Aside

The Roundup for November 19-30, 2018 Edition

Explore by Christopher Parsons

Welcome to this edition of The Roundup! Enjoy the collection of interesting, informative, and entertaining links. Brew a fresh cup of coffee, make a tea, or grab yourself a drink, find a comfortable place, and relax.


Inspiring Quotation

Hope requires action.

  • Barrack Obama

Great Photography Shots

Ugur Galenkus’ work is not easy to look at, but constitutes an important artistic intervention by juxtaposing the lives of those in war torn parts of the world with those in the West.

Music I’m Digging

  • 2018 – Tracks I Liked in November // A new addition to my music lists, I’m starting to pull together the different tracks that I liked in a given month. This month sees some tracks from 2018 but just as many from earlier in the decade. It’s a diverse collection of pop, R&B, rap, and alternative, and electronic, with a bit of orchestral thrown in here and there.
  • American Gods (Original Series Soundtrack) // Having just watched the first season of the show — which was excellent! — I had to get and listen to the soundtrack. It’s got an eerie mix of jazz, electronica, and classical undertones. While merging all three genres is somewhat novel it works incredibly well throughout the album and stands up well without needing the show to support the music.
  • Jean-Michel Blais – Il (Deluxe) // Blais plays classical piano, and the album he’s created is absolutely beautiful. The title track of the albums, il, is a treat to listen to as he flies over the keys to create a truly spellbinding moment.
  • Lavnia Meijer – Glass: Metamorphosis, The Hours // This is a really impressive set of classical music; I’ve listened to it throughout the past couple weeks when passing through the city so as to just reflect on what is near and far, in the past and in the future.
  • If you like these albums then you should follow me on Apple Music!

Neat Podcast Episodes

  • Heavyweight – Gregor // I hadn’t heard of Heavyweight until last week. It’s a curious concept: the host attempts to bring a resolution to a personal conflict of some sort between two people. In this episode it is between Gregor — a guy who feels like his life has passed him by — and Moby, to whom Gregor has loaned a CD box set in the 90s. Moby sampled from the disks and created some of his most iconic breakout hits but never returned the CDs nor really spoke to Gregor again. This episode resolves some of that historical conflict between the two men.
  • The House – Midweek pod: Millennials’ money habits // In this episode of The House the highlight exploration is of a study into the actual financial status and security of millennials in Canada. The assertion is that most millennials are in about the same status or better than their parents. The assessment seems to pass over what generates anxiety: for those living in Canada’s big cities, debt from student loans are slowing progress into home ownership while home prices skyrocket and (correspondingly) renters are always in a situation of being forced from their homes, attitudes of employers means that it’s hard to trust that you’re going to have a long-term job which impacts an ability to engage in long-term fiscal planning, and there are lingering concerns amongst some millennials about the status of their parents and what will happen when they retire with limited savings. Moreover, the analysis is based on millennial perceptions around the country: the status of those in the big cities is very different from those in other parts of the country, which raises the question of whether such cross-cutting analyses that arrive at holistic ‘understandings’ for the entire country are really fitting given the significant economic and social variation across the entirety of Canada.
  • The Sporkful – Carla Hall Isn’t Going Back To The Frozen Food Section // I remember Carla from when she was on Top Chef and was the ‘quirky’ one; this episode rewrites much of that perception by extending the depth of her experiences before, during, and after the show. Throughout I was struck with how her joy is communicated in some of her stories about her youth, and also the struggle and pain that came from recognizing that for her entire life she had been struggling against the structures of racism and not really realized their presence. Her honesty and candour, along with the host’s probing questions, turned this into one of the best episodes of the show to date.
  • The Daily – The Human Toll of Instant Delivery // By investigating the conditions in major shipping warehouses it becomes apparent just how inhumanely people are being treated so that goods which are ordered online arrive quickly to doorsteps. That some warehouses push women to work to the point of miscarriage, and have broad-brush misogynistic policies, is repugnant and speaks to the absolute need for workers rights to be better protected. All people deserve respect and dignity in their workplaces, regardless of the type of work, and this episode shows how poorly some employers will treat their employees in the absence of strong, and well defended, labour laws.

