Back to Work

Back to work today, ready to face all the questions of where I’ve been :)


I think everyone has to weigh the pros and cons of every medication. For me, the cons of my current medication are outweighing the pros :'(

What is Hell?

Hell is a waiting room where your number is never called.

Not going to post too much detail but I’ve made literally dozens of phone calls, drove dozens of miles and so far, have made no progress in getting a GP doctor. Sentara Norfolk is also under a huge amount of construction so it was a maze to navigate with at least 10 elevator rides.

Still thinking of a name for my brain passenger too. Cthulhu is the prime candidate but it will be a while before I settle on a proper name. After talking to Lindsey, Pinky is another option (like Pinky and the Brain).


The title is molasses and that’s how I feel and how it feels going through “the system” of healthcare. I won’t complain too long but as it is I’ve likely made a dozen phone calls and I have more to make even still just to get a primary care provider. I’m thankful for my family being so involved, however, with my dad keeping me company and my sisters keeping in constant contact.

And in other news, my [insert name of brain passenger here, TBD still] has been with me since at least 2012, since it showed up on a CT scan back then too! It gets a “Lifetime Achievement Award” ;)

The itenerary for today:

  • phone calls
  • more phone calls
  • lunch
  • Finally schedule an appointment with the doctor I want
  • Brains

    A quick little update – I checked with a previous time I had a CT scan and the cyst showed up then too! I’ve had this thing for forever! It has grown slightly since then but all the more reason to get a primary care provider and talk it over with them.

    A quick word

    Some of my readers know more than others, but in any case I’m picking up my blogging for a bit more to keep all my friends and family in the loop. The reason for this is because I was in and out of the hospital recently and I want to pay back how much support I received while in there. Feel free to share these posts, as I’m not going to put anything in here that I don’t mind the whole internet knowing (Hello, NSA ;] )

    A little under 2 weeks ago I was hit with a panic attack and my sister and my best friend woke up at the crack of dawn on a Saturday morning to come comfort me. It passed slowly, but by Monday I thought I was fine. I went to work for a couple days and then Wednesday I had another panic attack. This started my hospital visits, from Wednesday to Monday of the next week I was in and out of the hospital trying to figure out what was going on. Now I’m on the path to learning what makes my body special and getting myself back to normal. One thing that is interesting is I have a cyst in my brain, at the top of my head that is arachnid (that is, it spiders into the crevasses of the brain). I was told I likely have had it since birth.

    Now, I’m resting at home and trying to catch up on all I missed.

    To do: Research my new medication, find a primary care provider and think of a name for the passenger in my skull.
    I’m thinking Cthulhu, but I’m open to suggestions. :)

    TCPPing returning empty output

    After setting up Smokeping + nginx with fcgiwrap I also added TCPPing and while it worked on a different instance, this time it would just output blank lines at one second intervals.  Since a search didn’t turn up the results, I figured I would throw together this post to give the Internet some more search fodder in case someone else runs into this.

    TL;DR: Install tcptraceroute

    This post was what actually solved my issue, specifically the section at the bottom:

    >To make things a bit more confusing, there are various symlinks 
    >(including /etc/alternatives/tcptraceroute) and shell scripts
    >to offer compatible command line interfaces.
    >In your case, just installing the `tcptraceroute' package should do

    It seems that at least on Ubuntu based systems, /usr/sbin/tcptraceroute is not the tcptraceroute that TCPPing expects and causes this behavior.

    It’s regrettable that TCPPing isn’t more than just a quick script thrown together because then it would hopefully be able to throw a meaningful error message but such is the price of free.


    Since the NSA debacle I’ve been pondering the current state of affairs regarding privacy and “How most people think the Internet works” vs “How the Internet actually works”. So here are my thoughts on the three subjects:


    You have none.  There are groups of people and multiple individual entities that can access data you do not want them to access without your approval and most times without you knowing.  This additionally is not a static list, but an ever-changing number and user base.  I will expound on this in the “How the Internet Works” section, but suffice to say if you are educated about the Internet, you should have no reasonable expectation of privacy, at any time.  This is partly by design, but also partly for ease of administration.  If you have no idea of what kind of traffic your network is routing, how can you effectively shape it for best performance of all users? Or, why would you remove administrator access to a terminated user’s account if they may have saved those files they were working on before they left the company?

    It comes down to the simple fact that we take the shortest route to achieve our goals and when those goals are closer to “make it work” than “make it work correctly”, it shouldn’t surprise you to see what we see here.  Is it necessary to improve security for the sake of privacy? Instead of answering, consider the fact that with only your name, date of birth and the hospital you were born in, researchers found they could predict your social security number correctly for 8.5% of the population with fewer than 1,000 attempts. The system was originally designed with one scope in mind and neglecting possible attacks of this nature erroneously.  What SSNs have now become is authenticators instead of identifiers, which means more people can get more access to more of your data.

    How most people think the Internet works

    Through conversations with people about the Internet, it seems people believe the Internet works like a literal web, with direct 1-to-1 connections to all of your favorite services, like a super-long Ethernet cable for each website to everyone’s computer.  It seems people also think a firewall will actively block attacks and unauthorized persons, like a 24/7 systems administrator that “knows” when the network is under attack.  They think their traffic is mostly unreadable in-transit, and trust online services with their livelihoods.

