annually. But instead, you go for the classic: “Oh, my favorite Christmas movie is ‘Die Hard.’”"

Sabbatical, week 1 by Paul Furley

This time last week I wrote about experiencing Writer’s Block, and how I was struggling to face the idea of making anything. I’d given myself what I think was an unhealthy goal of doing four product launches in four weeks. But launching products is mostly hard hustling, and what I love is building and automating things.

My first week of sabbatical has been lovely and a little surprising. I’ve spent time automating some little things I’ve been meaning to do which I’ve found really satisfying (even if Zarino says this is equivalent to tidying my room!)

I’ve done quite a bit of meditating too, and thought about what I’m trying to achieve and how I’m going to fit it into my life.

And I’ve spent some nice time with friends and family, and their guidance has been helpful as always.

Received refurbished air quality eggs

It’s been a while, but at last, we (Engage Liverpool CIC) have got five working Air Quality Eggs. These arrived this week and I unpacked them and got them talking to the internet.

They can measure NO2 and CO and they work over WiFi, so they need to be positioned somewhere. We’re looking for ideas where to put them and what we could do with the data they’re producing.

An air quality egg with an illuminated display

Added a ‘buy me a beer’ page for Expirybot

Expirybot is a lovely little project I’ve been running since July. I get quite a few thank-yous by email and Twitter, and this week someone asked how they can buy me a beer.

I’ve been wondering - skeptically - whether I should make some sort of ‘donate’ page, since Expirybot costs some money to run, and it’d be more resilient if its users could pay for it rather than me.

It seemed like no harm in adding a buy-me-a-beer page and linking to it from Expirybot’s pages.

To my absolute delight, a few hours after deploying the page, I received two ‘beers’ via Paypal from happy users of Expirybot. Result! I’m really grateful to those people.

Added Open Graph tags to my website

Previously, when a Tweet or Facebook share or whatever linked to my website, the tweet looked really boring:

Screenshot of a tweet with a URL

So I added HTML Open Graph tags which gives a hint to other services how to display the link nicely:

Screenshot of a tweet with a URL, enhanced with an image and a bold headline

Randomise MAC addresses

I built a script to randomize my MAC address so that it’s unique across different WiFi networks, and rotates every 24 hours. More about that below…

Automated logging into the library’s captive portal

Having randomized my MAC address, I was faced again with Liverpool library’s crappy WiFi SPARK login screen.

As the EFF eloquently explain, this type of craptive portal is harmful to user security as well as being a pointless waste of (everyone’s) time.

Since the ‘sign in’ step doesn’t actually do anything I thought I’d get my own back by automating it.

Now I just type craptive_liverpool_library and two seconds later, I’m in!

Wrote about how PGP keyservers work

I often get into interesting email conversations with people as a result of Expirybot, and this week I helped someone understand a bit about how the PGP keyservers work. This should probably be a whole blog post, but since I wrote it already, I’ll reproduce it here for now.

If you’re interested, this is roughly how it works…

There’s some open source software called SKS which implements a protocol called ‘HKP’ which describes a keyserver. The 2 functions of the software are:

  1. responding to queries from users (search, get, upload)
  2. synchronising with peers (other keyservers)

The keyservers are run by different types of organisations - universities, companies and individuals. When you start a new keyserver, you email the sks-devel mailing list, asking for people to peer with you. That means your server will 2-way synchronise with that peer.

So if you push a key to my keyserver, within a few minutes all of the other ones in the network will have it too. is a clever domain that randomly resolves to any one of the ‘pool’ of keyservers currently considered ‘acceptable’ for public use - you can see the list here:

(Mine recently got dropped from the pool until I upgrade my SKS to the latest version!!)

There are other domains like which the GPG team control, too.

Now, this may seem a bit chaotic, and in some ways it is.

BUT the massive advantage, as I’m sure you’re aware, is that no one organisation controls it, no-one can kill it. No-one can decide to sell it for profit, or shut it down because it’s too difficult to run.

The beauty of the ‘bunch of nerds running it in their bedrooms’ (probably there’s at least one) is that everyone would have to collude in order to break it.

On that exact topic, in the future I think we’ll look back at SMTP as one of the most important inventions we’ve ever come up with… Just think how impressive it is to make a single global standard for communication, with no company or government in control!! I’d happily bet on email outliving Facebook any day …

Meditated at the Palm House

I’ve been going to meditation classes for the last couple of months. They’ve recently started running a Wednesday morning class in the beautiful Sefton Park Palm House.

