Month: February 2017

Stages Of Maple Sap

I was surprised to find out people think maple sap is yellow. I never really thought about it, but I happened to see “maple water” for sale at a market. Clear liquid in a clear glass bottle. The ingredients were 100% maple sap … so I knew it was clear before I’d even thought to wonder. I’ve seen sap with a slightly yellow tint. We pull the taps as the tree leaves begin to bud, so it is possible the sap yellows more throughout the year. But maple sap is clear.

As it is boiled, the sap begins to caramelize. Caramelization is what gives maple syrup a golden brown color – darker syrup is formed from sap harvested later in the year. Lighter syrup is from sap harvested earlier in the year.

As the sap boils down, the color will get darker and the flavor will get sweeter and, well, maple-ier.


There is an incredible amount of money spent on the American military. Trump thinks NATO countries should be spending more on their militaries … and when I first heard this, I assumed it meant he wanted the US to reduce its military spending. Now that some details of his first proposed budget are floating around, it seems he wants to increase American military spending. INCREASE!?! So we’re lowering taxes, increasing military spending, and not touching entitlements (at least not for the elderly, maybe he’ll completely get rid of services for the poor to make up for spending increases and tax cuts?). Basic math fail. I get that Republicans have an odd belief that reducing taxes increases income so much that it offsets the tax reduction … but that’s a gamble (an odd governing methodology for a group claiming to be ‘conservative’). You might get lucky and hit the lottery if you sink next month’s mortgage/rent payment into lottery tickets too … but few will have any sympathy for you when the likely outcome occurs.

“Winning” War

Lamenting a lack of “winning” — especially if the solution is increasing military budgets — shows a frightening lack of understanding the purpose of our participation in modern wars. We’ve entered into some untenable situations from which it was difficult to cleanly extract our forces. We’ve intervened in situations where we were not really wanted.

Money is not going to magically create “winning” situations. The problem is not insufficient tech, hardware, or troops. It is bloody impossible to hold hostile territory in the long run – and trying is socio-economically draining. Ask the Romans – demanding tribute engenders animosity. Consult the Brits – colonialism is quite possibly the technique most apt to succeed (create an economic incentive to accept the new rulers), but eventually the colony wants legal and economic independence to get a fair market price for goods. Replacing the government with one that supports you? Germans can tell you how well that works (La Résistance, for instance).

You hold a conquered territory by leaving sufficient military presence to continually re-take the area from the locals. So when I hear someone saying they want to “win” wars … I expect they don’t know exactly what it takes to win. Or what winning even means. Who really wins in a war? Executives and stockholders for companies with multi-million dollar contracts to manufacture equipment whilst remaining safely away from the combat zones.


Viewing Active Directory Object Metadata

Objects in active directory have a modification timestamp attribute, whenChanged, that reflects the time of the last change to the object. This is useful if you want to confirm a change had not been made after a specific time (e.g. the user began having problems at 2PM yesterday, but their object was last changed November of last year … an account change is not likely to be the cause).

There is additional stored metadata which provides a modification timestamp (and source domain controller for the modification event) for each individual attribute on an object. This can be a lot more useful (e.g. a user’s home directory is incorrect, but the object modification timestamp reflects the fact they changed their password yesterday). To view the metadata, use repadmin /showobjmeta DC-Hostname “objectFQDN”

I redirect the output to a file; it’s a lot easier to search a text file for the attribute name than scroll through all of the attributes in a DOS window.

repadmin /showobjmeta dc.domain.gTLD "cn=user account,ou=pathToObject,dc=domain,dc=gTLD" > myaccount.txt

57 entries.
Loc.USN Originating DSA                       Org.USN   Org.Time/Date       Ver   Attribute
======= ===============                       ========= =============       ===   =========
20822   92d3c1e5-d4ed-41c7-989f-62a1712b1084  20822     2014-06-08 22:20:57 1     cn
4659114 Default-First-Site-Name\DC            4659114   2016-12-29 20:56:21 10    unicodePwd
3299408 Default-First-Site-Name\DC            3299408   2016-01-16 17:03:05 13    lockoutTime
4978129 Default-First-Site-Name\DC            4978129   2017-02-18 21:50:13 90    lastLogonTimestamp
4988421 Default-First-Site-Name\DC            4988421   2017-02-22 10:31:06 54333 msDS-LastSuccessfulInteractiveLogonTime
4977488 Default-First-Site-Name\DC            4977488   2017-02-18 16:21:12 223   msDS-LastFailedInteractiveLogonTime
4977488 Default-First-Site-Name\DC            4977488   2017-02-18 16:21:12 223   msDS-FailedInteractiveLogonCount
4977489 Default-First-Site-Name\DC            4977489   2017-02-18 16:21:18 165   msDS-FailedInteractiveLogonCountAtLastSuccessfulLogon

The originating DSA may be an odd GUID value (the domain controller on which this change was initiated has since been decommissioned) or it may be an AD site and domain controller name.

