Recently in Geekdom Category

Useful information - ham radio

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Licensed? This would be handy to print out and keep in a binder in your shack. From DropBox.

And yay!!!!!!

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They were deplatformed by Amazon Web Services for being conservative and for not toeing the liberal narrative.  Looks like they are back.  The Internet does not tolerate cencorship very well - it will always find a way to route around it. Even censorship by its supposed elites.

Jeff - you do not win this one buddy... Pick your fights better next time - truth will always win over corruption and dishonesty.

Four headlines:

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Fuck Google:

Google removes Parler app from Play Store

Fuck Apple:

Apple tells Parler it has 24 hours to clean house or be removed

Fuck Reddit:

Reddit Bans r/Conspiracy Moderator and r/DonaldTrump

Fuck Twitter:

Twitter permanently bans Trump

I am reminded of this wonderful line:

To quote Tyrion Lannister from the Game of Thrones,
"When you tear out a man's tongue, you are not proving him a liar.
You're only telling the world that you fear what he might say."

The Internet - an observation

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From Allum Bokhari's twitter account:

So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish

Communications Security

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An excellent primer here:

COMSEC for 2021
A lot of folks are wondering what happens if things get spicy.  Big Country has been posting tactical tips, as did Aesop last year (it doesn't look like he has a blog post tag for these so you'll have to dig).  Other folks are posting, and they have an expertise there that I simply don't.

On the other hand, I do have a (professional) background in COMSEC - Communications Security.  This post is how to pull off a level of COMSEC and OPSEC that will make it harder for you to end up on The Powers That Be's radar.  Note that I said harder, not impossible.  Ross Ulbricht messed up OPSEC, and he was very good at it.  A professional grade level of paranoia is not just desirable, it's probably mandatory.

One thing that I keep seeing repeated is the phrase "Be the Gray Man".  That's the primary objective here.  That will limit the sorts of communications that you will be able to (hopefully) keep off TPTB's radar.  And so what I'm going to write about here is not useful for voice or email protection (mostly), and won't help with GPS geolocation tracking.  It's purely a thought experiment on how to transmit decently large quantities of information without TPTB being likely to understand the content, or even know that information is likely being transmitted at all.

That last point is the key. Traffic Analysis is pretty terrifying, at least to those in the know, and was by far the biggest issue in the whole Snowden/NSA brouhaha.  I'm not sure that this solves that problem, but it takes some steps in that direction.  Remember, your mileage may vary, void where prohibited, do not remove tag under penalty of law.

Lots of great advice and links to open source applications.

Now this could be really interesting - wonder if Hilton is going to build a wing.  From PRNewswire:

Houston Spaceport Slated to Become Home to the World's First Commercial Space Station Builder
Houston Spaceport, the nation's 10th commercially licensed Spaceport, will be home to the world's first commercial space station builder, Axiom Space. The aerospace company announced plans to create a 14-acre headquarters campus to train private astronauts and begin production of its Axiom Station—the world's first free-flying, internationally available private space station that will serve as humanity's central hub for research, manufacturing and commerce in low Earth orbit.

"While we have confronted the challenges of a global pandemic this year, our work to move our city forward never stops. Today's announcement is another leap that demonstrates how Houston embraces humankind's boldest challenges and lives-up to every bit of its namesake - The Space City," Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said. "With Axiom Space at the Houston Spaceport, we expect to energize our workforce by adding more than a thousand high-quality jobs and engage our communities that are focused and dedicated to the STEM fields."

The new Axiom Space Headquarters campus will be located in phase one of the 400 acres Houston Spaceport at Ellington Airport, EFD. The first phase, 153 acres, was completed in December and includes vital infrastructure like streets, utilities, robust communications systems. The Houston Spaceport is ideally located minutes from downtown Houston.

They are not thinking small either:

Axiom Space's Houston Spaceport headquarters campus will include the construction of approximately 322,000 square feet of facility space to accommodate Axiom Station modules and terminal building space to house private astronauts, operations, engineering and other requirements. The campus will have ease of access to the Ellington airfield.

