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  • VA2SFX 9:35 pm on June 21, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: shape war, triangulons   

  • VA2SFX 9:34 pm on June 21, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: export, import, , wordpress   

    Going to try to upload my Medium export into this site.

  • VA2SFX 12:23 am on June 19, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , ,   

    I know it sounds super boring, but here’s why the GDPR is actually really revolutionary af 

    Data Protection

    I figure the next step after passing my EU GDPR F course would be, you know, actually reading the regulation. Because why not, right?

    So yeah, it’s important to preface this series (yes, this will be a series — so unfollow me now) with a strong disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer. But I am pretty hardcore into “citizen” style DIY research — so, I figure, this is as good a reason as any to explore the themes, articles and questions around the regulation here and maybe generate some conversations around it. The principles it builds out on are fr*&cking huge.

    Anyway, this is the hard copy book I have (if for some reason, you’re a psycho like me who needs to have a copy of this in print), which for some reason has suuuuuuper small type, but oh well:

    I’m still in Chapter I — General Provisions. But these two Recitals are, in my humble opinion, amazing af. af. af.

    Article 1: Recital (4) begins:

    “The processing of personal data should be designed to serve mankind.”

    I mean, is the hair on your arms tingling? Cause mine is!

    Tbh, I’m not 100% sure yet what the role of the Recitals is: they seem to guide somehow interpretation of the articles of the regulation (according to source linked above). But either way, the above is still pretty amazing as a principle to include, even if it may be (?) “aspirational” to some degree.

    Also fascinating is this Recital 7, which includes (excerpted):

    “Natural persons should have control of their own personal data.”


    I know…

    I know there’s an argument to be made that the EU regulation is crazy/naive/unrealistic because it doesn’t take into account how the internet actually works. But as prominent voices are saying, it might be time we admit that how the internet works is fundamentally broken.

    And though I’m still in diapers when it comes to learning about emerging global data protection and privacy laws, regulations and business trends, it’s impressive to me that the European Union has been busily re-envisioning how an internet and tech economy that actually protects its citizens not just might work, but how it will work: a legally binding playbook even companies outside the EU (extra-territoirality) will be obligated to comply with if they target EU citizens as data subjects, whether or not they are paying customers. Or face a huge fine! [Europe is juuust getting warmed up with its fines against tech companies — GDPR isn’t even in force yet.]

    Let me ask you straight out —

    Is this what it will take to fix the internet? Or at least part of the puzzle… Putting technology at the service of humankind, instead of the other way around. So crazy, we might just give it a chance.

    But don’t take my word for it, America. Here’s how Walt Mossberg in his final weekly column for Re/code put it:

    “My best answer is that, if we are really going to turn over our homes, our cars, our health and more to private tech companies, on a scale never imagined, we need much, much stronger standards for security and privacy than now exist. Especially in the U.S., it’s time to stop dancing around the privacy and security issues and pass real, binding laws. […]

    The tech industry, which has long styled itself as a disruptor, will need to work hand in hand with government to craft these policies. And that might be a bigger challenge than developing the technology in the first place.”

  • VA2SFX 11:25 pm on June 15, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Gdpr, , , Trust   

    Review of GDPR F Distance Learning Course & Exam 

    Notes on the remote course & exam offered by IT Governance

    The most important thing you should know about the European Union’s upcoming General Data Protection Regulation is that:

    One cannot simply “explain” the GDPR. To understand the GDPR, you must become the GDPR.

    So, I’ve been studying the infamous (depending who you are) EU GDPR. It is an over-arching European privacy framework which comes into force the end of May 2018, has extra-territoriality, and which will have big implications for tech companies targeting EU citizens.

    This morning I passed my GDPR F (Foundation) exam — pending review of the video file associated with my remotely proctored examination. This exam is a culmination of a course offered by IT Governance, a UK company:


    Now, as far as I can tell, there is no singular “official” sanctioned exam which certifies you in accordance with the GDPR. There are two that I’ve spotted in the wild. One is an exam by IAPP, called CIPP/E. The other is this EU GDPR F & EU GDPR P exam offered by IT Governance.

    So anyway, the Foundation course I took consists of around 7 hours of videos which consist of an outline delivered Powerpoint-style with a man narrating them. It costs $360 USD, and comes with a voucher to take the test through a third party, GASQ out of Nuremberg, Germany.

    The course is a pre-requisite for their ED GDPR P (Practitioner) course and linked exam. The Practitioner course costs $990 USD and is supposed to be much more detailed.

    The Foundation course itself was fine. If you have no experience or understanding of what the GDPR is, you might have a bit of a learning curve. Personally, I’ve done probably more than 50 hours of independent research into this regulation and it’s many implications, but it was useful to have a formalized structure and presentation to put it all together.

