The Tale of the Tech Bros, or, Don’t Toast Your Brakes

Looking down from Shasta Bally
Looking down from Shasta Bally (click for fullsize)

Let me tell the tale of the Tech Bros and Shasta Bally.

Shasta Bally is a mountain in Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, between Redding and Weaverville, California. It’s not exactly a widely well known place, but it’s pretty neat, and Whiskeytown Lake (an artificial reservoir) has the distinction of having one of those weird fascinating bell-mouth spillways that descends into the void somewhere.

The peak of Shasta Bally houses a weird little complex of radio towers and buildings. It’s home to KRCR-TV, KNCQ-FM, and countless microwave and 2-way radio relay stations, as it’s the only peak that has unobstructed line of sight paths to the cities of Red Bluff, Chico, Redding, and Weaverville. Amazingly, one of the few things it does not have up there is an old Western Electric Long Lines site; they used a relay station out to the east instead on Hatchet Mountain.

Access to the peak is via a very… interesting… little unpaved road. It is maintained sporadically by the Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management, I forget which. It is closed to the public in the winter and a Sno-Cat or helicopter (!) are required to access the peak once snowfall has occurred. In the summer or fall, though, you can get up there via a 4WD vehicle with nice knobby tires.

It’s not exactly a fun drive though. Ever time I made it, if I was in my Subaru Forester, the road was just too much for it and would overheat the transmission (the rare case of an SUV actually being approprate for the conditions, yet, the conditions being too rough for the SUV? not your average grocery run). With all the frequent stops to let it cool down, it took a long time to get to the peak. Coming back down also required repeated stops to cool the brakes as the low gear wasn’t low enough to control descent speed.

If I went up in a 4WD F150, it’d deal with it better, and would manage the downhill just fine, but I pretty much had to put it in 4LOW 1st or 2nd gear.

One day I was up there working on the KNCQ-FM transmitter.
On the way up I found the road was unusually jammed. I was in the Forester, so I was at a snail’s pace with all the stops for cooling. I was behind a strange convoy of six brand new 4WD Ford and Toyota pickups going up, all of which had parking permits in the window from Oracle Corporation, which I’m guessing indicated they were all tech bros on a weekend trip up from the bay area. They were going up much more slowly than I normally would even WITH all the cooldown stops!

We could normally take this off the air for maintenance as needed as long as we had the aux over on Linguini Mountain running – the KNCQ transmitter would just overpower it on the air and your receiver would hear whichever signal is strongest thanks to capture effect. I was spoiled by this I guess, you can’t do that with 8VSB television! Oh well. Anyway, I had the aux up, and had just started looking into why the transmitter was having intermittent glitches on air when I found the harmonic filter, a very large and expensive assembly you sure as hell can’t buy a spare of at the corner ace hardware, was burned up. Oops.

Then the radio in the corner went from playing lousy pop country to static. The aux had died. There was no way to bring it back up by remote control because its transmitter was a piece of turd that didn’t reset from the remote – once it was out, it was out until you physically reset it.

The confused and increasingly angry phone calls began. I had to get over to the mountain on the other side of the lake to reset that aux as there was no way in hell I was going to be able to get the old Continental 816R running with the filter that crisped. It’d just arc out. I walked out of the little “camouflaged” green shack (which stood out like a sore thumb because the Forest Service required it be camouflaged by being painted forest green despite the fact it was above the tree line on a mountain made of gray granite!) and started back down the road.
After the first switchback I found myself behind the same convoy of six trucks.

Their brake lights were on solid.

Shasta Bally road. The grade here is about 25%.


uh-oh.

One thing you will learn if you drive heavy trucks cross-country or in mountainous terrain, or if you deal with super steep long roads like this, is that you CONSERVE your brakes. You do not ride them. In fact, you want to manage your descent speed with engine braking first, then use the brakes in very short bursts or for emergencies. This is something tech bros driving around San Jose do not know about I guess. All of them were riding their brakes.

About one mile down the road (elevation change = probably about 800′), the smoke started rolling out of the wheels of the TechBro convoy and they all came to a dead stop. Luckily, most of them did so into areas where the road was wide enough to pass.