Texas-sized...  Makes a lot of sense - the International Space Station has shown that there is a use for these.  The ISS is nearing its End-Of-Life and will be splashed down sometime around 2028.

Their website: Houston Spaceport

I still want my jetpack.  Dammit - they promised us a jetpack. Hilton? 2001 - A Space Odyssey:


Major blow to the Surveilence State - from The Epoch Times:

US Turns Tide on Huawei, Ending CCP’s 5G Master Plan
The Trump administration scored a victory against the regime in Beijing this year through its “Clean Network” campaign that booted Huawei Technologies Co. out of critical telecommunications infrastructure in many countries.

The effort, while not well-publicized, secured an array of commitments from governments to exclude untrusted vendors from their fifth-generation (5G) wireless networks. As of this month, more than 50 nations, representing over two-thirds of the world’s economy, and 180 telecom companies had joined the “Clean Network” initiative led by the U.S. government.

The alliance includes 26 of the 27 EU member states, as well as technologically advanced countries such as Japan, Israel, Australia, Singapore, Taiwan, Canada, New Zealand, and India.

This is called Leadership.  President Trump has it.  The denizens of the deep state do not. Joe Xiden especially. And, to add delicious insult to injury:

As part of the plan, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. announced in May that it would build the world’s most advanced 5-nanometer chip fabrication facility in Arizona, an important milestone in securing the semiconductor supply chain and a safe 5G network for the United States and its partners.

China considers Taiwan to be a wayward state.  It just needs to come back under the beneficent wing of the Communists. Taiwan is having nothing of this.  They are an independent nation, they enjoy a free society and a robust economy.

As an aside - I work with machinery and although China is the major manufacturer, the design and the quality for Taiwanese equipment is way better than the Chinese.  India does a decent job too. Buying from China is a last resort or, for when the cheapest price is the delimiting factor.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. is a beast - they are the world's most valuable semiconductor company, and the world's largest dedicated independent semiconductor foundry. More here: TSMC.

I for one love our Robot overloads.

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Some people at Boston Dynamics are having way too much fun:

Darth by Darthwest - II

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The first one came out on May 13th, 2016 - a mashup of Hitchcock's North by Northwest and the Star Wars universe.

Major editing and compositing skills on display - pitch perfect.  The second edition came out December 19th, 2020:

Again? Perfect. If not better.

The team also did this mashup of Indiana Jones in 2017: Raiders of the lost Darth

Again? Perfect. Going to have to see if these people have done anything more. Incredible work.

From The Daily Wire:


Artist Claims Facebook Temporarily Censored Viral Painting Of Santa And Jesus Second Time
A North Carolina artist who created a viral painting in 2009 of Santa Claus kneeling over the baby Jesus is claiming that for the second time in two years, the painting was temporarily censored by Facebook.

Gaye Frances Willard said of the latest alleged censorship of the painting that Facebook flagged it for “violent content.”

Section 230 delenda est.

A great DIY project

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Something to do with your COVID relief check - WOW!  $600 of my own tax money.


Tip 'o the hat to 90 miles

I bet someone has considered this

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Some major Christmas Light displays on this island:


I shudder to think...

This is cute - jammin' on the bridge

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Who knew that Data was such a master on the B3:

Now this is fun - Google's Blob Opera

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Just go here and mess around: Blob Opera

Massive data dump last night - no goodies yet but holy cow - what a trove. WikiLeaks

The hack

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Wrote about it yesterday: Hacking - a curious incident

It's real and it's massive - from the United States Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency

Active Exploitation of SolarWinds Software
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) is aware of active exploitation of SolarWinds Orion Platform software versions 2019.4 HF 5 through 2020.2.1 HF 1, released between March 2020 and June 2020.

CISA encourages affected organizations to read the SolarWinds and FireEye advisories for more information and FireEye’s GitHub page for detection countermeasures:

SolarWinds makes software that helps large organizations manage their network and IT infrastructure. Monitoring network and server performance, databases, trouble tickets and service desk. The basic tasks.  They are used by a lot of corporations, our government, military and yes, Dominion Voting Systems.

