Posts categorized as "personal"


Recently I turned 20 years old. As the days continue to go by, I have been struggling with the concept of time.

Probably this feeling started with me seeing photos of this year's SAAS robotics teams. I was on the robotics team for four years (I've written about it a little before) but recently I found that all of a sudden, I know barely anyone in the photos. Fifteen people in robotics graduated[1] high school last year, people I've largely known since they were freshmen (or in the case of Jesse and Matt, even longer). Some of them are very close friends. And I have found that the way I think about Redshift Robotics has changed: I don't quite think of it as something I used to be a part of, at least not that simply. Instead I think of it as my legacy.

legacy: n. something handed down from an ancestor or a predecessor or from the past

- from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition, via Wordnik

I don't belong there anymore. FIRST Tech Challenge has changed since I've left. They play a different game than I did, they run their GitHub differently than I envisioned when I set it up, they have different mentors and leadership than we did, and I'm sure they practice and compete differently than we did. That's okay. But it's weird. I know exactly what they're thinking because I thought it too, years and years ago - to them, I am a vague echo in someone else's past; an accumulation of events that has shaped what the club is today but that they would never be able to name. I'm someone they've vaguely heard of, maybe, but never really known. What happens next is all in their hands and there's nothing I can or want to do about it; I witnessed a former mentor of SAAS robotics turn the entire club around and that's history they'll never have seen, and maybe will never even know about. But whatever is happening there now is something I'll never see, either.

Pretty soon there will be no students left at SAAS I still know. Two more very close friends graduate this year. It'll only take a year or two more after that before the last student I know personally is gone.

There are places I remember all my life
Though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone and some remain.

- The Beatles, In My Life

I think maybe as time goes on I'm getting better at watching people grow and change. I'm on year two of college and already I see it happening - last year a close group of friends and I were just freshmen, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. This year one's an RA, two are First-year Fellows[2] and I'm a D'Lion[3]. The rest are living their lives in upper-class housing. As I was sitting in the dining hall earlier tonight I thought, how lucky we are that we even met last year. We're all scattered around now, generally in wildly different departments, and we're all focusing on different next steps. Most of us live in different buildings from all the others, and I can't help but wonder if we would all have met later. I think the answer is probably no. Causality is a strange thing to me; the circumstances that brought us together are dead and gone and yet the friendship lives on. Legacy.

I see the world changing too. There was a point in my life where it seemed like nothing big and cosmic would ever change; it seemed like the world would adjust itself only in small details. But at some point that stopped being the case, when I wasn't watching. James Porter, who's part of the faculty at the Recurse Center, once told me that whenever new batches came in he was always super sad to see so many people he'd made friends with leave to be replaced by strangers he didn't know yet. But, he said, he never quite noticed the point where people in-batch switched from strangers to friends. That feeling of not noticing is how I feel about the world right now. And it just boggles the mind that I'm at an age now where I can actually say yeah, I've seen those things change. I see people even just a year or two younger than me so much more attached to their phones; I say "back in the day" unironically when I talk about tech things.

The traffic in Seattle has gotten worse, almost unbearable compared to what it once was. We didn't used to hear about wildfires like we do now; the country and the planet are burning. And above all else, the country is angrier. So much angrier.

I turned 20 today. A question for people older and wiser than I: I feel incredibly weird to not be a "teenager" anymore, what the hell do I do???

- me, a couple days ago, on and on Twitter


[1]: and we all know how I feel about graduations.

[2]: upper-class student at University of Rochester who lives with first-years and helps them with academic stuff (especially course registration)

[3]: like a First-year Fellow except instead of academic stuff, they help bring their hall together and make sure everyone's having a good time and making friends, etc.

New temporary signing keys

So unfortunately, recently I have lost my Nitrokey, which I liked very much. In addition to this being fairly upsetting, I am now left with the sticky situation of not being able to sign code - while I have a master key (from which I can generate new subkeys), I'm currently at college and my copy of the key is sitting 3,000 miles away at home.

To get around this situation, I've generated a temporary signing keypair. This keypair is set to expire after 3 months (and I don't intend to renew it). When I have access to my master keypair, I will revoke the old subkeys, generate new subkeys (it was probably time, anyway) and revoke the temporary keypair.

The new fingerprint is D825FD54D9B940FF0FFFB31AA4FDB7BE12F63EC3. I have uploaded the key to GitHub as well as the Ubuntu keyserver and (just as my original was). The key is also incorporated into my Keybase account so that you can bootstrap trust in it, if you want to verify software signatures or whatever.

Winter break retrospective & spring semester goals

Tonight I'll have been back at college for a full week, and I wanted to write up a little retrospective of winter break to see what I accomplished (and in particular, which goals I completed or missed).

You may wish to skip directly to the executive summary.