Also lucky I guess that they COULD stop — if you were to suffer a complete brake failure on this mountain, your only way to avoid being yeeted off a cliff would be to jam your vehicle in the trees or scrape it against the mountain face on one side of the road until you get stuck in it. Neither would be particularly great and I can’t really entirely fathom how one would get a tow truck up there to recover a broken down vehicle.

I stopped too and got out and helpfully instructed all of them how to downshift and get themselves off the road…. and how to get to the Les Schwab Tire Center back in town to get their brakes replaced.


I had never seen so many ‘tribal’ tattoos on fake tanned skin before in my life.

Upon arriving on the other mountain I found the aux’s antenna was toast, but I could swap things around and put a Crown transmitter on it which would cheerfully broadcast into a wet piece of pasta, so we were back up again. Exactly how this was resolved afterwards is a blur in my mind, though the ultimate solution was “watch as the Carr Fire burned over the whole mess and we got to rebuild it all in a working state”.

I dunno, I’d just call up Thanos and surrender

Proof we live in the worst possible timeline:

For the uninitiated, FMUSER is the company behind the atrocious little CZH series FM transmitters that sometimes last for entire days out of the box and obliterate half the band in their vicinity.

Nice knowing you, Just In Time manufacturing

I hate Just In Time manufacturing. It screws everyone over for weeks with a ten ton lead dildo whenever any sort of supply disruption occurs.

So right now, go to the store and you’ll see this.

Not shown, the news helicopter overhead, the fights breaking out, and the checkout lines around the store.

So what’s the supply disruption here? There…. isn’t one. See, Just In Time always expects that demand is predictable or completely inelastic, so when you have any sudden unexpected demand…

Finished product isn’t waiting in warehouses.

Subparts of products aren’t available (supposedly, production of toilet paper and paper towels have halted due to lack of the cardboard roll core tubes, but that’s an unconfirmed rumor!)

And who the hell knows why everyone snapped up the instant ramen. Uhh.

The supply chain breakdown hit hard and ugly in the electronics industry first as that depends almost entirely on parts from China. (Sadly)

Now it’s hitting domestic products and people are getting slammed into empty shelves over the last box of baby wipes.

Could you really say nobody saw this coming?

Stores are starting to put rationing measures into place, but those are far from fair as they’ll let some dude who lives alone buy the same amount of cleaning supplies and paper towels as a mother of four who comes in for the week’s groceries.

Shit’s Fucked, Man.

dasHECK

Original image from @2clouddogs

The Monroe Systems / Digital Alert Systems DASDEC is a special sort of wonderfully awful. I mean, it takes the usually wonderfully awful state of existence that is any part of the flawed-ass Emergency Alert System and adds its own layer of questionable toppings. It’s an overly complex Linux based PC with a web interface that looks like something I would have hacked together on an old junked PC barely chugging along with Linux on it in my parents’ living room in 1999, and it’s theoretically “compatible” with a couple of different flavors of video/audio keyers used in TV airchains for inserting text crawls and audio, but that works about as reliably as asking a shoobcloud with selective hearing something other than “would you like to go on a walk”?

I’ve heard of them working just fine and dandy in radio stations where they’re part of a far simpler setup, ie, not a setup dependent on poorly written and tested software (internal to the DASDEC) communicating on poorly written and tested software (yes, yes, I am indeed referring to Evertz keyer firmware, what ELSE would I be talking about here?).

A day in the life. We had to jump through hoops to ensure the thing would successfully air the national test, and it did, but we had to add distribution amps and other things that we shouldn’t have had to add because we had the Monroe “multi player” and I don’t even want to think about this anymore.

I’ll be over here thinking happy thoughts about cloud dogs.

Oh, Elon Musk, you just got serenaded with horns.aiff IN SPACE

So earlier, Elon Musk posted someone else’s art to his Twitter then claimed crediting the artist is “destroying the medium” then he ragequit Twitter after being called out on it, by “deleting” his account, but not actually deleting it.