    Taking the exam remotely

    There is a bit of an issue with the actual examination itself. I was drawn to it because they offer a remote proctoring system, so you can sit the exam from home or work, etc. This is unlike the CIPP exams where you must go into a registered testing center and sit the exam in person. [Sidenote: the CIPP/US exam that I looked at costs more than $600 and doesn’t include any preparation materials. I’ve also seen claims online by both tech people and lawyers saying the CIPP/US in particular is the “hardest test they’ve ever taken.”]

    While IT Governance offers the course materials via the web, accessible on any platform, the remote proctoring app only works on Windows. If you’re working for a US tech company (e.g. someone who is going to be heavily impacted by the regulation) it’s very possible you only use Mac, like myself. So this lack of Mac support is a bit insufficient and will limit the exam’s potential clientele, in my opinion. But perhaps it’s not insurmountable either for the determined.

    Mac users can set up a Windows Virtual Machine (free)

    Luckily, Mac users can set up a Windows virtual machine and sit the exam that way. I followed this guide to get started, and used VirtualBox as my VM controller.

    Link to VirtualBox:

    You can download free 90-day limited virtual machines from Microsoft:

    And to get the Mac webcam to work on your Windows VM, you will need to install the VirtualBox extension pack, following these instructions:

    The rules around taking the test via the remote proctoring system are fairly strict. I won’t paste them in here as I don’t want to agitate the Privacy Gods. Suffice it to say, you must remain in the frame of the camera, show your ID when you begin, must not allow anyone else in the frame, must not use books or take screenshots of the exam, etc.

    My results

    I scored a 77.5% out of the 40 questions (you’re given 60 minutes), which means I got around 9 questions wrong.

    Evidently, they have someone review your video session before the results are finalized, which they say can take up to a week.

    Overall, I feel that even though I technically passed (required 65%) the course materials combined with my 50+ hours of independent study should have gotten me a higher score than 77.5%. Given that I paid for the course, the level of preparation offered, in my humble opinion, should be result in higher competency.

    Other issues

    As according to the IT Governance website:

    “Buyers receive a complimentary e-book copy of EU GDPR & EU-US Privacy Shield — A Pocket Guide when they buy this course, ensuring they have long-term access to essential GDPR reference materials.”

    Unfortunately, the electronic versions of this book are DRM protected, so you must use proprietary Adobe Reader app. This is a disappointment to me because I need to be able to consult this book on my Amazon Kindle and this is not supported.

    Also, inappropriately listed under “What you will learn” on the site, it says:

    “International data transfers, including under the EU-US Privacy Shield.”

    This is inaccurate, and I’ve left that feedback for the company. The EU-US (and US-Swiss) Privacy Shield program and its requirements are expressly not covered by this course. If that is an absolute requirement for your learning, you will need to supplement this information elsewhere. I feel that IT Governance should remove or amend these statements from their course description.

    Becoming a Data Protection Officer

    I’m interested in potentially becoming a Data Protection Officer (DPO) so I plan to continue along with my studies by taking the next level up in this program, the Practitioner course and exam.

    Currently, there is no real formal process for how someone becomes a DPO. DPO’s are covered in Article 37 of the GDPR:

    More specifically:

    1. The controller and the processor shall designate a data protection officer in any case where: […]

    (b) the core activities of the controller or the processor consist of processing operations which, by virtue of their nature, their scope and/or their purposes, require regular and systematic monitoring of data subjects on a large scale;

    So this is an interesting opportunity for tech professionals working in or interested in Trust & Safety, Security and Privacy fields to ‘level up’ their knowledge and experience. IT Governance’s course and exam, while imperfect, are still I think a good leg up on the competition and a way for you to prove you’re committed professionally to mastering these emerging topics which will only become more important as the years progress and global Privacy compliance opens internationally-minded companies up to many new risks.

    Happy to answer any questions about my experiences studying this so far, though I am far from being an expert on the topic.


  • VA2SFX 8:03 pm on May 29, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , ,   

    Wild cultivation at scale 

    Growth-hacking your seed round

    There’s a principle in permaculture that says we should strive to “work with Nature, rather than against it.” It’s a nice idea and I guess that works sometimes, but with establishing a new garden of approximately 16,500 sq. ft., I’ve been hard-pressed to make it work. And the season has barely kicked off.

    From satellite view, it looks like this:

    Of this, I’m trying to cultivate about 230 feet across, which is my largest gardening experiment to date. There’s simply no way I’m going to be able to maintain this space with conventional kneel-in-the-dirt style weeding. And I’m no longer attempting to run a business or earn any kind of living from this.

