US Blacklists NSO Group

The Israeli cyberweapons arms manufacturer—and human rights violator, and probably war criminal—NSO Group has been added to the US Department of Commerce’s trade blacklist. US companies and individuals cannot sell to them. Aside from the obvious difficulties this causes, it’ll make it harder for them to buy zero-day vulnerabilities on the open market.

This is another step in the ongoing US actions against the company.

Posted on November 4, 2021 at 6:52 AM52 Comments


Hedo November 4, 2021 7:42 AM

Why didn’t USIC simply “acquire” them quietly, behind the scenes, then make a public statement that the company has shut down (amid international pressure/outcry, blah blah blah)? After all, CIA & NSA (CIA especially) has done this kind of thing in the past, some of it leaked out in the open, but most of it never did, not to this day. US Gov’t can afford just about anything, money’s being printed left and right, and it’s been out of control for a while now, it’s just paper for the government. This could’ve been a tactical move in a better direction than it is now. Out of two evils, it’s always better to choose a lesser one.

Frank Wilhoit November 4, 2021 7:48 AM

“…harder for them to buy zero-day vulnerabilities on the open market.”

May we assume most — probably very nearly all — such transactions take place on markets that are not “open” in your sense here?

Winter November 4, 2021 8:36 AM

“Why didn’t USIC simply “acquire” them quietly, behind the scenes, then make a public statement that the company has shut down (amid international pressure/outcry, blah blah blah)? ”

That depends on why is financing NSO. The identity of that entity could be a reason to go a different route.

Ted November 4, 2021 9:21 AM


That depends on why is financing NSO.

Did you see the line about the NSO considering an IPO (in the article linked under the word blacklisting)?

Also the article mentions a big NSO investor being “Novalpina Capital, a British private equity firm — and its investors, which include Oregon’s state pension fund.”

Can’t imagine Oregonians being thrilled about that.

Ted November 4, 2021 9:50 AM

I see there was a statement made about Pegasus by a congressman this summer:

If hacking for hire companies continue to exist, clear rules must be established to ensure they only do business with governments in rule of law states.

Catch me up. Are there reports of Congress people being affected? I see reports of journalists screaming bloody murder, but I don’t know how scattered this has become?

Clive Robinson November 4, 2021 10:26 AM

@ Bruce, TimH, ALL,

This is another step in the ongoing US actions against the company.

Which are half harted at best. @TimH asks the question,

So USA persons can’t sell to NSO. But can FBI, CIA, Pentagon still buy from them?

To which the answer according to the Vice artical @SpaceLifeForm linked to on the current squid thread is “Yes”.

See my response to @SpaceLifeForm for the details,

Jon November 4, 2021 10:56 AM

@ Ted

Keep in mind that Saudi Arabia is a ‘rule of law’ state, it’s just that their laws allow them to murder journalists.

And their ‘Religious Police’ would like a word with your mother/daughter/wife &c.


Clive Robinson November 4, 2021 11:09 AM

@ Bruce, ALL,

… it’ll make it harder for [NSO] to buy zero-day vulnerabilities on the open market.

Now consider the economic angle.

If we assume that zero-days are NSO’s “life-blood” then that puts them at the top of their “demand” list.

As we know the basic law of pricing is based around “supply and demand”.

So if I have a nice new shiny zero-day, that would fetch $1million on the “open market”, how nuch more would I get privately with NSO?

We know from the history of black-markets that pricing can easily be three to ten times the open market price.

So do you think NSO spring $5million for a nice shiny zero-day just so they can stay in business?

Also do you think some poor young researcher might consider $5million tax free worth the risk?

echo November 4, 2021 1:04 PM

I’m sitting on a story which broadly tracks abuse of institutional status and human rights abuses. The story does have the eye of some journalists and was also noticed by a job title at Harvard of all places but UK government and media have their thumb on the scales. There’s been some off the record chatter among journalists who are inside sources and other evidence people know about but the story isn’t going anywhere. There’s no point screaming this is bigger than Saville or Matrix Churchill. The loopholes were created years ago and the fix is in before you get your shoes on.

The critical similarity with the story in the topic is that people with power – the power to play the system and set the “rules” of the system (which are not necessarily the same as law) can corrupt the system and perpetuate and even use “bad actors” under a lot of cover-up and spin to cement their own sense of power. It’s really horrible seeing people you used to respect or who should aim for higher standards fall so low.