I went along and… wow… what a wonderful place to meditate. The tropical plants in the palm house give it an incredible smell and it was all warm and cozy compared to the crisp, frosty weather outside.

A glass palm house visible through trees

Afterwards, I spent a serene hour walking round the park in the cold sunshine talking to my mum on the phone.

The next few hours flew by as I dropped in to the Kadampa Meditation Centre and chatted away to two of the residents there. They’re part of a community of fifteen that co-habit in a superb Victorian building that was previously the private mansion of a Liverpool ship owner.

This morning reminded me how easy it is to prioritise the wrong things. Often I’m ‘too busy’ to prioritise time with family or it feels ‘unproductive’. I’ve made the mistake of thinking that time not in front of the computer is somehow ‘wasted’.

Well, I do love building things, but it mustn’t come at the cost of ignoring the things that really matter.

Did a day course at the Meditation Centre

On Saturday I returned to the meditation centre for a day course on mindfulness and concentration.

The format of the day was four sessions, with teaching in each session and one or more simple breathing meditations in each session. The time between sessions was fun too, meeting others who’ve been meditating for decades, and enjoying hanging out at the centre.

I’ve got more to write on my experience of meditation so far. The teaser is that I’ve been meditating in various forms for a while, but without really understanding why. I’ve been doing it because it feels good, but there’s been no bigger goal. Now I’ve started to see the bigger picture, I’m pretty hooked…

Returned to Gladstone library

On Sunday, Francis and I did a day trip to Gladstone’s library, where I’d been on retreat last weekend. I’ve joined as a friend which gives access to the library every day from 9 till 10pm, and I think it’s going to be a useful place for thinking and working.

It’s calm and civilised, and Hawarden’s got some nice countryside and decent pubs.

It was nice - and helpful - doing an ‘away day’ with Francis, who understands me well. As he sensibly points out, Expirybot would be a good thing to spend my sabbatical on - I love working on it, I understand the area well (PGP, encryption, etc) and it’s already got hundreds of happy users.

Why fret about building something new, for a new group of people, when I’ve got a huge backlog of features and ideas for improving Expirybot?

Wrote up blog post about randomizing MAC addresses

On Friday I had spent a bit of time working out how to randomize my computer’s MAC address without breaking things. On Sunday I decided to write it up and explain why I did it so that others could benefit.

Excitingly, it hit the front page of Hackernews so it ended up taking most of my Sunday at Gladstone’s, responding to comments and tweets and tweaking the blog post based on feedback.

It was fun writing up why I’m interested in that and explaining how MAC address tracking works.

For the analytics geeks: hovering around Hackernews in position 8-9 from about midday to midnight on a Sunday UK time equated to about 6,500 page views according to Google Analytics. That’s a big spike against my base of about 300 page views per week. But if you were banking your startup on a ‘big reveal’ launch, you’d have to better than just front-paging HackerNews.

Started automating my email with Inboxbot

My email inbox is full of useless old crap that could have been deleted weeks ago.

I’m quite good at using Fastmail’s filters to organise things into folders, but everything that doesn’t fit into a folder tends to stack up indefinitely.

To be honest, this probably already exists, but I was curious to build something that talks over IMAP. I also want to be able to source control my rules, rather than them being in Fastmail’s web GUI.

It’s also nice to be able to delete certain types of mail some-number-of-days after they arrived. For example, Meetup seems particularly noisy, with emails like “Tomorrow: Joins us blah blah”

Now I can delete those emails after a couple of days:

  - search:
      folder: "Inbox#"
      from: ""
      subject: "Tomorrow: Join us"
      older_than_days: 2
    action: "delete"

Another bit of hygiene I’d like to instigate: Sometimes I’ll buy something from a company, I’ll definitely not opt-in to marketing, then several months later I mysteriously start getting their sales emails.

I’m going to try a rule that automatically unsubscribes from anything that didn’t make it into my ‘newsletters’ folder… ha! This is possible with the ‘List-Unsubscribe’ header.

This might be yak-shaving, it might be worthwhile. I’m enjoying it, and it’s my sabbatical, so there!

Update: Inboxbot is now on Github.