The originating timestamp indicates when the attribute’s value was last changed. The version indicates the number of revisions on the attribute value – which itself can provide interesting information like the number of times an account has been locked out or the number of times a user has changed their password.

This information can be useful when an account change does correspond with a user experiencing problems. You can identify the specific attributes that were updated and research those specific values.

It’s also useful to track down who changed a specific attribute value. The combination of originating domain controller and attribute modification time can make searching for the event log record corresponding to a specific change a lot easier — you know which server to search and can filter the log down to records spanning a few seconds.


Something In Common

There have been a couple of recent articles that highlight how very similar the opposition party’s view of Trump and Obama actually are (although the articles seek to highlight the hypocrisy of objecting to behavior in which you engaged just last year). To some degree, I understand — if I think my position on an issue is the only good, upstanding, moral, godly position … there’s no compromising, the other side is not only WRONG but an immoral force looking to corrupt others. And it’s a logical conclusion that the figurehead of the immoral force is going to be vilified. I didn’t really understand it with Clinton – right-leaning friends acted like the chap had personally offended them. But it’s something that made sense to me with Bush 43. Invading a foreign country on flimsy evidence (that turned out to be wrong) was offensive to me. Maybe not immediately personal as I couldn’t be drafted … but friends getting called back into service because of linguistic skills or SIGINT training is personal. Wasting the country’s money, farther destabilizing a region … and doing so in my name was offensive. Trying to privatize social security was personally offensive (and created my retirement plan of “if social security actually pays out, there’s extra mad money for you”) and impersonally offensive (the government program enacted due in no small part due to the Great Depression and associated stock market collapse was going to allow people to invest money in the stock market because you could make more money that way?!? Seriously, consult big huge event that led to the program in the first place. Then repeat your idea.). I tried to keep this in mind when Obama encountered the immovable Republican congress. No, I don’t understand why getting rid of preexisting condition exceptions is controversial – and I understand why no for-profit business is going to be willing to operate if they have to cover your sudden (and expensive) illness but you don’t have to buy their coverage until you get your diagnosis. And I really don’t get why Republicans who advocated for a lot of the components of the plan suddenly deemed it anathema … except that the figurehead of the opposition is so vile that anything they support must be somehow wrong.

And now those same people think left-wing opponents treat Trump cruelly, use parliamentary machinations to block vital legislation … the people who did exactly that to Obama … don’t see it as the same thing because it IS different to them. A bit like vilifying Pol Pot and then vilifying Mother Theresa. One of them deserves it.

A friend of mine had a thread on Facebook denouncing moral relativism … but moral relativism is what you need to address these situations. Yes, your morals say X is completely wrong. But someone else’s morals say X is the only reasonable course of action … and neither set of morals are wrong. They are just different. Maybe the hope is that the opposing party will just run out of members and lose power forever. Doesn’t seem likely. The alternative is that we have a government vacillating between positions as different parties are elected. There would essentially be a set of laws enacted on day 1 for Republicans that gets completely supplanted with an alternate set of laws enacted on day 1 for Democrats. Long term business planning would be neigh impossible — who knows which set of laws will be in place two years from now! You’d have to develop a business that could comply with either or two different business plans. Even managing your own home would get silly — I want to install solar, but I need to wait until the Democrats come back into office so financial incentives are restored. Want to buy a big gas guzzling vehicle? Better wait until the Republicans are back to suspend fleet fuel economy requirements.

And if we’re going to have a set of laws that essentially ignores the minority (remember majority rule, minority rights … won’t have that anymore) … then we should go farther than what this silly compromise stuff has given us. In R terms, our SS contributions will go into stock funds. Then in D terms, we’ll be buying government bonds. During R terms, you’ll get vouchers and pick whatever school you are willing to drive your kid over to. During D terms, anyone who didn’t pick (a) their local district or (b) a private school they can afford anyway will transfer their kid to the local district. Reductio ad absurdum.