Resolved goal: Node.js manpage PR

I didn't complete this goal per se, but I did at least resolve it by closing the Pull Request. I felt pretty bad about it (especially because I kept saying I intended to finish it) but honestly, it became clear to me that I'd just lost the motivation to keep going with it. I would love it if this was included in Node.js core, but I just consistently have higher priorities. So rather than leave it hanging and cluttering up the Pull Requests view, I just closed it to reflect reality. I made sure not to delete the branch though, in case someone (distant future me?) wants to pick it up again.

Failed goal: deal with GPG keysigning

I did nothing to push this goal forward. While I made numerous improvements to my GPG setup, I did not actually sign anyone's key, which was what this goal was about. This feels unfortunate. (I also do not have access to the private key material in college, and am certainly not about to ask that it be shipped to me.)

Partially completed goal: push Debian packaging work forward

There were two components to this: Profanity packaging upgrades and getting the new filter-other-days packaging into Debian. I made no progress on the Profanity packaging. However, I did fix a misconfiguration in my .reportbugrc (which annoyingly had previously sent my incredibly detailed email about Profanity packaging to /dev/null) and then submitted an ITP (Intent To Package bug, which is a Debian thing) for filter-other-days. I then used that ITP bug number to fix the last .deb Lintian warning (although see below). Then I paired with Anja who is, as always, an angel, and we figured out the weirdness that is dput and Finally I was able to upload filter-other-days(!) BUT I was in for a rude awakening - apparently Lintian checks for .debs and .dscs are different. So while my binary package was Lintian-clean, my source package unfortunately wasn't. This is something I will need to work on in the weeks to come. That being said, I'm still pretty proud of what I've accomplished here! I've made significant progress on this front.

Completed goal: lazymention v1

One of the first things I did was ship lazymention 1.0.0 - and I wrote an announcement blog post to accompany it! (In fact, I syndicated that blog post to IndieNews using lazymention, which felt pretty damn awesome.) I got some great feedback on it from the IndieWeb community, and my submission - which also got some great engagement - even made the front page, which was pretty unreal! I still have a lot more work to do with lazymention - in particular, it doesn't actually respect edits (so it'll resend Webmentions with every job submission) - but for now it works well. I'm super pleased with it, and have integrated it into my site deployment workflow. I even wrote a module so other people can do this, too!

Failed goals: ActivityPub in core, PR review

No progress on this front. I did start hacking on a telemetry server which will eventually be helpful for our ActivityPub rollout, but that did not in any way directly help fulfill these goals. I also released 5.1 stable, but that's pretty routine by this point.

Partially completed goal: two blog posts per week

I stuck with this goal all the way up until the final week, where I didn't write any. (Although I wrote about my GPG keys around the time I actually flew back to college.) The first week, I wrote about my thoughts on shell script and about lazymention; the second, I wrote about the 5.1 stable release and about talking to Pull Request reviewers if you think they're wrong.

Failed stretch goal: paper editing

I did absolutely no editing on the paper I intend to get published (which I originally wrote for a writing class). This was a stretch goal though, so that's totally fine.

Additional activity: steevie maintenance

After I finally found the cable I needed, I swapped out the cable that connects steevie's motherboard with the drives' SATA ports. This seemed to significantly improve disk performance, although there are still noticeable performance problems. I'm very, very happy to have finally gotten this done.

Additional activity: Tor relay migration from Amazon EC2 to DigitalOcean

After getting some advice on tor-relays, I finally sat down and looked into moving my relay away from Amazon Web Services. This is because AWS bills by usage, which for a Tor relay ends up being incredibly inefficient. It turned out to actually be way easier than I thought, which only served to make me mad that I hadn't done it sooner. In any case, I now save approximately $240/year AND I can push 1000GB/month as opposed to the 10GB/month I pushed before. In the words of the commit where I made this change: "this change made possible by the fact that I'm no longer getting billed up the wazoo by Amazon Web Services." Here's a of a Tor Metrics graph (captured today) that shows the jump:

Tor Metrics graph

Anyway, I'm super happy I can contribute more to the Tor network and save lots of money in the process. That being said I am pretty damn salty I didn't realize this in the four years I've been running a Tor relay.

Additional activity: maintenance

After turning on NodeSecurity monitoring for, I found out that the module that underlies it, node-serve-random, had some vulnerable dependencies. Not only did I fix this, I wrote a large test suite for the module and found (and fixed!) several bugs in the process. Writing a test suite also allowed me to turn on Greenkeeper for the module, which will be a huge help to me in keeping the module up-to-date.

Additional activity: Stratic work

First off, I released beta 7 of generator-stratic! Nothing major, just some polishing stuff. Stratic is getting very close to the point where I might want to start promoting it more aggressively, or declaring it stable, and (with a lot of super-helpful feedback from my family) I worked on something that's super important before we get there: a logo!