The issue here is not just the initial breach.  The core issue is that it installs backdoors into the infected machines which lay dormant until triggered - either by an external signal or a length of time. These systems will need to be taken down to bare metal and rebuilt. More as I hear about it.

Hacking - a curious incident

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From the Washington Examiner:

Kremlin-backed hackers breach US Treasury and Commerce
A "sophisticated hacking group" backed by the Russian government reportedly infiltrated the Department of Treasury's systems and stole information related to internet and telecommunications policymaking as part of a broader campaign that also hacked the Commerce Department and other government agencies.

The FBI is investigating the attacks and is looking into the Russian hacking group APT29, also known as Cozy Bear, as a potential culprit, according to the Washington Post. The foreign-backed hack was first reported by Reuters.

As a result of the hack, the National Security Council held a meeting at the White House on Sunday.

The Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency confirmed the incident in a statement but did not suggest who was behind the attack.

"We have been working closely with our agency partners regarding recently discovered activity on government networks," the agency said. "CISA is providing technical assistance to affected entities as they work to identify and mitigate any potential compromises."

Nothing yet on any of the white-hat sites but they generally keep quiet until they have conclusive data. Should be a day or two.

Measure twice

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Fun idea - planning to swipe it when I am doing some of the trim at the house:


And do not forget this day

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Heh - electrician needed

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Been there, done that, got the tee-shirt.

A fun list - 100 inventions for 2020

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From Time - some interesting ideas there. Just scroll down: The Best Inventions of 2020

So so true

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My music and my video systems both have two screens - this is a real thing:


Tip 'o the hat to The Chive

How time flies...  From The Verge:

From Windows 1.0 to Windows 10
The PC revolution started off life 35 years ago this week. Microsoft launched its first version of Windows on November 20th, 1985, to succeed MS-DOS. It was a huge milestone that paved the way for the modern versions of Windows we use today. While Windows 10 doesn’t look anything like Windows 1.0, it still has many of its original fundamentals like scroll bars, drop-down menus, icons, dialog boxes, and apps like Notepad and MS paint.

Windows 1.0 also set the stage for the mouse. If you used MS-DOS then you could only type in commands, but with Windows 1.0 you picked up a mouse and moved windows around by pointing and clicking. Alongside the original Macintosh, the mouse completely changed the way consumers interacted with computers. At the time, many complained that Windows 1.0 focused far too much on mouse interaction instead of keyboard commands. Microsoft’s first version of Windows might not have been well received, but it kick-started a battle between Apple, IBM, and Microsoft to provide computing to the masses.

It has been a long and fun (and prosperous) ride - Windows was not the first graphical environment manager - GEM was widespread and was released five years previous.

The article also has this wonderful commercial from Steve Ballmer:

I still have a couple "shelf talkers" - empty boxes of Windows 1.1 from my first store.  Sold a lot of them. And who can forget this photo of BillG:


The birth of an era...

This instrument is a national treasure - from the National Science Foundation:

NSF begins planning for decommissioning of Arecibo Observatory’s 305-meter telescope due to safety concerns
Following a review of engineering assessments that found damage to the Arecibo Observatory cannot be stabilized without risk to construction workers and staff at the facility, the U.S. National Science Foundation will begin plans to decommission the 305-meter telescope, which for 57 years has served as a world-class resource for radio astronomy, planetary, solar system and geospace research.

The decision comes after NSF evaluated multiple assessments by independent engineering companies that found the telescope structure is in danger of a catastrophic failure and its cables may no longer be capable of carrying the loads they were designed to support. Furthermore, several assessments stated that any attempts at repairs could put workers in potentially life-threatening danger. Even in the event of repairs going forward, engineers found that the structure would likely present long-term stability issues.

"NSF prioritizes the safety of workers, Arecibo Observatory’s staff and visitors, which makes this decision necessary, although unfortunate," said NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan. "For nearly six decades, the Arecibo Observatory has served as a beacon for breakthrough science and what a partnership with a community can look like. While this is a profound change, we will be looking for ways to assist the scientific community and maintain that strong relationship with the people of Puerto Rico."