The middle ranking media and small independent media are better with some stories.

SpaceLifeForm November 4, 2021 3:32 PM

@ Ted

I see you are paying attention, and connecting dots.


[I read Eric every day]

Clive Robinson November 4, 2021 5:22 PM

@ Ted, SpaceLifeForm,

With regards “&Co.”,

“The authoritarian governments purchasing spyware from private companies make no distinction between terrorism and peaceful dissent; if they say they are using these tools only against terrorists, any rational person should assume they are also using them against journalists and activists, including inside the United States.”

Do you notice the extraneous word inside, that changes the whole meaning of the statment?

Speaking of “extraneous” are you aware that the US and UK primary dedinitions are different?

US, “existing on or coming from the outside”

UK, “not directly connected with or related to something”

Ted November 4, 2021 6:28 PM


Do you notice the extraneous word inside, that changes the whole meaning of the statment?

Is this like one of those pictures where you have to un-focus your eyes, because I could never see the cool thing I was supposed to be able to see. Was the word “including”?

I also did not know there were such intriguing differences between the definitions of words in the UK and the US. The Cambridge dictionary, that is the UK dictionary right?

I think I may have used both definitions for the word “extraneous” by accident a time or two. For example: This cheese is extraneous my hamburger. vs. This cheese is extraneous to my larger point.

Regarding your excerpt about spyware and the potential non-discrimination of targets, what do you think about the following?

Many spyware companies, including NSO, prevent the targeting of United States phone numbers, presumably to avoid picking a fight with Washington that could lead to increased regulation, so I use an American phone number.

That was from an article listed under the word human. Do you think this fight has been picked?

SpaceLifeForm November 4, 2021 6:51 PM

@ Clive, Ted

To the best of our knowledge, the real terrorists are somewhere on Planet Earth.

As far as is known, Martians are not addicted to Money.

(off to make NFT of bead pictures)

Ted November 4, 2021 11:19 PM



[From Clive’s] … any rational person should assume they are also using them against journalists and activists, including inside the United States.”

Explain this to me. Inside was the extraneous word??

I just learned how to do emojis 🛒

Clive Robinson November 4, 2021 11:32 PM

@ Ted, SpaceLifeForm,

Is this like one of those pictures where you have to un-focus your eyes…

Err no, as I said the extraneous word is inside, and it changes the whole meaning. So I’m now adding it to my private list of “weasel words” to be used in the future 😉

The Cambridge dictionary, that is the UK dictionary right?

Yes, the dictionary the English Courts used to use, was the OED or “Oxford English Dictionary”. A weighty tome in it’s printed form, thus gravitas is confered in its presence or use.

Both Oxford and Cambridge,are considered the oldest and most senior amongst English Universities with their own publishing houses adding instirutional gravitas.

Oxford’s primary definition is,

“Irrelevant or unrelated to the subject being dealt with.”

And their secondary definition is,

“Of external origin.”

Which kind of covers both primry UK and US definitions…

But if you think about it, if it is of “Of external origin” one near antonym of external is, inside.

As I’ve noted befor English can be delightfully imprecise.

@ SpaceLifeForm

If you are not careful @Wael, will be along to confer in an oblique way, and can be periphrasticaly circumlocutory when required. Which can have more meanings in a round about way than you could shake the proverbial stick at,

But I see that you’ve essential grasped the the inside track as it were.

Mind you I’ve never regarded bead pictures in that way before, but I guess that is just spliting hairs and a sign of the times. But I guess with a roll of the dice, it’s anybodies guess what will come up, chaotic but I hope not scatotic.

Ted November 5, 2021 12:12 AM

@Clive, SpaceLifeForm

You have my total support to keep both the words “inside” and “extraneous” in usage 🙂

@SpaceLifeForm understood what you were saying, so I think you’re in quite good company. Please don’t let my obtuseness cause you to change a thing

Ted November 5, 2021 12:22 AM

@Clive, SpaceLifeForm

I can’t win for losing in comprehending things tonight!

I’m rereading this and considering maybe you weren’t planning on taking these words out of the rotation 🙂

Whatever it is that you plan to do with these “weasel words”… yes I support it!

MarkH November 5, 2021 1:41 AM


It’s a cottage industry here to write obscure, cryptic comments.

For my own part, I try to write as clearly and explicitly as I can (with variable success).

If an author doesn’t take what s/he is saying seriously enough to express it plainly … then why should I take it seriously enough to read it?