    How the Internet actually works

    There are millions of miles of cable, built into walls, floors, under roads, underwater, in ditches that connect routers over which Internet traffic flows.  Sometimes, it bounces off a satellite for good measure.  The owners of these devices are countless; for example just to get to Google you need to talk to your local cable pool’s router, then to your cable company’s core router, then their upstream provider’s router, then any number of intermediary datacenter’s router, then to Google’s datacenter’s router, then to Google’s router, then it gets sent to the relevant server, passing through additional routers on the way.  At any time, the operators and many of their employees can see your raw (usually unencrypted) traffic.  This is using cable that can be decades old, protocols that sometimes were intended for an entirely different purpose,  software hacked together (sometimes actually designed) by disgruntled, happy, hardworking or lazy employees (or freelancers) sometime in the last half-century. Also on this global (read: unregulated) network are pieces of software with the specific intent on doing things they are not supposed to, and you’re directly connected to them, as is your data.  Also connected to this network are HVAC systems, security cameras, industrial machinery, telephones/fax machines, medical devices etc that have not been (or cannot be) updated.  On top of all of this, we now have definitive proof that this network can be manipulated and studied as a result of one or many governments to glean data and perform offensive cyber operations.

    It’s not a surprise that there are so many breaches of security when security hadn’t even crossed the mind of many of the designers of integral parts of the Internet.

    How do we cope with this, and how do we fix it?

    The first step on any successful project is to determine the scope, and unfortunately ours is gigantic here.  We would need to built authentication and privilege mechanisms (ones more advanced and robust than current offerings) down to the silicon level of every device, which of course would necessarily render older equipment incompatible.  Using authentication schemes yet unknown, we must construct a suite of software and hardware that enforces abstract security concepts in a concrete and consistent way, globally and with as much compatibility as possible with current infrastructure.  This system would need to place absolute power in the owner of data, and recognize complicated ownership processes like loaning/leasing data and limited access.  All of this in a way that is easy-to-use and transparent, using powerful, proven cryptography that can be upgraded and changed as technology progresses with interoperability and guaranteed security.  This needs to, at a bare minimum, provide Identification Authentication and Authorization for any given piece of data and on the human/company/device/entity level.  Then, once everything is in place we would still need to configure it for explicit permissions, ones which are the minimum needed for full function at every level.  This is only after first deciding the entire organizational structure of electronic devices and planning out what devices’ function and level of permissions need to be.

    Sounds easy, right?


    So I started getting more into code, and while unfortunately my synergy project for android will probably go nowhere, I will now start posting other code to my github page! So, check it out!

    Preparing for the Inevitable

    I’ve been thinking about death a lot lately; not in a morbid sense but from a realist’s perspective.  As my worldview has changed, I have realized that this really is my one and only shot at whatever it is I want to do here.  With that came the weightloss, the focus on self-improvement etc.  But now, recently, I realized that death is really only a chance occurrence away and I should both accept it, and plan for it.  This includes deciding how the hell I want to plan for it.  Some ideas I’ve come up with:

    • Create a repository for all of my usernames/passwords so people can use my things after I’m gone and also so I can be posthumously honest with everyone about who I really am/was.
    • Create a time capsule of some sort and after much intense thought and deliberation of what to put in there, store it somewhere it will last an amount of time that I decide on
    • Create a script somewhere or register with some service to send a message in the event of my death.

    In addition to all of these, I realistically need to write a living will, simply because having one helps direct the law in a way you want as to how to deal with your passing.  I’ve given a lot of thought to all of these, but one nagging thought I have is that really, no one will care to look through everything I own (except to clean it out/sell it), the intended recipients of the time capsule may never see it or it may send a message that I later decide isn’t what I wanted to say (esprit d’escalier anyone?).   And the same applies to the message but in addition, I would need to find a service that I can trust (hopefully free/cheap) to send the message for me.

    As it is, I don’t have many readers (that I know of; no one comments on my posts) and while I know that many people consider me an important part of their lives, I really don’t think that I have anything novel or interesting to say after I’m dead; if it was really that interesting, I’m the kind of person to share it as soon as I think of it instead of hoarding it.  With that said, while I’m thinking about it here’s basically the things I’d want people to read if I were to die suddenly.  Keep in mind, this is all off the cuff so I hope that one of the ideas above would end up more powerful or at least more interesting.


    Dear everyone,

    Hello and goodbye.  If you’re reading this, I’m both dead and I never got around to making a more permanent statement other than a blog post.  But that’s okay; and it’s okay that I’m gone too.  Throughout all of my experience, I’ve approached life as a puzzle and I’ve come up with some interesting viewpoints as a result; one is that life in all its fragility and wonder is the answer to the question of reversing entropy but, at the same time, it’s entropy itself.  Life is wonderful because only life itself can appreciate the wonder.  The fact that the universe doesn’t care about life in the least shouldn’t make you sad; it should make you happy because it means that every action another living being has made to make your life better means they have gone against the natural order of things just for you; this is how I tried to live my life and is what I hope the world learns.  We have made amazing strides but we are fighting an internal battle.  So help your fellow life-creatures in their battle, because it shows that you do not accept the status quo of an uncaring universe.  I don’t know when I’ll go, but when I do I know that whatever I end up leaving as a testament to my own existence will only be appreciated by the living, and only for a short time, if ever at all.  And this is the way it should be; I am but a living creature and after I’m dead I will have nothing left to offer the living.  But I have learned how to live my life as contentedly as possible, and I am glad for that.  I also hope that before I die, I can learn even greater, more monumental things, and then I can teach those things to my fellow humans.  Because that’s what I’ve chosen to do.


    With love to you all,

    Tyler Hawkins

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