This is bad news.  Yes, it is an old instrument BUT it has been upgraded and is still doing solid science up until the hurricane. Yes, the Chinese have a 500 meter radio telescope that is larger BUT the Arecibo is one of the only ones that can transmit as well as receive. Its primary task these days is acting like a radar set and searching for near-Earth objects that have a potential for crashing to Earth and/or hitting our satellites.

It has already been built, the money has already been spent.  The cost to repair is minimal. To lose this would be tragic.

Timekeeping - a leap second hiatus

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Looks like no leap seconds for a few years - the earth's rotation is speeding up. From Tony Finch:

Leap second hiatus
Normally I only pay attention to leap seconds every 6 months when the IERS publishes Bulletin C, the leap second yes or no announcement. But this week brings news from Michael Deckers via the LEAPSECS mailing list, and it relates to Bulletin A, which is why it’s off my usual 6 month schedule.

Leap seconds exist because the Earth takes (very roughly) about a millisecond more than 24 * 60 * 60 seconds to rotate each day; when we have accumulated enough extra milliseconds, a leap second is inserted into UTC to keep it in sync with the Earth. At the moment the Earth is rotating faster than in recent decades: these shorter days, with a lower length-of-day, means the milliseconds accumulate more slowly, and we get fewer leap seconds.

The news from Bulletin A is not unexpected: in January I noted that we are currently in a long gap between leap seconds, and in July I observed that the length of day chart is still very low.

Bulletin A is a weekly summary of predictions from the latest Earth Orientation model. It includes the projected difference between Earth rotation angle (UT1) and UTC, which in turn determines when a leap second is needed. The notable thing about the latest Bulletin A is the factor 0.00000 in the equation

    UT1-UTC = -0.1746 - 0.00000 (MJD - 59173) - (UT2-UT1)

[ Tangential aside: I feel the need to describe 0.00000 as all balls, because in PostgreSQL you can use “allballs” in a time literal as an alias for midnight :-) ]

The zero factor is multiplied by the date, which is writtem MJD - 59173. This is the time in days after 20th November; the product indicates how much UT1 and UTC are expected to differ in the near future, i.e. the rate of divergence is now zero.

Michael Deckers said in his LEAPSECS message that we haven’t seen a rate difference as low as zero since 1961!

This implies that unless something wild happens, we are very unlikely to have a leap second in the next few years.

And yes, I am a time nerd. I love the technologies used and own an atomic clock (surplussed from the cellular E911 services)

There is a wonderful interview with Dr. Judah Levine - the name might not be familiar but he is our nation's Time Lord:

Thank you President Trump - from Tom's Hardware:

5nm in the USA: TSMC's Board Approves $3.5 Billion Fab in Arizona
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.'s board of directors has approved spending $3.5 billion on the company's upcoming fab in Arizona. The project will be co-financed by TSMC, the state of Arizona, and the U.S. federal government. The first commercial wafers are expected to be produced at the fab in 2024.

They are one of the largest chip makers in the world - they do not have their own "brand" but they take independent designs and make them a reality. Great (and very sucessful) business model. They already have some plants in the USA but this will be state of the art - some of their newest technologies.

Interesting - twitter

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Holy crap that was fast - Benford's Law.  Twitter really does not want this information to get out.  Here are three screen captures from my own twitter account from all within 30 seconds of just now:




These people really do not want this information to get out.  Literally, this went from being a tweet to being banned in under 30 seconds.

And then, I got this email:


And a closeup of the text:


So, publishing a link about a law first sugested in 1881 and codified by Frank Benford in 1938 is considered by our Lords and Masters at Twitter to be:

Violating our rules against posting or sharing privately produced/distributed intimate media of someone without their express consent.

Excuse me?

What is interesting is that the average low-information voter will not bother to check out Benford's Law. It is the geek population that twitter is trying to keep this information from. They want to keep us in the Goolag. Down on the Democrat plantation. Shut up and take your free shit.

Makes perfect sense to me:


Spherical cow? InfoGalactic:

Spherical cow
A spherical cow is a humorous metaphor for highly simplified scientific models of complex real life phenomena. The implication is that theoretical physicists will often reduce a problem to the simplest form they can imagine in order to make calculations more feasible, even though such simplification may hinder the model's application to reality. The concept is well enough known that it is sometimes referred to in scientific discourse without explanation.