Good Reads

  • What to do about the Olympus Problem // I’m not going to lie: I think all the camera nerds saying one camera type or another is ‘dead’ or ‘useless’ fails to recognize that the worst cameras today are better than those used by the greats of photography 10, 15, 30, or 40 years ago. That said, this is probably one of the better ways to think about how Olympus might diversify its camera line to make clear which cameras are for which group of consumers. In this way, what Rammell is proposing is less reforming the cameras themselves — though there is a little of that — and more how to reform the public relations of Olympus. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though if companies like Apple are any indication I don’t think we should expect brand clarity anytime soon.
  • Palm Oil Was Supposed to Help Save the Planet. Instead It Unleashed a Catastrophe // In this long-form article, the New York Times’ Abrahm Lustgarten outlines how American efforts to adopt biofuels to combat climate change have, instead, promoted climate change. By converting palm oil into biofuels the forests and peatlands of Indonesia and Malaysia are being ‘converted’ into oil-palm tree groves that have their seeds converted into biofuels. The problem is that these old-growth forests and peatlands act as massive carbon sinks: by destroying them, often by burning away the peat, more carbon is being released into the atmosphere than any time in the past millennia. Once more, human hubris concerning our knowledge of the complex environment we exist within has led to poor policy choices, in an era when such choices move us ever closer to ecological crisis and collapse.
  • Heritage beyond a building’s walls // What was most striking about this editorial was how heritage can be preserved in a multitude of ways, such as creating museums of key elements of an older location or building, within the new building itself, or otherwise honouring or relocating materials from the heritage site and into the new site. But, also, that heritage extends beyond the physical space itself: it may also mean establishing affordable housing to continue to legacy of a boarding house, or otherwise support the community that was essential to why a heritage site possesses a heritage in the first place.
  • You Don’t Have to Be a Journalist to Want to Keep Chats Private // I really appreciated how this interview with the New York Times’ Kate Conger walks through her process: while she’s mindful of security and privacy she still needs to be very social in order to do her job. So the technologies she’s using reflect her current decisions around security, and they’re ones that she regularly evaluates. The interview both surfaces some tools that others might be curious in trying out while, simultaneously, making clear there is no perfect, and that perfect is the enemy of good enough.
  • Period-tracking apps are not for women // Vox’s deep-dive into the world of period-tracking apps reveals an ecosystem dominated by men, and wherein women’s bodies and data is used principally to collect personal information so as to sell ads and products. These aren’t apps to empower women but, instead, ignorant applications designed by men to spy on women and profit from the spying. They are, in effect, creeper apps.
  • Fascism is Not an Idea to Be Debated, It’s a Set of Actions to Fight // This is a complex essay: it notes how those willing to entertain dialogue with fascists tend to be in positions of privilege, whereas those most targeted are most disinclined to engage in debate and instead actively work against fascism not with words but with actions. While perhaps the most dangerous thing that liberal democracies can be is tolerant to intolerance, the author’s disassociation of action and ideas seems ill-conceived. Fascism exists as an idea, an ideology, and as a set of practices. What is required to combat it is, similarly, an idea set and series of practices; some may be discursive in nature and others more tactile. But shunning a diversity of tactics seems to be alienating allies with different skills and fundamentally turns into an intolerance of parties who are actively working against fascism but using different tactical means.
  • What the UAE’s arrest of Matthew Hedges means for political science research in the Middle East // The threats facing academics studying politics are rising throughout the world, and perhaps nowhere as quickly as in the Middle East. While this article raises questions about the safety of conducting research in the Middle East it also raises questions about Western governments which condone the sale of surveillance technologies used to track and round up academics and activists, as well Western governments’ broader support for autocratic regimes. It’s not sufficient to just warn scholars: governments themselves need to re-engage more aggressively to advocate for human rights and democratic reforms around the world.

Cool Things

The Roundup for November 5-18, 2018 Edition

Sentry Duty by Christopher Parsons

Welcome to this edition of The Roundup! Enjoy the collection of interesting, informative, and entertaining links. Brew a fresh cup of coffee or grab yourself a drink, find a comfortable place, and relax.


There’s been a lot written about the newest iPhone cameras, but what I continue to find most striking is how well they seem to deal with dynamic range. I won’t be upgrading this year, and am eager to see just how much more Apple can advance computational photography in the course of another year, but remain struck by Tyler Stalman’s video putting the iPhone XS against his DSLR.