SpaceLifeForm November 5, 2021 1:56 AM

@ Clive, Ted

Scatotic led me here.


[the copying artifacts are artful. And many could write their thesis researching all of the old history in that pdf. The earliest reference I saw was 1963, and I did not read it all]

[I was not aware that there was a shopping cart emoji. So, you just made me re-think my NFT project. Now, how can I keep the beads in the cart when I want to take the picture? NFTs are so confusing]

Clive Robinson November 5, 2021 3:28 AM

@ MarkH, ALL,

If an author doesn’t take what s/he is saying seriously enough to express it plainly … then why should I take it seriously enough to read it?

Because you have entirely missed the point.

In the world of “Unicorns and Rainbows” where clouds in the sky are seen as real estate to build castles thus fiefdoms the ability to say what you like freely is an utter illusion.

Your assumption of “If an author doesn’t take what s/he is saying seriously enough to express it plainly” is actually as absurd as “If you have done nothing wrong you have nothing to fear” and for the same reasons.

If you think enough about Cardinal Richelieu’s most famous quote,

“If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him.”

You will realise that in a way he has a potential claim on being the father of that illegitimate child “Plausible Deniability” and many other manners of veiled information communications.

As you should realise from posts I’ve been making about the down side issues of using cryptography and thereby painting a target on your back.

An area of research I am undertaking is methods by which the redundancy in plain language can be used to transfer information secretly whilst having it fully in plain sight, but more importantly possessing not just plausable debiability, but protection by against betrayal by either the first or second party in a communication to a third party.

Look on it as a different direction and extension of Gustavus Simmons “Prisoners Problem” he outlined at Crypto 93 and published 1984 paper[1].

For some reason it is an area that either little or no research has been done since WWII or those that have, have for some reason not talked about it.

Communications Security does not, nore can not, exist in one layer, unless it is by denying all layers simultaneously in which case it communicates no information.

So what you see as “a cottage industry” is actually part of research.

For instance @Wael and @Ratio spent considerable time investigating how to establish a covert channel, without actually telling each other how the channel worked, using redundancy in Unicode, that can easily be seen as a predecessor to the work Prof Ross J. Anderson has recently publishe that is the subject of a thread here a few days back.

@Wael started his work with @Ratio because of the way we communicated covertly by using common knowledge domains (using the works of Shakespeare). Also from conversations we had previously had with @Nick P and others about ways to sign posts to this blog effectively subliminally. Which oddly perhaps had it’s roots in the Friday Squid page where @Nick P and I used to swap somewhat questionable stories, that also amused others. It did go wrong on one occasion when someone asked for a little clarification (I shall name no names but “yellow card” tells much). The result was our host took interest and was “shocked”.

OK so you have not seen it as research that is going on quietly (that is actually often way more interesting than many of the threads it appears in). You have noticed something going on… Whilst some may think this reflects badly on you, atleast you were aware that something was happening over the years, which is a lot better than most.

I guess some of us will have to “up our game” so those third parties don’t notice.

[1] See, “The Prisoner’s Problem and the Subliminal Channel” in,

Ted November 5, 2021 8:15 AM

@Mark, Clive, SpaceLifeForm, All

If an author doesn’t take what s/he is saying seriously enough to express it plainly … then why should I take it seriously enough to read it?

My problem right now is that there are some things I must understand. Right now at uni, our teacher is reviewing mechanisms for chemical reactions.

They have a self-made book they are using that is called “gapped notes.” Basically there are there are parts of the material that are missing and we fill them in with the teacher as we listen to the lecture.

As it is, I am learning not much as I fill these in. It is more of an exercise in kindergarten tracing as I catch myself day dreaming through them.

Where I actually learn the material is on the homework site. If I don’t know how to solve a problem, I can select a “Study” button that will show me the answer along with an explanation of how it was reached.

Often times it is just too much information, so I find myself just rewriting the steps or explanations. I may even try to summarize them in my own words on a separate piece of paper I can use later for reference. Then I can always go back and try to solve these from my own understanding later, time permitting.

If it wasn’t for the terror of tests and grades, I would do other much more fun and interesting things.

Do you have a strategy for reading complex material? My step father loves in-depth reading. He will send of clips of articles quite frequently, highlighting parts that he finds of particular interest and giving a brief commentary on his thoughts.

Clive Robinson November 5, 2021 11:00 AM

@ SpaceLifeForm,

Scatotic led me here.