Thoughts? Get in touch.

December 03, 2017

You are being held at gunpoint, and your assailant says you have 10 seconds to make him/her change their mind about shooting you. What do you say? by Feeling Listless

642 "I know you want to test what you said during the election campaign but do you really think all of your supporters would remain on-board? Also given the jurisdiction I can't imagine that you wouldn't be arrested no matter what office you hold."

Christmas Links #3 by Feeling Listless

A New Jersey Mall Built an Amazing A Christmas Story Display for Santa Photos:
"When you’re around 10 years old, you do everything you possibly can to avoid the Santa Claus display at your local mall. But not if you live in Cherry Hill, NJ, because the mall there built a Santa display that’s a perfect miniature replica of Ralphie Parker’s house from A Christmas Story—leg lamp and all."

Santa's on his way: Tate Britain goes all flash with Christmas display:
"When reindeer start flashing and galloping across suburbia it can provoke bouts of furious competitive lighting. It remains to be seen whether MI6, just across the Thames in London, will break out in a blizzard of snowflakes and sleigh bells once the spooks see what Tate Britain has done."

I Tried A Diet Without Sugar, Gluten, And Dairy For Three Months:

"Hi, I'm Michelle! I just turned 40 last month and run operations at BuzzFeed. I'm a competitive athlete and eat healthily, besides a weakness for cookies."

Family says huge Christmas display may end after complaints:
"The Connecticut Post reports the Halliwell family's huge decorative display in Fairfield drew about 30,000 visitors last holiday season, not counting those who drove by without stopping. The Halliwells have been putting up the display for 18 years.."

President Kennedy Discusses Peace at 1962 Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony:

"Only a couple months after Cuban Missile Crisis, President Kennedy discusses Peace on Earth."

Randomize your WiFi MAC address on Ubuntu 16.04 by Paul Furley

Your device’s MAC address can be used to track you across the WiFi networks you connect to. That data can be shared and sold, and often identifies you as an individual. It’s possible to limit this tracking by using pseudo-random MAC addresses.

A captive portal screen for a hotel allowing you to log in with social media for an hour of free WiFi

Image courtesy of Cloudessa

Every network device like a WiFi or Ethernet card has a unique identifier called a MAC address, for example b4:b6:76:31:8c:ff. It’s how networking works: any time you connect to a WiFi network, the router uses that address to send and receive packets to your machine and distinguish it from other devices in the area.

The snag with this design is that your unique, unchanging MAC address is just perfect for tracking you. Logged into Starbucks WiFi? Noted. London Underground? Logged.

If you’ve ever put your real name into one of those Craptive Portals on a WiFi network you’ve now tied your identity to that MAC address. Didn’t read the terms and conditions? You might assume that free airport WiFi is subsidised by flogging ‘customer analytics’ (your personal information) to hotels, restaurant chains and whomever else wants to know about you.

I don’t subscribe to being tracked and sold by mega-corps, so I spent a few hours hacking a solution.

MAC addresses don’t need to stay the same

Fortunately, it’s possible to spoof your MAC address to a random one without fundamentally breaking networking.

I wanted to randomize my MAC address, but with three particular caveats:

  1. The MAC should be different across different networks. This means Starbucks WiFi sees a different MAC from London Underground, preventing linking my identity across different providers.
  2. The MAC should change regularly to prevent a network knowing that I’m the same person who walked past 75 times over the last year.
  3. The MAC stays the same throughout each working day. When the MAC address changes, most networks will kick you off, and those with Craptive Portals will usually make you sign in again - annoying.

Manipulating NetworkManager

My first attempt of using the macchanger tool was unsuccessful as NetworkManager would override the MAC address according to its own configuration.

I learned that NetworkManager 1.4.1+ can do MAC address randomization right out the box. If you’re using Ubuntu 17.04 upwards, you can get most of the way with this config file. You can’t quite achieve all three of my requirements (you must choose random or stable but it seems you can’t do stable-for-one-day).

Since I’m sticking with Ubuntu 16.04 which ships with NetworkManager 1.2, I couldn’t make use of the new functionality. Supposedly there is some randomization support but I failed to actually make it work, so I scripted up a solution instead.

