5at5 number 1 | 3 February 2014

5at5 email headerThis is 5at5, bringing you five interesting things that I’ve found on the internet every weekday at around 5pm Sydney time. They’ll be connected to my interests in some way — the politics of the internet and how technology is changing power relationships at every level of society, security and surveillance, military technology and history, language, journalism and human nature. And more.

There’s a little more background in my blog post announcing the project.

It’s always going to be a work in progress, so do let me know what you think, good or bad — just reply to this email and it’ll get to me. And obviously the responsible thing to do it forward it to all of your friends. — Stilgherrian

1.
Forget Cook, Banks was the real Endeavour star — and you can read his journals

A page from Banks’ journalCaptain James Cook was merely the ship-driver when HMS Bark Endeavour explored the east coast of Australia — or so says David Hunt in his book Girt: The Unauthorised History of Australia, which I’ll review somewhere in due course.

Botanist Joseph Banks had been lobbying King George III to run such explorations, so when he was ordered onto the Endeavour he pulled out all the stops. He brought £10,000 worth of his own equipment — the Royal Society had previously managed to mount three entire expeditions for just £4000 in total — along with two scientific colleagues, two artists, four servants and two greyhounds.

As Hunt wrote:

Banks enjoyed life at sea. He got to sleep in a comfy cabin and had packed lots of expensive wine and tasty treats for himself, but his greatest pleasure was sitting on deck and blasting passing seabirds out of the sky — his record was sixty-nine in a day.

Sounds like my sort of chap — at least until you discover his 18th Century social attitudes.

The State Library of New South Wales is in possession of the collected Papers of Sir Joseph Banks and they’ve put them all online, including the Endeavour journal. Every page is provided as a photographic image — but since they’re a bit hard to read, the library has transcribed them all and posted them as PDF files.

2.
Which future maritime patrol aircraft for the UK?

Britain used to rule the oceans, sure, but right now they don’t even have any maritime patrol aircraft. The UK spent £4 billion on developing the Nimrod MRA4 before the late-running project was cancelled in 2010. Now they’re having to make do with Type 23 frigates and Merlin helicopters. Other nations are developing next-generation maritime patrol aircraft, though, so what are the choices?

UK defence policy blog Think Defence has published a three-parter looking at the challenges and missions, Boeing’s new long-range maritime patrol aircraft, the P-8A Poseidon, and other contenders, namely the the Airbus A319 MPA, the Kawasaki P1, refurbished versions of Lockheed Martin’s P-3 Orion, and the refurbished Breguet Atlantique. Contains slobberworthy promotional videos.

3.
กลียุค — Thailand’s Era of Insanity

If you’re wondering why there’s been so much craziness in Thailand during the lead-up to yesterday’s elections, this solid article by freelance journalist Andrew MacGregor Marshall will help. Marshall’s explanation is so blunt that it’s censored in Thailand — and if he ever sets foot in the country again he’d almost certainly be facing a long stretch in jail under the lèse-majesté laws.

Marshall had worked for Reuters for 17 years, including a stint as deputy bureau chief in Bangkok in 2000-2002, but he chose to end that.

At the start of June 2011 I resigned from Reuters, with regret, in order to publish what I consider to be an important and necessary story about Thailand. Because of Thailand’s harsh lèse-majesté, defamation and computer crimes laws, which criminalise telling the truth about powerful figures, it was not possible for Reuters to guarantee the safety of its staff within Thailand if it ran the story.

4.
The need for speed: better fighter pilots through amphetamines

While us mere mortals are working to tight deadlines, we have to make do with a coffee to perk us. Not so the military, who are made of sterner stuff. Just break out the speed!

Hence the existence of this document, Performance Maintenance During Continuous Flight Operations: A Guide for Flight Surgeons (PDF) from the US Navy’s Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center. Published in 2000, it draws upon the USN’s experiences with dishing out the speed for, um, “fatigue management”.

In the foreword, the Chief Surgeon of the Navy, R A Nelson, says:

Historically, the use of medications to maintain performance in aviators is not a new idea. Enclosure (1) notes that the British and Germans used amphetamines during WWII in their pilots. Later, the British used sedatives to regulate sleep for pilots during the Falklands conflict. The US. Air Force and Navy used amphetamines in aviators during Vietnam, and the Air Force used both amphetamines and sedatives during Desert Storm and have used both off and on since. Use in all these circumstances was reported to be safe and effective.