I feel kinda dirty for once looking up to this turd sandwich. I’m sorry, everyone. Here, enjoy some random derp pictures from my collection:

Redding sucks snow off Mt. Shasta.

In the honor of having worked in the city of Redding, California, for over a year now, I wish to inform you all of why it sucks. Massively.

I work in Redding, but I live down the road about an hour. I’ll gladly take that hour or so over the mere idea of living in Redding, not that it’d be reasonably possible anyway, for spooky reasons I’ll get into shortly.

A little backstory: Redding was the original northern terminus of a railroad— I guess Southern Pacific. It was certainly involved in the Gold Rush and stuck around as a city of industry with businesses selling timber products. Later on, it became one of the industrial hubs to support the nearby Shasta Dam construction project. It continued with a lot of construction and agriculture related businesses until the Great Recession in 2008.

Most of the businesses closed suddenly and Redding lost a lot of residents. Also, at some point, methamphetamine started blasting out of the storm drains or something. I’m not sure when this became such a major problem but it’s fucking everywhere.

At that point, a growing megachurch, Bethel, was able to swoop in and pretty much snap up EVERYTHING including monopoly control over the housing market and commercial real estate, key positions in the local government and police department. They formed a great fractal burst of shell companies that somewhat hide their involvement, but it’s still bleeding obvious if you know where to look.

Flash forward to today, and Redding just sucks ass.

The first thing you’ll probably notice if you start researching the city’s current state is Bethel, and the associated Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry. Yes, you read that right, and it’s every bit as stupid and utterly horrible as it sounds. Bethel is… actually a terrifying cult. Among their core beliefs are the dangerous theory that prayer will cure things that should really be left to Western medicine, such as cancer and other deleterious diseases. They’re pretty much your textbook cult, training their followers that outsiders are in need of conversion and SURVEILLANCE, and encouraging them not to speak to the outside world… I’ll get into that more later too, get ready to laugh and/or cringe.

An amusing thing I have discovered: Bethel drones are comically afraid of ham radio. I use this to my advantage often.

The City of Redding bends over backwards to support Bethel’s services, which is unsurprising considering that Bethel has pretty much taken them over anyway. The Redding Civic Auditorium is reserved every week for programs for the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry and the police will block up traffic so that everyone else has to wait for their students to finish coming and going before anyone else can travel through the area.

BSSM recruits students nationwide, and is kind of just enough of a school and kind of just enough of a religious organization to qualify for every tax break in the code. Their voracious appetite for expansion has completely locked down the housing market in Redding. Unaffiliated families and individuals seeking a place to live in the Redding area find themselves either refused for not being affiliated with the cult, or they find themselves competing with the cult’s many agents and shell companies for buying or renting property. Once the cult gets their hands on a property, they cut it up into dorms and pack it full of BSSM students, or just keep it empty and off the market until it becomes part of the BSSM housing later. They also own an entire business district alongside the Sacramento River that they keep empty as overflow parking for their services at the Civic Auditorium.

The entire city shuts down at 9 PM. I realize this wouldn’t be uncommon for a SMALL city, but Redding isn’t all that small. You can’t even get gasoline late at night without going out of town to a truck stop.

Living near BSSM students is an interesting sort of horrible as they spy on and harass the neighbors. A friend of mine frequently experienced eavesdropping in the quite literal sense: he routinely found occupants of the BSSM dorm in the end of his apartment complex sitting on the roof over his unit and listening to all conversation within.

The Bethel cult has control over most commercial real estate within the city and businesses effectively cannot be created without the support of the church. Costco managed to get their hands on a parcel to build a new store without going through Bethel, and their reaction was to immediately tighten their grip on housing and begin evicting tenants from rental properties they own through their shell companies, blaming the Costco store for the loss of available housing. Charming.

Last time I looked, you could….. maybe…. get on a waiting list for a few months and get a one room studio for $1300 a month, no utilities included, no parking available because it’s all reserved for the Bethel kids in the complex, no pets allowed, and a roof that only occasionally lets it rain inside. Meanwhile, about an hour away I’m paying 950 a month for a two bedroom townhome that’s never given any issues whatsoever.