Inspiring Quotation of the Week

Love is patient, love is kind.

  • 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Great Photography Shots

I like the symmetry of these shots; critically, neither is symmetrical for pure aesthetics but because doing so brings the subject and story of the image better into focus.

The best seat in the house‘ by @jawdoc2
Untitled‘ by Nicolas Xanthos

Music I’m Digging

  • Sword Coast Legends – Original Game Soundtrack // I’m in the process of getting a game of D&D ready and this has been a helpful source of songs to play for different areas and events.
  • Fallout 76 – Original Game Soundtrack // I was curious about how the instrumentals for this were going to come together — I’m never totally certain what orchestral arrangement ‘works’ best for Fallout games — and was both pleasantly surprised that the score was well done and that several of the overland background tracks will work as well in a medieval fantasy setting as in a post-apocalyptic one. Not sure what that says about either setting…
  • Ghostface Killah & Apollo Brown – The Brown Tape // This album was randomly recommended to me. While the majority of it is very in-character — and something I have a hard time tracking because I’m not sufficiently aware of how various Wu Tang members have built their backstories — the flow is solid all the way through and also has very, very strong MCing.

Neat Podcast Episodes

  • The Agenda – PTSD and the War at Home // PTSD is one of the silent threats and killers of the Canadian Armed Forces. Steve’s interview with Stéphane Grenier touches on the challenges in identifying and treating the disorder. What stuck out in my mind was Grenier’s discussion that it was only when one of his supervisors gave him the space to care for himself — telling him to not run back to work because he needed to work on himself and his mental health — that he felt permitted or authorized to get the help he needed. That kind of action speaks to the need for employers to treat employees with compassion and facilitate their health over the short-term goals of the organization.
  • The Sporkful – The Chef Who Drinks Milk With Her Chocolate Soufflé // I appreciated how the guest for this episode, Samir Nosrat, was able to speak to the need to enjoy oneself even in fine dining experiences. Part of that enjoyment comes from being honest with the servers — what would really make an experience better? — but also by the staff of restaurants treating their customers with care and empathy. How many of the challenges that are faced between and within organizations could be solved if we simply showed one another a greater degree of attention, care, and empathy?

Good Reads for the Week

  • Learning to Attack the Cyberattackers Can’t Happen Fast Enough // The need to attract new talent into the field of cybersecurity — at technical and policy levels — is critical. But it’s deeply disturbing when a leading faculty member pitches all advances as being techniques to let the state better monitor and track its citizens. Given that state actors are themselves routinely abusive the normative position assumed — that we can trust the state but not its citizens engaged in dissent and protest — speaks to the problems facing the STEM field more generally.
  • How to Talk to People, According to Terry Gross // I like Terry’s reasons for avoiding pointed questions, like ‘how is your job’, on the basis that they presume things which may not be true. Instead, open a conversation with ‘tell me about yourself’ to let the other person open into what they are interested or willing to talk about.
  • Printing at Home // While I’ve never been able to print at home for storage space and cost reasons I’d love to be able to with some frequency, if only to better see and fix things in some of my prints. My hope is that in a month or three I’ll be able to at least do small-size printings, such that I’ll be able to see if a photo makes sense to be printed in a larger size or not.
  • Targeted Advertising Is Ruining the Internet and Breaking the World // What is most striking in this article is the emphasis on how the invisible data collection economy has broader impacts on all dimensions of social life in the Western world and globe more generally. Further, the conclusion acknowledges that much of the debate has been about stopping targeted advertisements and that this debate misses the forest through the trees; the real issue is the very collection of data and not its uses or avoiding such uses. Recognizing data collection as the problem underscores the importance of the consent doctrine and need to avoid shifting purely to a use-based analysis of privacy risks and threats.
  • Patching Is Failing as a Security Paradigm // For two decades a security cycle has been developed that, while not perfect, has begun to be more and more effective. However, this model likely cannot work in a world where everything is computerized and in need of security updates. Schneier’s assessments are on point, direct, and poignantly express the magnitude of the emerging computer security crisis and how ill-suited we are to addressing it.
  • Putting away pints: Are cellars worth it or just expensive beer purgatory? // I’ve long wanted to cellar wines and beers but I move too often — and into too small spaces! — for that dream to have ever come true. This blog walks through why cellaring most beers just really isn’t worth it, and why you should instead enjoy your beer within a few weeks of production instead.
  • We need to talk about cars // Climate change is real. The world is becoming more hostile to most kinds of life, humans included, and our failure to seriously confront the problems of climate change threaten to create events capable of killing millions. While it’s all fine and good to approach low carbon modes of transportation, this article powerfully argues that we need to remove some of the most dangerous things from our communities: private motor vehicles. To be clear, transit replacements will be needed as will re-architecting the city to one for pedestrians, but these are doable kinds of changes. And they have to happen, fast, before it’s too late.