The document also explains how to manage the usage cycle of amphetamines as the “go pill” and sedatives of various kinds a the “no-go pill”, and the USN’s procedures for managing all this.

Remember, as the guide says, “Fatigue is a commodity to by managed.” Exactly, Officer.

5.
Historia Discordia — Documenting the Origins, History & Chaos of the Discordian Society

People occasionally ask me about the quotes at the top of my website. “All hail Eris!” is the greeting of the Discordians, and the Wikipedia entry I linked to there is as reasonable an explanation of Discordianism as any.

It turns out that a bunch of the Discordians’ early documents were (relatively) recently saved from the trash, and they’re gradually fnord being published at Historia Discordia. Thoroughly recommended for a lazy Sunday afternoon read over a cup of tea, or maybe one of those odd-smelling cigarettes.

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[Originally published at: http://tinyletter.com/5at5/letters/5at5-number-1-3-february-2014.]

Talking Tor and Silk Road on ABC Local Radio

ABC logoThis evening I had a lovely conversation on ABC Local Radio in Sydney and around NSW on the takedown of the Silk Road internet marketplace and the Tor anonymity software that made such anonymity possible.

The presenter was the redoubtable Dom Knight. Given that we last spoke in April, we had a lot to catch up on. Here’s the full audio.

Play

The audio is of course ©2013 Australian Broadcasting Corporation, archived here because it isn’t being archived anywhere else.

Weekly Wrap 129: Chaos from the past, with added manga

Monday 19 to Sunday 25 November 2012 was just a little too chaotic for my liking. The overall theme, if chaos can be said to have a theme, was “The past is coming back to bite you. Several times.”

Not deep, existential shark bites. More like bee stings, or perhaps spider bites. Plus a couple of dog bites, like the one I got from that goddam collie back in the mid-1980s. The damn thing infected my hand and it took a cocktail of three heavy-duty antibiotics to be rid of it. To this day, my left hand is significantly weaker.

Yes, your past can bite you, and you are then weakened.

The lesson there is to never entrust the proper training of a dog to rent boys, no matter how good their drugs are.

Yeah I think the rest of this story can probably wait until another time.

During my two weeks in (mostly) Singapore and Coffs Harbour, I was too exhausted to mentally process Certain Events. I flew to Singapore before I’d completely killed a throat infection, and I didn’t realise that the antibiotic I was taking was increasing the severity of my insomnia. I arrived on Shopping Mall Container Terminal Island in a run-down state.

Exhaustion goes well with Endless Free Alcohol, does it not?

Fortunately I’d almost-planned this week to contain a little less work. My intention was to start pondering my plans for 2013 and beyond, both professionally and personally. For various reasons I won’t go into today, both are at turning-points. Clarity of thought must be obtained, because decisions must be made.

The Certain Events provided much food for this thought. Two of the more significant Certain Events were re-establishing contact with two people — quite unconnected with each other — who I hadn’t seen in something like 14 or 16 years.

One was a reminder of… well, let’s just say it was a reminder that our lives are full of choices, many of them unconscious. Had our choices been different, then our lives would have unfolded very differently also.

In Singapore I discovered that 16 years ago there was a choice I could have made. Had I been consciously aware of it, I might well have said yes. But that door has long since been closed. My life unfolds as it does. As does his.

The other was a reminder that… well, that 14 or 16 years is a long time, and I’m getting older. That in turn triggered some very deep reflections indeed about many other choices made, large and small, wise and less so. So many of the last.

On Friday a very different piece of the past came back to haunt me. A client decided to dredge out an HTML email template that I’d written for them some time in the Early Neolithic Era, and use it in a campaign that very day. Needless to say, this ancient code didn’t render properly in recent versions of Microsoft Outlook.

Friday suddenly became hectic. But thanks to excellent technical support from Sydney-based email marketing platform Campaign Monitor, and in particular from Stig Morten Myre in Norway, I could skip the whole “re-learn email-client HTML rendering because time plus arseholes equals frustration” bit and just focus on implementing tricks that would, in fact, work. Thank you Stig.