Ir is a very rareky used word.

In part because it has two entirerly different meanings till you think about rabbits…

If you split the word into it’s root “scat” and suffix “otic” you find they are both ambiguous…

The root “scat” is found to mean both “animal dung” and random (scattered).

The connection is non ruminent quadraped herbivours that have dietry tracts that do not have the quadruple stomach arangnent of ruminents that ferment at the fore of the GI tract, recurgitate and further emaserate by mastication (called chewing the cud). Insted these non ruminents ferment at the aft end of the GI tract from which they expel the part digested materials as “soft pellets” that they then re injest, by first emaserating by mastication. This way they extract further nutrients as it passes a second time to emerge as “hard pellets”…

There are several herbivors that do this the most commonly known being the rabbit. All when they excrete hard pellets do so in a very “scattered” or “random” way.

So meanings,

1, To act/disperse randomly.
2, To eat your own 5h1t.

As randomly scattered beads look very similar to rabbit dropings in a field you can now probably see the connection between them and randomly scattered beads that can form either the basis of a “bead picture”, or a method of generating random sequences suitable for generating NFTs…

@ ALL,

Are we feeling queasy yet?

An old joke to cheer you up,

Two rabbits are being chased through the woods by hunting hounds. They run into a hollowed out log and are quickly surrounded with apparently no escape possible. With the hounds scratching at the log, the doe turns to the buck and says “What do we do now?”. The buck looks at her and says “If we wait a while we will pretty soon outnumber them”.

(and if you don’t get that joke you’ve never kept or been pestered by rabbits 😉

Clive Robinson November 5, 2021 1:45 PM

@ Ted,

They have a self-made book they are using that is called “gapped notes.”

Ahh it’s been a while…

A little on “learning theory”,

It is a well known assumption that students do not read “hand outs” untill just before exams… Worse even if they do they won’t have the basics learned that makes the hand outs comprehensible in a fluent enough manner.

It is also a well known assumption that students do not realy comprehend what is said to them in lectures.

History shows that making students “learn by rote” that is write everything out in longhand works for getting the basics in their heads. But is too slow for modern education requirnents (you are probably being taught facts and methods at about twice the rate of a student 20-40 years ago due to scientific progress).

Another aspect, is the ~10:1 ratio between books and papers, hence the saying,

“There are only 20pages of essential information in a book”.

That is only 1/10th of a book is in effect “new” to someone already well versed in the knowledge domain. The other 90% is aimed at getting a less well versed reader upto speed.

So noting the assumptions above you can see how the idea of “gapped notes” came about. Where in amongst the apparent verbiage you write in the nuggets of essential knowledge.

Does it work, well I’ll be honest and say I’ve not got a clue, and I don’t remember ever seeing anyone else say much on it…

As for,

Do you have a strategy for reading complex material?

Yes. I used to be a very prolific speed reader, I’d read the equivalent of one textbook (programing guide etc) a week, three to five paperbacks depending on how I was getting about, and around 300-400 pages of technical information. Most of which I could recall quite accurately and say “page XXX, paragrph Y sentance Z etc.

It kind of made me very employable last century as it was quicker to ask me than it was to ask a librarian or try using what was by todays standards quite primitive search tools (look up WAIS and Z3950 if you feel like a little culture shock). But more importantly I could interpret both wooly enquires and complex data for people.

Then in 2000 I was attacked on the way to work one morning and my head was karate kicked (according to witnesses) into a metal pole with a street sign on it. The result was a full fracture of the lower jaw, a break that the maxiofacial surgeon said was very rarely seen on live people. To be short it resulted in me being unable to renember what I was reading after about a paragraph, and a slower than normal reading speed and a vwry distinct change in personality. Oh and an intense dislike of groups of people on streets especially teenagers, that the “specialists” put down to “latent agrophobia” what ever the heck that means[1] combind with “cognative overload” from “hyper alertness”…

So there I was as an adult who’s livelyhood was very dependent on aquiring information, who to all intents and purposes could nolonger remember what I was reading… However I could remember just about all I knew before the attack, and I had no problem writing or reading out aloud…

So with unemployment beconing from a very high paid job I had to find a solutuon, as I could not fake it for long… Neither the “trick cyclists” or neurosurgeons were of any help…

By chance I realised that two things worked to get things into memory,

1, Read it out aloud a couple of times.
2, Transcribe in longhand.

Neither were particularly fast. My spending on books dropped from the today equivalent of $6000/year to next to nothing.