And an example:

Milk production at a dairy farm was low, so the farmer wrote to the local university, asking for help from academia. A multidisciplinary team of professors was assembled, headed by a theoretical physicist, and two weeks of intensive on-site investigation took place. The scholars then returned to the university, notebooks crammed with data, where the task of writing the report was left to the team leader. Shortly thereafter the physicist returned to the farm, saying to the farmer, "I have the solution, but it only works in the case of spherical cows in a vacuum".



Three fun videos

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There are a couple of YouTubers that I really like. They released new videos recently:

Pecos Hank is a musician and stormchaser whose videos are always wonderful and fun:

Purgatory IronWorks is a blacksmith:

In this video, Trenton Tye highlights the serious problem that blacksmiths and tool-makers can have.

Finally, Essential Craftsman is amazing - here he is talking about sharpening:

Scott is the poet laureate of crafting.

Sassy Justice

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The latest from South Park creators Trey Parker & Matt Stone:

Fred Sassy is an American Consumer Advocate and reporter for the Cheyenne news at 9, a local TV station in Cheyenne, Wyoming. On his weekly show, Sassy Justice, Fred goes to battle for the common man in his hometown. This week, he’s uncovering the dangers behind manipulated videos that are increasingly popping up on the internet.

Love it - having fun with deep fakes. Website here: Sassy Justice

Crap - RIP Alan Rath

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Alan who? From the San Francisco Chronicle Datebook:

Alan Rath, Bay Area artist who pioneered electronic sculptures, dies at 60
Alan Rath, the Bay Area artist who crafted playful sculptures out of electronic and robotic material, inspiring a generation of Burning Man artists, died Tuesday, Oct. 27, in Oakland. He was 60.

The cause was complications from a rare form of multiple sclerosis, said Dianne Dec, who curated several exhibitions of his work at Hosfelt Gallery and served as his gallerist in San Francisco.

Rath’s kinetic sculptures often featured video animations of giant human eyes that roamed across flat electronic screens, blinking and darting and staring back at their viewers.

With a degree in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Rath cited a wide range of inspiration, including Alexander Calder, David Smith, Jimi Hendrix, NASA and Robert Moog, who designed analog synthesizers.

“I realized I had zero musical talent, and I absolutely love music, and the ideas in music really inform so much of what I do,” Rath said in an interview with The Chronicle in 2013. “But I can’t make music, so I make these other things.”

Rath’s alien-looking pieces are designed to move with lifelike fluidity, composed of materials like fiberglass, polypropylene, aluminum, custom electronics and partridge feathers. Their movement is caused by motion sensors and body heat.

Some photos at the site. A major talent and innovator. 2020 strikes again.

For the programming and logic geeks out there:


Boolean logic? Here and here for starters. First codified in 1847 and an absolute foundation of modern computing. Bedrock.

I am in love - RFinder B1

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FINALLY - amateur radio and cellular telephones converge. This is a bit pricey right now - $999 - but in a year or so, when it comes down to $499, I will seriously look at getting one.  The battery on my older Motorola is starting to get weak - charge is only good for two days, used to be five. From their website:

Rfinder B1 Dual Band DMR 4G/LTE (Unlocked version)
The RFinder B1 is the most advanced Dual Band (VHF/UHF) DMR Transceiver combined with an embedded powerful smartphone. It delivers up to 4 Watt of RF Power out of its very robust case.

Compatible with most worldwide cellphone providers, including Verizon, AT&T, T-mobile, Google FI, etc

The RFinder B1 is the most advanced Dual Band (VHF/UHF) DMR Transceiver combined with an embedded powerful smartphone. It delivers up to 4 Watt of RF Power out of its very robust case.