This extra work meant that Saturday became a long working day too. But everything was smooth, if time-consuming. And now here I sit, in the quiet of the eucalypt scrubland near Wentworth Falls. A quiet that is likely to be the calm before a literal storm this evening. Pondering.

Podcasts

  • Patch Monday episode 164, “InfoSec in flux, facing fads with FUD”. A conversation with Sourcefire founder and CTO Martin Roesch.

Articles

Media Appearances

Corporate Largesse

  • On Tuesday night I attended Nokia’s Lumia Lounge event at Kaya Sydney, where we were all provided with rather pleasant food and drink.

The Week Ahead

The week ahead is apparently the start of the Christmas party season. Jesus wept. Added to that, technology companies look like they’re blowing their remaining PR budgets for the quarter on media briefings. So there’ll be plenty of corporate largesse to report next time.

As far as media production goes, I’ve got the Patch Monday podcast to finalise first thing Monday morning, then a story each for CSO Online and Technology Spectator before the end of the week. I want to lock in some more, and I think I’ll be able to pitch something both to ZDNet and Crikey.

Logistically, I plan to head to Sydney on Wednesday morning and stay a few days attending various events.

On Wednesday there’s a Retail Tech Forum lunch organised by Bass PR for some of their clients, and in the evening there’s a party with Securus Global.

On Thursday there’s the lunchtime Sydney media launch for Uber (which is essentially the on-demand ordering of a black town car via smartphone apps, so screw you taxi industry oligopolists!), followed by the Internet Industry Association’s Nautical Policy Party on Sydney Harbour (don’t ask), and then an evening party held jointly by the four boutique PR firms known as “The Indies”.

How the end of the week will play out has yet to be decided, but on Sunday I’ll be transferring myself to Hurstville to house-sit for a friend through until early January.

At least that’s the plan as of now. Stay tuned. Eris is a fickle bitch.

[Photo: Japanese-inspired toilet door signage, at Kaya Sydney. These cartoon characters are all well and good, but when I’m in a hurry to take a slash I don’t need the extra puzzle time of reading highly-stylised gender markers in a dimly-lit corridor.]

Talking about the “Dark Web” on ABC News 24

This morning I was interviewed by ABC News 24 about the “Dark Web”, a term Fairfax news outlets used earlier this week in a story headlined The new underbelly. Since I was at the event in Sydney that triggered the writing of that story, I was happy to tone down some of the hype-scare.

By the “Dark Web” they meant things like Silk Road, a marketplace for all manner of illegality, and the Tor anonymity network that allows Silk Road to hide… somewhere.

I’ll update this post later today to include links to the other things I discussed with presenter Andrew Geoghegan.

If the embedded video doesn’t work for you, you can watch it over on YouTube.

This is a rough copy of the video for now. I’ll upload a better version as soon as it becomes available, though that’ll still have me staring mindlessly into the distance as I’m being introduced. Sigh. The footage is ©2012 Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

The 9pm Edict #10

The 9pm EdictThe media totally misrepresents the real risks to our lives. Senator Conroy totally misrepresents the facts. Again. And the government literally makes my life more painful.

Here is episode 10 of The 9pm Edict.

You can listen to this episode below. But if you want them all, subscribe to the podcast feed, or even subscribe automatically in iTunes.

Play

For more information about the topics covered in this episode, check out Australia’s Standard for the Uniform Scheduling of Drugs and Poisons, the National Drugs and Poisons Schedule Committee’s (NDPSC) decision on codeine, especially the NDPSC record of reasons, 56th meeting 16-17 June 2009, the ABC News story on same, and some background on codeine; the Marketplace story Big companies are hoarding cash; ABC News stories about the Pope’s Easter service being clouded by the sex abuse scandal and Jews upset that the Vatican compares criticism of the Pope to the Holocaust; and Australian Bureau of Statistics publication 3303.0 — Causes of Death, Australia.

If you’d like to comment on this episode, please add your comment below, or Skype to stilgherrian or phone Sydney +61 2 8011 3733.

[Credits: The 9pm Edict theme by mansardian, Edict fanfare by neonaeon, all from The Freesound Project, as were the other sound effects. Photograph of Stilgherrian taken 29 March 2009 by misswired, used by permission.]