    So what does you do when you have a field and a feeling?

    You roll with it.

    The field in question has not been cultivated in I’m not sure how long, but it’s not in anyone’s recent memory. So this means that weeds and moreover grasses have been running riot for years.

    I’v set out trying to apply a kind of compromise between “working with nature” and “doing what I want” — which is basically set it and forget it.

    Sow and let grow.

    In other words: take a bunch of different seeds —

    And go to town.

    It’s wildflowers, perennials and annuals. It’s grains and cereals and legumes. It’s “ordinary” garden variety veggies. Thrown out in a big field at random (-ish).

    A family member came by and harrowed the plot before I got started — just to open up the soil a little bit without totally tilling. Which sounded like a good start until the grass started growing back in — completely undiminished.

    Pretty much just looked like it was going to be a big field of grass that choked out all my pretty experiments.

    Though, if you knelt down and looked closely, you could see some of the desired germination happening:

    The grass, we finally decided, had too much of a head-start against these little emerging seedlings. So we had another family member come in with a rototiller and apply a rough clumpy finish. This knocked back the grass hard, cutting everything up.

    It’s unclear yet what the fate of those tiny emerging seedlings will be: if they will push through from their new positions, or will fade away.

    The field now looks something like:

    And close up for you dirt lovers:

    It’s rough, it’s choppy. If you’re planting directly, you would want something much finer. But I’m on an experimental kick, and was hoping to potentially be able to preserve the viability of some of those little sprouts.

    We’ll see how it goes; it’s only been a couple of days.

    So the above was germination from my first phase of mixed sowing. I immediately followed up with the remainder of my stock to set another layer into the soil seed bank.

    And above that I sowed two big sacks of oats, and one of sunflower in a band near the back. This over-sowing (which I actually did already in the previous seed-round too) has a two-fold purpose: oats because they grow fast, easily and don’t have tough rhizomatic root systems like most perennial grasses do. I’m hoping to eventually out-compete the grasses already there. And also to give the birds something to eat that’s more visible/obvious target than my mixed “fancy” seeds.

    Anyway, success or failure remains to be seen, as our temps are not quite high enough for widespread germination across the board. I have another smaller test field of a sort of similar method from last year now entering it’s second season. The goal is basically to create a forager’s garden, combining human desire and folly with whatever Nature’s rhyme or reason decides to call forth out of the assembled possibilities.

    Worst case scenario is all the grass grows back and I have to start over next year. I think the likelihood of that happening across the whole field uniformly is low, but we’ll see what my simulated “weed pressure” can do to fight the grass down and force some spontaneous plant communities to agglomerate.

    I’m also planning to, throughout the season, supplement with whatever organic materials I can, added to the top of the soil. Given the square footage, I’ll never be able to cover all of it equally, so I’ll just do it in clumps and patches and try to work alongside Nature to figure it out. I guess I’m not exactly fighing Nature, but it remains to be seen at this point what ultimate effect “working with it” will have in this scheme of mine.

    Will keep you posted.

  • VA2SFX 10:34 pm on May 19, 2017 Permalink | Reply

    Tissue? I hardly know you… 

  • VA2SFX 10:40 pm on May 5, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , ,   

    Planting a food forest 

    I’m really not an expert on this. I’ve planted some fruit trees that lived, and some that did not.

    My basic concept is “set it and forget it.”

    Plant ’em, don’t water ’em, mulch ’em if you got ’em, but don’t weed ’em. Fuck the rest.

    I don’t have advice for anybody, I have only what I’m trying.

    Whether my approach is a success will take years to determine. I planted some of these fairly close together, but I figure if in ten years I have to decide which amazing perfect super fruitful tree I have to trim or remove, my time won’t have been wasted. And right now, the closeness maximizes the available space.

    The trees are on about 12′ centers. 2 ea. apple, pear, plum. 2 ea. serviceberry, blackberry and two ea. of two different types of seedless grapes. Plus two each of elder and hardy fig will arrive in a separate delivery.

    Elsewhere I have peach, fig, kiwi, cherry, plum, raspberries, (unproductive failing) blueberries, grape and pears. We’ll see what survives and produces fruit over time, over years.

    I used a grub hoe to take away the top tufts of grass and roots. Then covered in a square-ish shape the soil around the tree with some tough thick tarp pieces I have (the plastic doesn’t degrade much), and marked them with larger sticks, and with logs which I have in abundance.