Cool Things

The Roundup for July 16-22, 2018 Edition

Ocean Town by Christopher Parsons

When I first bought my Olympus EM-10ii I immediately purchased Panasonic’s 1.7 25mm lens. My rationale was flawed: I assumed that the kit zoom lens was garbage and that a cheap prime lens would get me photos that would be substantively better than anything that the kit lens provided.1 Even after I figured out that I could take shots I enjoyed with both zoom lenses and the prime I tended to stick with the primes on the basis that I kept reading about the importance of shooting with primes.

Fast forward a year, and I started using my zoom lenses a lot, especially when I was travelling somewhere that would include nature shots. It’s been pretty normal for me to have a long zoom lens combined with an iPhone 7 for wide angle and panoramic shots. And over the past few months that I’ve been shooting at home I’ve tended to pick up and use the kit lens that came with my camera: there’s no way that what I’m trying to do with my lenses are outside of scope of what that lens can do.

The result has been that I’ve been using zooms a lot over the past 6 or 7 months. To the point that I hadn’t picked up a prime lens for months.

Yesterday I decided to just head out and shoot with my trusty Panasonic 1.7 25mm. It was a surreal experience, largely because I’ve gotten so used to the qualities of my zoom lenses that I had to spent at least an hour just getting used to the 25mm’s characteristics. Specifically, getting used to the different coloration, the ability to play with wider apertures, and my need to fully zoom with my legs. In the coming days I’m hoping to post some of the photos from the walk as well as the importance and value that I took from just taking the walk.


Inspiring Quotation of the Week

When our intentions toward others are good, we find that any feelings of anxiety or insecurity we may have are greatly reduced. We experience a liberation from our habitual preoccupation with self and paradoxically, this gives rise to strong feelings of confidence.

  • Dalai Lama

Great Photography Shots

I’ve never actually looked at a series of black and white photographs of undersea life; Anuar Patjane Floriuk’s photos look like they emerge from some kind of a science fiction movie as opposed to the worlds under our seas and oceans.

Music I’m Digging

  • Huaschka – Abandoned City // I find that the album is very haunting, and is exciting to listen to when concentrating on it alone while also functioning as nice background music when I’m reading or writing.
  • Amy Shark – Love Monster // A very pop album. The song ‘Adore’ always bring a smile to my face.
  • Johann Johannsson – Orphee // I haven’t listened to Johannsson’s work previously and found the composition of the orchestras he performs with are both accessible (good for someone like me who likes classical music but hasn’t yet learned enough to know which specific compositions are responding to/playing with one another) and fun to listen to through the lens of the Greek tale of Orpheus.

Neat Podcast Episodes

Good Reads for the Week

Cool Things

  • An entomologist rates ant emojis // Some of these descriptions are terrific. As an example, the review of Mozilla’s emoji is “This is a termite, -10/10.”
  • Radkan Tower // 800 years ago, Iranian astronomer’s built an entire building that was able to identify the different seasons and account for when the solstice and equinox took place, as well as determine leap years and the start of Nowruz, the Iranian New Year. Amazing.
  1. I would note that I immediately took my camera and that prime lens to Cuba; I think that being forced into a single focal lens the whole time did result in me getting more shots that I would like. The constraints, themselves, were helpful when I was first learning the camera.
Aside

The Roundup for July 9-15, 2018 Edition

Eyes to the Home by Christopher Parsons

This has been a week where I’ve been trying to get used to living in a new location. So there’ve been trips to Ikea and other places to get the necessities needed for the new location, getting used to wandering a new building, and learning the new routes to walk to work. And it’s been a quiet time of reflection, thoughts, and considerations of the future, as well as the recent past. It’s been a very busy week and, as things step into a new tempo, I suspect things will feel less comfortable and those reflections properly take hold.