Here are two of my favorites so far:

Yellow background with a centered black file icon and a asteroid coming up from earth in the midddle and a pipe to the right Yellow background with a centered black file icon and a rocket coming up from earth in the midddle and a pipe to the right

These are based off the JS logo, in case you hadn't seen it before:

Black JS text in the bottom-right corner of a yellow background

Anyway, I have to post another iteration in the GitHub issue based on some feedback from Saul (who I had a lovely lunch with) - he thinks I should reverse it so the pipe is on the left, so it looks like the file is coming out of the pipe. But anyway you should comment there if you have feedback!

Additional activity: IndieWeb stuff

I attended Homebrew Website Club in San Fransisco, which was incredible. I got to meet a bunch of new people, as well as say hi to Ryan and Tantek again, which was so nice - it's always just better to talk in real life. Tantek said (at least if I recall correctly) that my laptop was one of the best-stickered laptops he'd ever seen, which made me feel just unbelievably special. He also gave me a microformats sticker (and helped me figure out where to put it), which I had on my old laptop and had been really missing, as well as a Let's Encrypt sticker. The latter was so special I elected to put it on the inside of my laptop, which I reserve only for really special things (basically a Recurse Center refucktoring sticker and a sticker of Noah in this video, which he handed to me like a business card the first time we met). Anyway, every time I look at the Let's Encrypt sticker I just feel so happy. I love Let's Encrypt so damn much.

Homebrew Website Club was super inspiring, so when I got back to where I was staying (at my mom's boyfriend's house) I started implementing an IndieWeb-style social stream for It still needs some polishing but is actually pretty close to being done. Who knows when I'll have time to finish it, but it's getting there! I'm so freaking excited, honestly. Also, I added proper timestamp mf2 metadata to my site, as well as a visual display for post edits, and I expanded what type of Webmentions the display code recognizes too!

Executive summary

I resolved or completed 2 goals, partially completed 2 goals, failed 3 goals, and failed 1 stretch goal. Additionally I did significant work in 5 other areas. Out of the goals I set for myself, I completed 51% (Debian packaging work is ~2/5 complete; blog posts were written 2/3 of the time); not counting the stretch goal, I completed 61.2%. I'm pretty happy with what I got done during this period; however, while I was productive, the numbers show that I did a mediocre job sticking to my goals. In the future I should focus on making more realistic goals and then sticking to them (though not too much - it is a break, after all!).

Speaking of which, partway through break I felt like I was on the edge of burnout, which to me was a very clear sign that I was pushing myself way too hard during a time I should have been unwinding. Because of that I cut what I was doing a lot, which helped pretty dramatically. In fact, I think without that I wouldn't have been able to do some of the later stuff, like all the IndieWeb work. So that's another reason I have to find a way to balance sticking to goals and just relaxing (which doesn't necessarily mean not coding, just doing whatever coding I feel like in the moment) - I feel like I was pushing myself too hard to meet my goals (and then getting distracted and not meeting them) and that's what led to the feeling. Obviously there are different constraints for e.g. schoolwork; here I'm referring only to free time like breaks.

Spring semester goals

With that in mind, I want to set some very broad goals for spring semester. I may update this list as time goes on, but for now I have four overarching goals I want to accomplish (besides the usual day-to-day code maintenance stuff):

  • Finish editing the paper I wrote last semester on freedom-respecting software and intersectionality, and get it published
  • Make some measurable progress on my Push-based Two-factor Authentication IETF draft
  • Get access to the University of Rochester darkroom and start developing/printing photos again
  • Start pushing the University of Rochester library (and maybe the journalism department?) to start adopting Tor technologies

I'm excited to see how it goes!

Improving GPG security

Recently I've been putting some effort into improving the security of my GPG key setup, and I thought I would take a moment to document it since I'm really excited!


First, and most importantly, I have recently acquired a Nitrokey Storage. After I initialized the internal storage keys (which took a really long time), I used gpg --edit-key to edit my local keyring. I selected my first subkey, since in my day-to-day keyring the master key's private component is stripped, and issued keytocard to move the subkey to the Nitrokey. Then I repeated the process for the other subkey.

In the middle of this I did run into an annoying issue: GPG was giving me errors about not having a pinentry, even though the pinentry-curses and pinentry-gnome3 packages were clearly installed. I had been dealing with this issue pretty much since I set up the system, and I had been working around it by issuing echo "test" | gpg2 --pinentry-mode loopback --clearsign > /dev/null every time I wanted to perform a key operation. This worked because I was forcing GPG to not use the system pinentry program and instead just prompt directly on the local TTY; since I had put in the password, gpg-agent would then have the password cached for a while so I could do the key operation without GPG needing to prompt for a password (and thus without the pinentry error). However, this didn't seem to work for --edit-key, which I found supremely annoying.