Fortunately NetworkManager 1.2 does allow for spoofing your MAC address. You can see this in the ‘Edit connections’ dialog for a given network:

Screenshot of NetworkManager's edit connection dialog, showing a text entry for a cloned mac address

NetworkManager also supports hooks - any script placed in /etc/NetworkManager/dispatcher.d/pre-up.d/ is run before a connection is brought up.

Assigning pseudo-random MAC addresses

To recap, I wanted to generate random MAC addresses based on the network and the date. We can use the NetworkManager command line, nmcli, to show a full list of networks:

> nmcli connection
NAME                 UUID                                  TYPE             DEVICE
Gladstone Guest      618545ca-d81a-11e7-a2a4-271245e11a45  802-11-wireless  wlp1s0
DoESDinky            6e47c080-d81a-11e7-9921-87bc56777256  802-11-wireless  --
PublicWiFi           79282c10-d81a-11e7-87cb-6341829c2a54  802-11-wireless  --
virgintrainswifi     7d0c57de-d81a-11e7-9bae-5be89b161d22  802-11-wireless  --

Since each network has a unique identifier, to achieve my scheme I just concatenated the UUID with today’s date and hashed the result:

# eg 618545ca-d81a-11e7-a2a4-271245e11a45-2017-12-03

> echo -n "${UUID}-$(date +%F)" | md5sum

53594de990e92f9b914a723208f22b3f  -

That produced bytes which can be substituted in for the last octets of the MAC address.

Note that the first byte 02 signifies the address is locally administered. Real, burned-in MAC addresses start with 3 bytes designing their manufacturer, for example b4:b6:76 for Intel.

It’s possible that some routers may reject locally administered MACs but I haven’t encountered that yet.

On every connection up, the script calls nmcli to set the spoofed MAC address for every connection:

A terminal window show a number of nmcli command line calls

As a final check, if I look at ifconfig I can see that the HWaddr is the spoofed one, not my real MAC address:

> ifconfig
wlp1s0    Link encap:Ethernet  HWaddr b4:b6:76:45:64:4d
          inet addr:  Bcast:  Mask:
          inet6 addr: fe80::648c:aff2:9a9d:764/64 Scope:Link
          RX packets:12107812 errors:0 dropped:2 overruns:0 frame:0
          TX packets:18332141 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 carrier:0
          collisions:0 txqueuelen:1000
          RX bytes:11627977017 (11.6 GB)  TX bytes:20700627733 (20.7 GB)

The full script is available on Github.


Update: Use locally administered MAC addresses to avoid clashing with real Intel ones. Thanks @_fink

Thoughts? Get in touch.

December 02, 2017

The woman/man across from you at a cafe or cubicle: What did she or he dream last night? by Feeling Listless

642 A large bang wakes me up and I glance over at my phone and I realise I forgot to set the alarm and I'm running late for work.

I rush through the toilet, bathroom and kitchen not really having time for a cup of tea and some toast but eating them anyway.

Then run out of the house into the street, except it isn't my street, it's a street which I sometimes have in my dreams which is a mix of things I must have seen on television or lived in at university.

As I get to the bus stop the bus is driving away.

It's then I realise I'm feeling a bit cold and that as is so often the case in my dreams I'm completely naked and everyone is looking at me.

I try to use my limbs to try and cover myself up and start running back towards home but it's not there any more.

I run to the next street and then the next but my house isn't there.

So I decide to run towards work, but the street gives way to a city I don't recognise.

I see another bus, but again I can't get on.

Then I hear the sound of a horse slowing down next to me and looking up see Gal Gadot smiling at me.

But it's not the actress, it's actually Wonder Woman from the film.

"I have you" she says and puts her arm out towards me smiling.

I grab her hand and she pulls me onto the back of the horse behind her and I tightly  hold of her waist with both hands and we're off galloping through the streets between cars, and it's a wide boulevard like you'd find in a large city but the streets are empty. 

Then there's another loud noise and the "scene" changes and I'm standing in a muddy battlefield.

I hear gunshots and I start to run forward with a shield in hand and I'm not just with Wonder Woman now, I am Wonder Woman in the scene from the film, being showered in a hail of bullets determined to get to the other side.

I can't tell if I look like her, but I feel powerful and I have her armour and boots on.

I run and run and run and eventually reach the other trench, but its not filled with Germans but the people I work with and they're all looking at me because I'm naked again and that's when my alarm woke me up.

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Updated using Planet on 9 December 2017, 05:48 AM