It is no wonder Redding has a disproportionately large homeless population. Whereas many churches do a lot for the community and will try to assist people who are displaced, Bethel does nothing. When the Carr Fire swept through Redding, Bethel both refused to open their facilities to assist people displaced by the fire, and started a totally bogus collection for wildfire ‘relief’. I’m guessing any funding collected, if it was used for related purposes AT ALL, was probably used to snap up more property for housing BSSM students.

Among the homeless population in Redding, there are a lot of problems with substance abuse, and Redding provides pretty much no resources to assist with this. Drive around Redding and you’ll see people just barely shambling around who look like they died two years ago and came back as zombies with their skin falling off. Walk around Redding and NO WAIT DON’T WALK AROUND REDDING ARE YOU MAD–
(At least they aren’t super aggressive like Miami zombies.)

The lack of social services tends to be, well, a big conservative thing… and Redding is a very conservative town. Redding’s pissed that it’s a very red city in a VERY BLUE STATE. The city hosted a campaign stop for Fuhrer Drumpf before his election and has had at least one bizarre rally in his support since. “State of Jefferson” supporters are everywhere. The large yellow bumper stickers and truck decals they display serve as a useful warning sign that douchebaggery may occur onboard their vehicle. The areas surrounding the city are dotted with mansions up in the hills occupied by the rich idiot sector of the population; all they really care about is not seeing anyone else when they come down the hill to go shopping.

Marijuana is legal in California and has been for a while now, and Redding simply tripped over their own fat feet trying to figure out what to do with this. There are three dispensaries for medicinal and recreational marijuana products up in the city of Shasta Lake to the north, as they welcomed businesses to the city without any major restrictions. Redding sat around for a long time mulling what requirements they’d have – last I heard they came up with a highly restrictive zoning plan which – SURPRISE – ruled out any business district that Bethel doesn’t own, and they wanted to charge 20K in fees a year. Nobody’s taken them up on their amazingly generous offer, so they don’t get a share of that revenue. Oh well! Guess they don’t really want to be in the business of doing anything other than hosting a cult. 😉

Well, at least I’ll say this much— it isn’t that bad working in the city and leaving every night. I will not, however, consider living in this right mess. Bye Felicia!

Brain sludge.

Earlier this morning while actually feeling the effects of my brain trying to malfunction its way into full on migraine headache, I started to ponder for a moment if years of living with stress, sleep deprivation, and anxiety had left me with the brain chemistry of an abandoned swimming pool.

Nah. It’s not that bad— migraines just suck. Basically, the brain entirely misfires and screws up, best I can understand of the medical science behind it. It’s like when you’re playing a pinball game and a multiball begins and the balls all immediately loft off of each other and off of the slingshots and other unpleasant parts of the playfield and suddenly drain at the left and right outlanes and SDTM (straight down the middle).

But then I had this one intrusive thought, or more like, memory, that keeps haunting me to this day. WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT MYSTERY PARTY EVERY WEEKEND?

 

It was, oh, 2004 or so. The Quad was a neverending source of excitement in my neighborhood but there was one thing that I could never, ever figure out. It was fairly harmless, except to one’s sense of logic and reason, trying to figure out what it was or why it was happening.

 

Our house was in the middle of the block on the south side. On the northeast corner of the block was a house on a slightly large lot which had a big yard and a large covered patio on the back. There was an extended family living there, which isn’t uncommon at all. Every now and then they had parties which had a lot of people in attendance – seemed like most of them were family for the most part.

 

I suspect the house changed ownership as I saw different vehicles outside and an older lady who used to walk around the block every day wasn’t there anymore. I never really spoke to them much as the language barrier was pretty bad – I’ve never spoken enough Spanish to hold a conversation and they didn’t speak English. Everything thus had a kind of mystery about it— but then came the really… really big mystery.