Inspiring Quotation of the Week

To be clear, privacy is no ‘contemporary’ hang-up. This is a diversionary argument floated frequently in the tech / security fields; that privacy concerns have somehow erupted in the past decade, simply on account of social media, smart phones or Edward Snowden. Not only is that premise self-serving if one works in the bureaucracy of intelligence, it’s also demonstrably false.

The Latin root of privacy is ‘privatum’, an enunciated principle of civil law as early as the Roman Republic under Cicero. Privacy was a constraint on government action inscribed into England’s Magna Carta of 1215. And, perhaps most famously, the individual’s right to privacy is there in the Fourth Amendment of the American Constitution.

Great Photography Shots

Brendan Siebel has a nice essay to accompany photographs taken by Eugène Atget, who took photos of Paris around the turn of the 20th century. Atget’s work documents the changes to the city and captures that nature of the city-that-was as it was forcibly transformed by city planner.

Music I’m Digging

  • Leonard Cohen – Popular Problems // I’m slowly going through Cohen’s corpus, and I’m definitely finding that I prefer his more gravelly and poetic work as opposed to that when he was younger and more melodic.

Neat Podcast Episodes

  • Planet Money – Peak Sand // This story about the nature of sand forensics, and how sand is being stolen to provide resort beaches with Instagram-perfect sand, was eye-opening and yet another indication of the issues with tourism.
  • The Daily – One Family’s Reunification Story // There is so much that is wrong in the United States of America right now, and this piece by the daily that recounts the reunification between a migrant family is heart wrenching.

Good Reads for the Week

  • How to Be Alone and Why // A nice meditation on the value of being alone and, also, why being alone is increasingly common given the rise of single-occupancy homes. We are moving to a society where are are separated from other persons more regularly than in the past, but must also recognize that to participate fully in society we must sometimes enjoy periods of solitude so-as-to learn how and why to engage with those around us in a meaningful manner.
  • Unidentified Plane-Bae Woman’s Statement Confirms the Worst // The problems largely associated with the spread of social media, and capability of other persons to deliberately intrude into one another’s personal lives, is a continuation of social problems that pre-date the digital era. However, whereas once gossip and innuendo would have been relatively restricted to a physical space it can now break free of geographical boundaries and, in the process, lead other persons to actively intrude upon persons’ private lives and engage in harassment and abuse. While such social problems cannot ever be truly ‘solved’ they can be ameliorated by teaching the right and wrong ways to behave online which will, fundamentally, explain the problems linked with historical social ills and how they can be aggravated by digital communications mediums.

Cool Things

  • I’m a huge fan of Yamazaki’s design language: simple, clean, and minimalist. I recently picked up their Tower Laundry Basket and love how it just quietly sits in my bed room without drawing any attention to itself.
  • I love these ‘monumental nobodies’ pieces by Mathew Quick.

The Roundup for February 24-March 2, 2018 Edition

Evening Dream
Evening Dream by Christopher Parsons

For the past few weeks I’ve been deliberately constraining my photography by shooting exclusively by a 35mm equivalent lens. This was the focal length that really convinced me that I enjoyed photography as a way of seeing and experiencing the world. I’m a big fan of zoom lenses, and keep eyeing the Olympus 12-40mm 2.8 Pro lens, but I find that I learn the most about a scene by having to walk around it with a bright prime lens.

Alien Reach
Alien Reach by Christopher Parsons

When I travelled to Cuba, having to march around with a 50mm equivalent lens meant I went into entirely new places and angles that I wouldn’t have if I’d had a zoom lens to otherwise get a shot. And while I’ve previously used my 35mm equivalent, I have to admit that I’ve been far more reliant on some of my zooms and the 50mm; I just haven’t focused on learning to use the 35mm lens because there is so much more walking-by-zooming that I have to do with it compared to even my other prime lenses.