Don’t Talk To Strangers

It was 68 degrees, and I took Anya to the beach by a local lake to build sand castles. Three different kids, with three different families, wandered up to us and started playing. I said ‘hi’ to each one, and got a funny look. Each kid spent around fifteen minutes playing with us without saying a word. It was really strange. Until I heard the horrified mother admonishing her kid as they walked away: “you know not to talk to strangers, what were you doing?”. Here’s a guess – he wasn’t talking to strangers. Playing with, yes. Walking around on the beach with, yes. But he dutifully avoided talking.

Kids process language literally. It’s funny, sometimes, what Anya doesn’t get because figurative and abstract reasoning are not well developed in four year old kids. I’ve heard the don’t get into a car with a stranger / don’t talk to strangers/ STRANGER DANGER!!!! through most of its evolution from perfectly reasonable advice (seriously, don’t GO somewhere with a stranger. I remember trying to convey this to friends when I was at University – go to a club, meet a cute guy, don’t go somewhere alone with him. It isn’t like this is advice merely for young kids.) to absolute paranoia (kid lost in the woods who spent his time hiding from the strange people who had volunteered to search the woods looking for the missing child). Until yesterday, it never occurred to me how children process these messages (and I’m not talking about the whole “living in fear of seven billion people” thing that’s got to have psychological ramifications).

I don’t know how we’ll convey an appropriate level of caution to Anya – “don’t go anywhere with a stranger” is a good first step. Especially now that most people carry cell phones – know your phone number and have them call us. Don’t go anywhere, we’ll come to you.


Maple Sugar Season Update

Strange day. The high here was 68 degrees, and we spent an hour playing in the sand at a beach. Not your normal February activity in these parts.

We got a LOT of sap today – and we only managed to collect the front half of the property. Thirteen trees with fifteen taps yielded thirty eight gallons of sap. Tomorrow, we’ll check the sycamore (hasn’t produced much sap to date, but here’s hoping), two hickories (same story), and ten more maple trees. Lots of boiling ahead, and it looks like it might freeze Sunday night to extend the sap run during the first part of next week.

Serial Port Sniffer

We use a Wink hub to communicate with our ZigBee devices – scripts on the OpenHAB server make web calls over to the Wink hub to set bulb levels. Works great on outbound communication to the bulbs, but it is not real-time bi-directional (i.e. if a bulb level is changed elsewhere, OpenHAB would need to poll and get the new value). Doesn’t matter for the GE Link bulbs because there isn’t another way they get set beyond dropping and returning power (which turns the bulb on at 100%), but we cannot use the Wink hub to communicate with interactive devices — unlock the door manually and OpenHAB has no idea the light should be turned on until the next polling cycle. And polling is a lot of extra overhead – check every device every minute 24×7. And it’s slow – hit the polling cycle wrong and it takes a minute from unlocking the garage door before the light turns on.

Had the idea of monitoring data that moves across the serial interfaces and use a script to communicate real-time inbound changes over to OpenHAB. Watching the serial interface, we get lots of cryptic traffic from socat:

socat -x /dev/SerialPort,raw,echo=0,crnl PTY,link=/dev/ttyV1,raw,echo=0,crnl

Do you know …

Having a commonly recognized accent often leads to hearing similar illogical thread: Oh, you are from over-yonder-place. Do you know so-and-so. The polite response (“no, I do not”) does nothing to dissuade the asker. I suspect most people want to answer “no, I don’t bloody know David Beckham. There are fifty three million people in bloody England. You’re from Atlanta, do you know Usher?” Which might better get the point across that it is statistically unlikely that I’d know any individual from a country none the less a fairly famous one who, I imagine, has a fairly exclusive social circle.

Evidently it isn’t just accents that prompt this nonsensical assumption. Trump’s press conference today:

Black journalist: “Will you meet with the Congressional Black Caucus?”

Trump: “I would. You want to set up the meeting? Are they friends of yours?”

And he probably thought he was being nice in acquiescing to the meeting. I wish the reporter had responded with a terribly rude and likely honest answer: “No, they aren’t friends of mine. But, as a decently well informed citizen, I am aware of their existence and wanted to know if you planned to meet with them.”