However this turned out to be a good thing because it forced me to finally deal with the issue. I tried lots of things in an effort to figure out what was going on: I ran dpkg-reconfigure pinentry-gnome3, dpkg-reconfigure gnupg2, and I even manually ran /usr/bin/pinentry to make sure it was working. Turns out that, like many helpful protocols, the pinentry protocol lets you send HELP, and if you do so you'll get back a really nice list of possible commands. I played around with this and was able to get GNOME Shell to prompt me for a password, which was then echoed back to me in the terminal!

Despite feeling cool because of that, I still had the pinentry problem. So finally I just started searching all the GPG manpages for mentions of "pinentry". I looked at gpg(1) first, which was unhelpful, and then I looked at gpgconf(1). That one was also mostly unhelpful, but the "SEE ALSO" section did make me think to look at gpg-agent(1), where I hit upon the solution. Turns out gpg-agent(1) has a note about pinentry programs right at the very top, in the "DESCRIPTION" section:

Please make sure that a proper pinentry program has been installed under the default filename (which is system dependent) or use the option pinentry-program to specify the full name of that program.

The mention of the pinentry-program option led me pretty immediately to my solution. I had originally copied my .gnupg directory from my old MacBook Pro, and apparently GPGTools - a Mac package that integrated GPG nicely with the environment (as well as providing a GUI I never used) - had added its own pinentry-program line to gpg-agent.conf. That line pointed at a path installed by GPGTools, which of course didn't exist on my new Linux system. As soon as I removed the line, --edit-key worked like a charm. (I've also just added gpg-agent.conf to my dotfiles so I notice this kind of thing in the future.)

So far, I'm really enjoying my Nitrokey. It works really well and the app is pretty good, although the menu can be pretty glitchy sometimes. I've used the password manager for a couple high-security passwords (mostly bank passwords) which is great, and I've switched my two-factor authentication for GitHub from FreeOTP on my phone to the Nitrokey since GitHub is a super important account and I really want to make sure people can't push code as me.

There are only two problems I've had with the Nitrokey so far. The first is that it's slow. I notice a significant pause when I do any crypto operation, probably somewhere between a half a second to a second. This hits me quite often since I sign all my Git commits; however I suspect I'll get used to this, and the security benefits are well worth the wait anyway. The other problem is that the Nitrokey doesn't support FIDO U2F authentication. This wasn't a surprise (I knew it wouldn't when I was shopping models) but is nevertheless a problem I would like to deal with (which means getting a second device). The basic reason is just that U2F is newer than the Nitrokey I have. Other than those, though, I would highly recommend Nitrokey. The device is durable, too - I just carry it around in my pocket. (I briefly considered putting it on my keychain - for those of you who haven't met me in person, I have my keychain on an easily-detachable connector attached to a belt loop - but I decided against it because my keychain is kinda hefty.)


In addition to the Nitrokey, I've also finally started using Keybase!

For a long time I wasn't too sure about Keybase. I felt like people should really be meeting in person and doing keysigning parties, and I didn't like that they encourage you to upload a private key to them, even if it's password-protected. Eventually I softened my position a little bit and got an invite from Christopher Sheats (back then you needed an invite) but I only made it halfway through the install process before getting distracted and forgetting about it for, you know, several years.

This time, though, I decided to finally get my act together. Do I still kinda think it's a bummer that Keybase encourages private key uploads? Sure. Are real-life keysignings better? Absolutely. But even though they're better, a lot of experience trying to do them and teach them has thoroughly convinced me that they're just too impractical. There are lots of people who might need to at least have some trust in my key - for example, to verify software signatures - and this is a pretty decent solution for them. Not to mention a novel and interesting solution. Plus, it's possible to use Keybase in such a way that you're not compromising security in any way, which is the way I do it.

So tl;dr: I'm on the Keybase bandwagon now. My profile is also now linked to from my GPG keys page.

Safe for master key

Finally, my dad's wife's safe has recently been moved into our house and is conveniently sitting next to my computer. Currently, I keep my master key in a file on a flash drive with an encrypted LUKS container. When I need to access my master key, this file gets unlocked with cryptsetup and then mounted somewhere on my laptop, and I pass the --homedir option to gpg to point it at the mount location. This is better than just keeping the master lying around day-to-day, but still pretty unideal as I'm exposing it to a potentially compromised, non-airgapped computer. Therefore I plan to get a Raspberry Pi (or something similar) and put it in the safe so I can use it as a fully trusted computer that's never been connected to the internet (and is therefore very hard to compromise). I'll keep the Pi in the safe to provide greater assurance that it hasn't been tampered with, as well as to provide a physical level of redundancy for the key material's security. This will hopefully happen Real Soon Now™ - I can't wait!