Sound Off!
Sound Off! by Christopher Parsons

But that’s silly: I enjoy the focal length, I just have to work a lot more to get things out of the camera. So I’ve been using it at night, during the day, and exclusively attached it to my camera body for the past month and intend to bring it (along with an 80-300mm equivalent lens) when I travel to South America in a week and change. I like the idea of an unobtrusive lens as my walkabout, and then the zoom for when I’ve trekking through nature. And, perhaps most importantly, I really like the idea of forcing myself to get a lot more comfortable with my current gear as a way to inhibit my desire to buy more gear: I have functionally underused equipment, and I should be playing with it, first and foremost, before even considering the purchase of new kit.


Inspiring Quotation

“We start on the path to genuine adulthood when we stop insisting on our emotional competence and acknowledge the extent to which we are – in many areas of our psyche – likely to be sharply trailing our biological age. Realising we aren’t – as yet, in subtle ways – quite adults may be the start of true maturity.”

Great Photography Shots

Mobiography’s landscape photography shots are really, really amazing and showcase just how much you can do with a contemporary smartphone and good lighting conditions.

Jagged horizon, Monument Valley…
Jagged horizon, Monument Valley… by Joseph Cyr
It’s been a good day… full of weather again..
It’s been a good day… full of weather again.. by Fi Austin
Snow & Fishing Cottages
Snow & Fishing Cottages by Jen Pollack Bianco
Windswept
Windswept by lkbside

Music I’m Digging

Neat Podcast Episodes

Good Reads for the Week

Cool Things

The Roundup for December 23-29, 2017 Edition

Bright Fathers by Christopher Parsons

It’s the time of year when people reflect on past annual resolutions while beginning to think about what resolutions they’ll ‘commit’ to in the coming year. I enjoy the idea of establishing annual targets and goals. Not just because it’s fun to imagine how great life would be if you hit them all, but because it provides an ongoing sense of direction in what is often a rote world. More than that, resolutions, goal setting, or whatever else you call it are helpful for providing a lens through which to reflect on a year gone by.

I had one standard resolution, which I absolutely failed to make possible, and a host of them that were far more successful. I fully exited consumer debt hell, increased monthly student loan payments, photographically documented many of the major events in my life, dealt with the last administrative aspects of my last relationship, and mostly righted my financial ship. All of those were major life accomplishments and have done things like change how I visually see the world every day, how I experience my relationships with money, and how I approach my relationships today. It’s not just that I finished something but that in the course of undertaking a series of activities I’ve opened up entirely new (and, arguably, healthier) ways of seeing the world.

But there were other things that I accomplished that I think are as important as those goals that were set last year. I think I’m most proud of the fact that I can see ways in which I’ve grown emotionally. In specific, in my desire to avoid some of the mistakes of my last relationship I’ve had honest and oftentimes painful conversations that were based on what I believe to be right for me; rather than subsuming myself to make life easier I’ve just been me, even when doing so might cause challenges in my relationships. Such challenges, however, are healthy insofar as strong areas of disagreement aren’t indications of a lack of love but, instead, of a healthy set of egos that simply must come to a consensual agreement on how to proceed. Learning how to love in a healthy way has been scary while also amplifying my ability to be present and with others in ways I never understood as possible.

I’ve also managed to overcome some long held fears that were the result of bullying I experienced while growing up. The result is that I can make healthy choices for my body without having a voice in the back of my head that sabotages my efforts to be fitter, eat better, and be happier in my own body. Getting over those particular demons is especially important, in my situation, given that I’m creeping up on the age when coronary diseases start to take the lives of the men in my family.

In the coming days I’ll be thinking through the kinds of resolutions and thematics that I want to carry forward into the coming year. Centrally, I think I’m going to have ‘testable’ objectives, insofar as I’ll be able to actually measure whether or not I’ve advanced in some of the hobbies that I’m involved in, while also trying to find ways of deprioritizing activities that are pleasurable but don’t really do much to advance my physical, intellectual, artistic, professional, or emotional wellbeing.


I spent a significant amount of time thinking about the implications of path dependency in socio-technical systems over the course of my doctoral degree. For my work, I hypothesized that similar kinds of technologies in a path-dependent system would unfold in similar ways cross-jurisdictionally. This common unfolding would take place because once technological development began down a particular path, other paths would be foreclosed and a common end would be reached regardless of regulation, policy, or law.