    Over the mounds I sowed mixed edible, wildflower and other seeds, and in the spaces I sowed heavily oats over the grass and sunflowers round the perimeter. My idea is to stock the soil seed bank and add rather than subtract. Try to mimic an emerging meadow transitioning to a forest…

  • VA2SFX 10:08 pm on May 1, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , ,   

    New DIY chicken coop 

    I’m building out a new chicken coop in the shed on the property we bought a couple of months ago.

    It’s the second chance I’ve had to install laying hens in a small out-building. So I have a pretty firm grasp of the physical challenges and requirements of the job. In addition to seeing how that plays out in my own daily routine with the birds (as they cycle through the seasons), I’ve also worked at a bunch of other farms where I’ve seen a lot of other setups. Now I’m in the processing of distilling down the best of what I’ve seen with the given space and materials I have on hand.

    Initial framing

    Everything, as you can see, fits in the footprint of a 4’x8′ plywood cap for winter insulation.

    I’ve gotten to really enjoy this kind of light improvisational interior framing. I’m not the best at it, but neither am I the worst.

    Moisture appears to be entering the shed at the base of the walls. I discovered there’s not actually any outer sheating or wrapping, just this particle board on a 2×4 frame with vinyl exterior outside. Not ideal, but not ready to re-cover the shed just yet either.

    Re-using doors

    Complex pieces like doors I tend to re-use and just frame around to fit.

    I had both of those doors built already — the one on the left for my old coop, and one on the right (with the choroplast sheeting) from a winter shelter I built around our door at the old house.

    I like the option of having two different doors for convenience. It also means I can throw a divider in if I need to and have two smaller pens in a pinch.

    Nesting box

    I know that one guy’s “how to farm” post said just to buy nesting boxes, but that seems unnecessary to me. Plus I’ve never seen any for sale — and this cost me zero dollars. My experience has been that nesting boxes don’t need to fit more than really two birds at a time, and this size for 6 hens seems to work fine. (And more than six hens is just not useful for me — I have huge egg surplus as is.)

    It’s my preference to be able to pull the eggs without entering the coop, but in winter, I will probably wrap the outer wall up so that won’t be possible. But to improve on my old system, the nest is now right next to the door, so I don’t really need to step inside anyway — which has the advantage of letting me wear street shoes when I collect the eggs (e.g. not tracking bird shit and wood chips into the house).

    Wood Feeder

    I’ve been using in the past a metal round hanging feeder for hens, which actually works great and has enough capacity to keep them going on at least a week of food without having to refill. But it takes up a significant amount of floor space.

    So instead I did an experiment of building a gravity-fed wooden feeder (something I’ve seen succeed at another farm), such that I can fill it from the outside, and it can fit under the nesting box (without them being able — hopefully — to crap in it from above). In other words, stacked functions.

    Ceiling-hung waterer

    Another “innovation” that I cribbed from another farm I worked at is having elements hang from the ceiling by a chain. I had been using arms sticking out of the wall in the past, but there’s always a risk the birds will roost on the support, and crap into the food or water. Hanging directly from the ceiling like this serves a double purpose: you avoid the “crap-in-water” problem, and you can always hitch the hanging element up higher temporarily if you need to work in the space. Plus I got to buy a fun hook and a chain, which I liked. Yes, I am a hardware weirdo.

    Split roosts

    I used to have this egalitarian ideal about chickens. That if I gave them enough space, they would all roost together on the same perch. I’ve literally never seen this happen. In a group of six, at least one will always go roost somewhere else (like in the nesting box, which can be ‘crappy’ because they poop while they sleep and sully it). So, I’m accommodating instead from jump for the hierarchies/differences in bird groups and let them have a couple places to pick from at different heights. I’ve learned that stacking roost above roost doesn’t work great, because nobody really wants to sleep directly underneath a group of chickens who are going to poop on them all night long. Yes, you can offset them, but I don’t really have space to play with that here, and this works for me.

    Putting it all together

    Here’s a shot with all of the components together — er, mostly together. Still missing chicken-wire in upper panels. And after taking this, I ended up moving the waterer to be more centered between the two perches.

    As I mentioned at top, I built with the intention of being able to split this space into two pens. I’ve been raising broilers and turkeys the past couple years (not sure if I will get to it in time this year), but I wanted to have a built in temporary place where I could stick the young birds without needing all the ramshackle crap temporary pens I’ve dealt with prior to this.

    My theory is that during summer months, when the hens can go outside, they won’t suffer by having half the floor space normally available to them, and a group of about 20 chicks could go on the left half until they’re big enough to need other accommodations. That will likely take some proving, but I’m confident it can all function smoothly, with maybe one other larger temporary pen for the broilers when they are of age (I tend to slaughter small, between 8–10 weeks as ‘cornish hens’). But anyway, that’s another reason why I split the roost in two and crammed all the hen equipment into one side with it’s own door access.