 

The family there started holding parties every weekend and brought in a DJ (by which I mean some guy who had a mixer, iTunes, and a set of speakers). The first couple of weekends, it was just blasting salsa, reggaeton, and random pop music, with his voice occasionally booming over it all distorted. The music was POWERFULLY loud and was very audible inside our concrete block house, probably a good 300 feet away. They’d start up maybe 1 or 2 pm, and it’d be over by like 6 or so, never running into the night (thank goodness). Cars would be parked on the swale all over the block from the people in attendance. Following these first 2 or 3 unremarkable parties, they developed a unique and bizarre format, and that is what haunts me to this day. What was this and WHY?

In radio, a lot of programming adheres to a format clock which dictates what goes where in each hour. There are certain times for the break, station identification, locally inserted advertising/sponsorship, etc. In television it’s the same way but a little more standardized between shows. These parties—- they… could have had a format clock, because they all ran exactly the same. I don’t know what the hell they were doing but it was like this:

12-1 PM: Setup with random music playing, no voice.

1:00 PM: Music cuts off, followed by talking on the mic

1:05 PM: Beginning of Dragostea Din Tei loop.

…..

6:20 PM: Burst of shouting followed by the party ending.

 

Now, the loop is the super perplexing part.

Each cycle of it started with the guy shouting. His voice was heavily distorted, and I was hearing the reflection off houses and the back side of the speakers so it was muffled beyond recognition. I was never once able to understand what he’d say on each cycle.

He’d start shouting something (unintelligible due to the distortion and echo between the houses) then start playing what’d be 30 seconds of the chorus of Dragostea Din Tei.

(this video is not set to autoplay, if it does for some sick and twisted reason decide to autoplay, please inform me so that I may go drive down to San Francisco where this server is located in a VPS container in a datacenter, pull it offline, and fill it with beans)

The first 15 seconds would play out clean.
The last 15 seconds would have a police whistle blown on the backbeat.
The last 10 seconds had the whistle blown on every beat.
The last 2 or 3 seconds were covered by the whistle blowing constantly.
Then he’d yell something again and seconds later the pattern began over again.

This…. went on for hours. Pretty much the only time this pattern ever changed was the one week that I knew myself and the three neighbors in between were all getting very tired of this, and I just happened to have a single weird damaged PA speaker that came from the university’s surplus warehouse and had a strangely narrow dispersion angle. I put it up on the edge of the roof and blasted tracks from The Conet Project in their general direction. This caused the Dragostea Din Tei loop to end and be replaced with the guy shouting occasionally instead…. until my amplifier overheated and shut down. The brief shouting and Dragostea Din Tei resumed IMMEDIATELY.

 

This continued up through when the neighbors who lived directly behind us moved out and someone else bought the house and turned it into an entirely unauthorized and horrible banquet hall. That was….. a whole new form of fresh hell, but at least it did not leave me with a baffling, bizarre mystery that will haunt me until the end of days.

funny, I usually see Aqua Net recommended for adhesion on a glass bed, but I guess Rave works fine when you’re printing a dickbutt

Sonicwall, schmonicwall

How to forward ports on a SonicWall:

Okay, it’s easy, just start steeping some hemlock into the blood of a virgin in a quartz flask upon an altar of old single sided floppies and get to work—-

you will not know this horror unless you experience it for yourself and i recommend you not.

sonicwall was clearly developed by someone who had a raging databases-where-databases-are-not-due fetish.

you do not just specify addresses. you do not just specify ports.

No.

You create address objects.
You create service objects to define ports.

Then you define NAT rules.

HOWEVER…. if you manually enter or edit anything about a NAT rule, for arcane and horrible reasons that have apparently never been addressed in over a decade worth of firmware versions, they break. The only reliable way to create these rules is to go into Quick Configuration and use the Public Server Wizard. There, you can create your objects (or select them if they’re existing already) and bake them into a NAT rule.

Then maybe 40% of the time it works and the rest of the time you’re frantically SSH’ing into a remote shell somewhere else and crying into your coffee over the output of nmap.

FUCK SONICWALL.

thanks i hate it

hi there, i need a combiner care package from Microwave Filter Company, thanks

Sadly, we DO actually need antennas pointed three different directions, but that’d let me eliminate one of the dishes (not seen in the picture here) that’s mounted all janky and was able to be spun around by the wind.