In the work I did, this dependency wasn’t actually evidenced with much regularity. But some of that was because the technologies I was looking at were heavily socialized: they were used for a range of different tasks and, as such, their development impetuses were often decidedly non-technical. In contrast, the development of Transport Level Security (TLS) has a kind of path dependency that is notably challenging to deviate from, not just because clients and servers must implement new versions of the protocol but because developers of middle boxes simply assume technology will unfold in a given way and have developed their own technologies based on those assumptions. In reaction, the Internet community has spent a considerable amount of time trying to ameliorate the difficulties that arise when implementing new versions of the protocol, difficulties linked to assumptions as to how the protocol would, and will, develop.

Cryptographers are increasingly talking about the problems associated with adopting new versions of TLS as ‘joints’ ‘rusting shut.’ As discussed by Cloudflare, in the context of middleboxes:

Some features of TLS that were changed in TLS 1.3 were merely cosmetic. Things like the ChangeCipherSpec, session_id, and compression fields that were part of the protocol since SSLv3 were removed. These fields turned out to be considered essential features of TLS to some of these middleboxes, and removing them caused connection failures to skyrocket.

If a protocol is in use for a long enough time with a similar enough format, people building tools around that protocol will make assumptions around that format being constant. This is often not an intentional choice by developers, but an unintended consequence of how a protocol is used in practice. Developers of network devices may not understand every protocol used on the internet, so they often test against what they see on the network. If a part of a protocol that is supposed to be flexible never changes in practice, someone will assume it is a constant. This is more likely the more implementations are created.

It would be disingenuous to put all of the blame for this on the specific implementers of these middleboxes. Yes, they created faulty implementations of TLS, but another way to think about it is that the original design of TLS lent itself to this type of failure. Implementers implement to the reality of the protocol, not the intention of the protocol’s designer or the text of the specification. In complex ecosystems with multiple implementers, unused joints rust shut.

To some extent, the lesson to be taken from the efforts to update to TLS 1.3 is to have protocols which are simpler in nature and with fewer moving parts.1 Another lesson is that it takes years to actually shift the global population of Internet devices en masse to more secure ways of communicating. But perhaps the most fundamental lesson — to my mind — is that the security of the Internet is still trying to mediate and resolve problems which were initially seeded many, many years ago and which may mean it takes up to a decade to fix the specific problems to TLS 1.2.

Built infrastructure such as middleboxes isn’t updated on a regular basis because the infrastructure represents a capital cost. And so even as new protocols struggle to come to terms with the past, they do so by comforming to the paths sets down by previously deployed protocols. Even as TLS 1.3 is deployed and made usable, it will be done so based on how earlier versions of the protocol were designed and then implemented. So the questions that linger include: how will implementers of TLS 1.3 make decisions, and how will their decisions direct the development and implementation of future versions of TLS? In effect: how much will the paths of the past continue to affect how future versions of TLS can be practically — as opposed to hypothetically — developed??


Inspirational Quotation

“Generosity is the most natural outward expression of an inner attitude of compassion and loving-kindness.”

– Dalai Lama

Great Photography Shots

I’ve really fallen in love with some of the shots which were submitted to this year’s Sony Wold Photography Awards.

The Horns at sunrise. © Vincent Chen, China, Entry, Open, Landscape & Nature (2018 Open competition), 2018 Sony World Photography Awards.
The Horns at sunrise. © Vincent Chen, China, Entry, Open, Landscape & Nature (2018 Open competition), 2018 Sony World Photography Awards.
Little Indian. © Virgilio Liberato, Philippines, Entry, Open, Portraiture (Open competition), 2018 Sony World Photography Awards
Little Indian. © Virgilio Liberato, Philippines, Entry, Open, Portraiture (Open competition), 2018 Sony World Photography Awards.
Lunch Break. © Omer Faidi, Turkey, Entry, Open, Street Photography (Open competition), 2018 Sony World Photography Awards.
Lunch Break. © Omer Faidi, Turkey, Entry, Open, Street Photography (Open competition), 2018 Sony World Photography Awards.