    Pop hole

    In cutting a pop hole for the hens to go outside, that’s when I discovered how poorly constructed the shed was, and why moisture is coming in.

    I like how from outside now, it kind of looks like the shed is a little face, the two windows eyes and the pop hole a little funny mouth. “Whimsical.”

    I framed out around the opening I cut in order to strengthen it, trimmed and framed the off-cut and stuck a hinge on there, with some flaps to cover the gaps to prevent wind and rain from entering:

    Again, I made the hole something which can be manipulated without having to enter the coop at all from the doorway. I am so smart.

    Next steps

    I haven’t had time to do the outdoor run, but I’m hoping to do something which will be kind of “three season” so they can be outside as much as possible. I may cover it to some extent from the snow — we’ll see.

    Will post my results as a response here when I have the chance to finish.

    All in all, I’m really pleased. I feel like it’s not often enough in life that I can really directly draw from past experience and build something almost perfectly the way I know it needs to be.

    The other beauty part, is that for this specific project, literally ALL the materials and components come from other projects I’ve done in the past. I only spent about $20 for a couple hinges and the plywood to make the feeder with. Yay me.

  • VA2SFX 2:38 pm on April 29, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , ,   

    Plant & Seed Order 2017 

    My plan is basically still the same as I sketched out at the end of last season. A mixed fruit tree / berry area interspersed with perennial herbs, mixed with both perennial and annual wildflowers, plus all kinds of grains, edible leaf plants, a few peppers and tomatoes, and pretty much anything else I can manage to scrounge up. It’s intended to be a sort of “wild-simulated” situation with heavy stocking of the soil seed bank, so Nature can kind of make her own choices over time about what will thrive — based on my hints and suggestions of what we like and I know grows here well (or hope will one day).

    View story at

    Purchased from:

    Hardy Fruit Tree Nursery, Quebec

    • American Plum
    • Surprise apple tree
    • Magenta Grape Vine (seedless)
    • Somerset Grape Vine (seedless)
    • Blackberries
    • Serviceberry
    • Surprise Pear Tree

    Richters, Ontario

    • Bob Gordon elder
    • Chicago hardy fig
    • Lavender Munstead Plug pack
    • Lavender Phenomenal Plug pack
    • Oregano Kaliteri Plug pack
    • Oregano Italian Plug pack
    • Oregano Profusion Plants
    • Oregano Greek Plug pack
    • Oregano Syrian Plants
    • Oregano Turkestan Plants
    • Pepper Bhut Jolokia Plug pack
    • Pepper Jalapeno Chile Plug pack
    • Pepper Scotch Bonnet Plug
    • Rosemary Hill Hardy Plug
    • Tomato Black Cherry Plug
    • Tomato Roma Plug pack
    • Zaatar plants

    Mumm’s Sprouting Seeds, Saskatchewan

    These are sold as microgreens/shoots, but I’m sowing them directly in the field to stock the soil seed bank.

    • Arugula
    • Garbanzo
    • Fava beans
    • Flax
    • Fenugreek
    • Large green lentils
    • Kohlrabi
    • Millet
    • Brown mustard
    • Dwarf grey sugar peas
    • Green peas
    • Popcorn
    • Black quinoa
    • White quinoa
    • Khorasan wheat

    Johnny’s Select Seeds, Maine

    • Crimson clover
    • Pearl millet
    • Sudangrass
    • Anise-hyssop
    • Borage
    • Calendula
    • Chamomile
    • Collards
    • Pickling cucumber
    • Nasturtium
    • Gold beets
    • Cayenne pepper
    • Caracas carrot
    • Sorrel
    • Claytonia
    • Golden purslane
    • Parsley
    • Cilantro
    • Zaatar

    Vermont Wildflower Farm (VT)

    • Penny Pincher mix
    • Northeastern all perennial mix
  • VA2SFX 8:00 pm on April 20, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , ,   

    Spring garden as snow melts 

    It’s tough to capture with a camera, the beauty of a sloppy wet garden emerging from the snow, having been heavily mulched the year before. Winterkill oats and teff, parsely rotting to black. Old garlic stalks. Many many bags of leaves gathered from the winter. Embedded experiments, plants coming back to life you thought were never alive in the first place. I almost care more about creating the right textures now, what materials that consists of, and what the soil life effects are. The plants are kind of just along for the ride for me rn. They are harvestable indicators. I want to see the full processes of them as they generate and regenerate across cycles. Growths and decays. Periodicity. Wavelengths. Creating leprechaun habitat.

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