Running Android, you can install all the available Play Store apps. This means that you can install Zello, Team Speak, EchoLink and many others and use the built-in PTT button to key the transmission on such apps. Can you imagine that? If you don’t reach an EchoLink node, just use your RFinder 3G, 4G or even WiFi, and you are connected. Never miss a QSO again just because there isn’t a nearby repeater. And because the RFinder has an updated database of worldwide repeaters, EchoLink nodes and DMR talk groups, you never have to memorize anything. You just search the station or repeater you want to connect, and the RFinder will change all the settings for you, either using DMR or conventional analogue FM. The RFinder is so advanced that will allow you to see on a map all the available DMR/EchoLink/Conventional repeaters nearby. Just click on your selected station, and your radio settings are changed: RX and TX frequency, Tones, offsets, splits, color codes. Everything! Welcome to the first Click & Talk transceiver. If this is not phenomenal what is it then?


A little bit big but I do not mind that at all. Has all of the "normal" cell phone goodies plus the latest and greatest ham radio stuff - DMR, built-in repeater database. Programmable from your computer. Hits all of the right buttons for me. Much prefer Android over iOS or iPhone. More 'hacker friendly'.

Well crap - 2020 - R.I.P. James Randi

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From the James Randi Foundation:

From Penn Jillette:

And here:

He was an incredible magician and skeptic. He enjoyed debunking so-called psychics. We lost a great one.


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Love it - been a font geek for a long long time:


A perfect example of bad Keming (more here and here)

Heh - online meetings

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Been doing two or more of those/month these days.  Caught my eye:


The upcoming election - Los Angeles

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Interesting things happening in L.A. (or, to give it its full and original name: El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles del Río de Porciúncula) From station KTLA:

Some 2,100 L.A. County voters received mail-in ballots with no way to vote for president
More than 2,000 Los Angeles County voters got mail-in ballots with a very egregious flaw: no way to vote for U.S. president.

The Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s office confirmed late Monday that about 2,100 “faulty ballots” were mailed earlier that day to residents in the Woodland Hills area.

This is not a small mistake - this was organised from the top down and somebody caught them before they got filled out and returned. There is a very long chain in printing something like a ballot.  The designer, they typesetter, the poofreader, the printer, the person running the post-press equipment (paper cutter, folder, envelope stuffer, etc...) and nobody caught this?  Is everyone in on the scam?  These ballots are tabulated electronically and the citizens vote is recorded with a black mark on the paper.  Were the tabulating machines just going to add a vote for Harris/Biden for each of these defective ballots? I used to do printing and DTP when the retail computer sales market tanked.  Got to be pretty good at it and had a lot of fun. This is unconscionable.

If the walls could talk - hospitals

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I have always found building infrastructure to be fascinating.  Hospitals especially - they have so much stuff hidden in their walls.  Gas lines, all sorts of signalling and networking. I would love to be able to see a hospital room before the wall coverings were installed.  I am imagining that this is even more so with the Presidential Suite at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center where our President and First Lady are recovering from their bout of Wuhan Flu.

I was curious what their rooms looked like and The London Daily Mail delivered:

Inside Walter Reed: The 'Nation's Medical Center' where Trump will be treated for coronavirus in a secure 'Presidential Suite'
Now that he has arrived at Walter Reed National Medical Center for observation and treatment for COV-19, President Trump will be in the hands of 7,000 or so staff members including some of the nation's top doctors.

Trump will stay in the hospital's designated Presidential Suite, a lavish portion of one of its 88 buildings.

Known as Ward 71, the Presidential Suite is one of six special patient rooms reserved for high-ranking military officers and members of the White House cabinet.

The suite is 'specially outfitted with protective devices and communications gear used in support of the president,' wrote Rear Admiral Connie Mariano, who served as a physician to both presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton and was director of the White House Medical Unit.

Here are two photos from the article:



More at the site. Nice day room and dining room - there is also a full exam room, ICU bed, reception area. I would love to be able to poke through and see what kinds of security and communications there are.  Once a geek, always a geek...

Biden's little helper

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Still want the RNC to bring a covert radio jammer to the debates.  Joe Biden is wearing a radio so he can be "coached" on his answers. Case in point:


The Savox headset is a favorite of military and security people - company website here: SAVOX
Lots of very cool (and justifiably expensive) stuff.

January 2021

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