Intriguing Video Art

Music I’m Digging

Neat Podcast Episodes

Good Reads for the Week

Cool Product Advice

  1. Per Cloudflare: David Benjamin proposed a way to keep the most important joints in TLS oiled. His GREASE proposal for TLS is designed to throw in random values where a protocol should be tolerant of new values. If popular implementations intersperse unknown ciphers, extensions and versions in real-world deployments, then implementers will be forced to handle them correctly. GREASE is like WD-40 for the Internet.

The Roundup for December 16-22, 2017 Edition

Picture of a illuminated maple leaf
Canadian Heart by Christopher Parsons 

My less-busy times this week were spent writing out notes, cards, emails, and other correspondence to some of the most important people in my life. It’s been a challenging year; the world seems to be falling apart due to changes in American politics, deaths and illnesses by family and friends have been hard to take, and the tempo for high-quality professional work never really slows down. And so I took some time writing to the people I’ve most closely worked with, supported, or been supported by to thank them for just being present and active in my life.

I find writing these sorts of messages of thanks, encouragement, and praise challenging. They’re not the kind of thing that I have ever really received much of throughout my personal or professional life; it’s just not normal in my family to communicate our deep feelings for one another, and in academe the point is to move to the next project (and subject it to critique) instead of dwelling on past projects and receiving accolades for them. But as challenging as I find writing these messages they have a profound personal impact: by pulling together my thoughts and writing them down and sending them, I’m humbled by realizing just how blessed I am to be surrounded by the kind, funny, supporting, and amazing people in my life.

There used to be a time when a lot more holiday cards, notes, and messages were sent back and forth between people this time of year. And many people still send cards, but don’t take the time — five, ten, or even twenty minutes — to handwrite a real thought to whomever the recipient happens to be. But those are the cards and notes and emails that people carry with them for years, packing them carefully away as they move from one physical or digital home to another. They don’t cost a lot of money to produce, and in the case of email are almost entirely free, but they show that you’ve spent time thinking about a specific person. And that time, in and of itself, is indicative of someone’s importance in your life.

So before you go out and spend money on another present consider taking that time and, instead, writing a letter or note to whomever the recipient is. Chances are good that they’ll remember and treasure the message you left with them for longer than any material possession your might give them.


Some of the bigger news in the Apple world, this week, has focused on changes to how Apple treats older iPhones which are suffering battery degradation. While the majority of the reporting is focused on how iPhone 6 and 6s devices are experiencing slowdowns — which is the change Apple has imposed as of iOS version 11.2.0 — iPhone 7 devices are also exhibiting the slowdowns as they suffer battery degradation.

I’m of mixed minds on this. I see this as an effort by Apple to avoid having to replace batteries on older (but not THAT old) devices but in a sneaky way: the company’s lack of transparency means that it appears that Apple is trying to pull a fast one on consumers. This is especially the case for those consumers who’ve purchased Apple Care; if their devices are suffering known problems, then Apple should at the minimum be notifying owners to bring the devices in for servicing on a very proactive basis, and that doesn’t seem to have been the case.

So, on the one hand, this is Apple being sneaky.

But on the other it’s a semi-elegant engineering problem to resolve a hard-to-fix problem. We use our smartphones with such regularity and subject them (and, in particular, their batteries) to such exceptional abuse that degradation has to happen. And so I think that Apple stuffing processors into devices (at least in the current and last generation) that are excessive for daily use means the slowdowns are less problematic for most users. They might think that their devices are a bit slower but, generally, still be able to use them for about as long as they used to use them. And that length of use is what most people measure ‘battery life’ by so…maybe Apple is dealing with the problem the way users would actually prefer.

That Apple doesn’t change out batteries when they’re worn down, however, emphasizes that it’s a pretty good idea to resell your devices every year or so in order to get the best return for them as well as in order to enjoy the best performance from your iPhone. And I guess, as a byproduct, if you’re buying a second-hand iPhone you should definitely do a battery test before handing over your cash.


Inspiring Quotation

“Giving is about more than donating money. It’s about sharing your capabilities, content, and connections—and above all, giving others the chance to be heard, respected, and valued.”

– Adam Grant

Great Photography Shots

I’m absolutely blown away by the award winning photos for the 2017 Siena International Photo Awards.

Music I’m Digging

Neat Podcast Episodes

Good Reads for the Week

Cool Products