I had no choice but to change jobs back to being a “design engineer” of transmitters, secure equipment, surveillance devices, and the like as the required reading was a very small fraction of that of a ICT security systems design/development consultant/manager.

Over time I’ve effectively learned to re-read and I’m now a little bit over where you would expect a professional of my age to be. Strangely because the ICT industry for some reason fails to learn it’s history my long past knowledge becomes current again over and over… I just have to stear clear of the madness that is the proliferation of programing languages and lunacy of “kitchen sink” libraries, that have all the apperance of having been cranked out by an organ grinder’s monkeys[2] on some extract of cactus juice…

But to answer your question, you first have to get the foundations and basic methods if any knowledge domain nailed down.

As far as I’m aware writting them out long hand and reading them out aloud when you are alone, are still the best way to do that, along with practicing the nethods over and over.

Once you have them fixed in your mind you can move forwards. For many they are learning not to work but pass an exam. So the methods differ.

For exams, it’s the old “question cards” and a method to best utilize them. Basically you have a stack of cards on one side of each is a question on the other an answer.

So the question on one side,

What are the two basic types of law under the English judicial system?

And on the other side,

Tort, arises from a failure to forfill a private duty.
Criminal, arises from a failure of a public duty.

You pick a card of the stack read the question then “say out loud” the answer. Turn it over, if you got it wrong put ir in a pile to the left of the stack, if you got it right it goes on the pile to the right.

When done shuffle the two pules seperately and remake the stack with the shuffled left pile on top.

When you have only a pile on the right, put the cards away and get them out the next day and start over.

That gets simple facts and data fixed in your brain, it does not work for moderately complex or highly complex facts or both cases it’s “write’m in long hand”. That is you write down mini essays for moderately complex facts and do worked examples for methods.

Do not under any circumstances do more than 20mins at a time, then take a ten minute break. So two sesions an hour for two hours at a time and no more than three times a day.

If you stick with it, it generally works.

The trick with highly conplex facts/knowledge and methods is to break them down into much smaller and thus managable chunks. Work out which are foundation chunks and learn them first, then like a brick layer work your way up from the foundations one layer at a time.

However before digging in deep tey writing a mibi essay that is the eqyivalent of a 20,000ft view. This kind of helps you see how the blocks relate.

In a way it’s kind of like the process behind both design and project managment.

Hope that helps.

[1] This was the “state of the art” for practitioners back at the turn of the century,

If you read the conclusion and thibk “No 5h1t Sherlock” you will understand my exasperation.

[2] As they say “That’ll ruffle the feathers on a turkey”, so expect as it’s Nov 5th, there will no doubt be fireworks. And we all get to chant “gunpowder treason and plot” around the fire,

Though not the last verse, like the redacted verse of the English National anthem it realy does ruffle feathers,

SpaceLifeForm November 5, 2021 4:17 PM

@ Ted, Clive

I’ve found that writing notes is very important to retaining knowledge.

Somehow, that act of writing helps commit the knowledge into the brain.

Just the act of writing. You may never need to review your notes later.

Which, is a good thing as your handwriting gets messier over time.

One of the problems, as Clive alluded to, is that lectures are fast paced (even if 2 hours long), and it is difficult to keep up while taking notes.

This is what is good about a lecture on YouTube. You can pause,and make notes.

Especially if some concept is mentioned that you are not really familiar with. Pause, make notes. Make note to research concept. Maybe, open new tab, and research concept before continuing with original lecture.

A lot of times, at the beginning of a lecture, the prof may spell out the prerequisites. Because, if you are not familiar with them, then at some point, you will get lost.

A good example of this is Calculus.

Sometimes, the teacher will say, you can probably follow this even if you are not familiar with Calculus, but it helps.

Sometimes, you only need to understand Slope, but understanding derivatives is better. Which is what one usually learns first in Calculus.

Sometimes, it helps to understand integrals, but in some cases, just understanding the concept of area under a curve is enough, especially if it can be approximated in a useful way.

But, once you need to learn integration by parts, and then differential equations, well, have fun!

The point here is this: One can educate themselves if they want to learn, and are allowed the time to learn at their own pace.

Which is NOT what happens K-12 and university.

JonKnowsNothing November 5, 2021 4:54 PM

@Clive, @SpaceLifeForm, @Ted @All

personal experience tl;dr

Similar to Clive, I used to be able to read quickly. I would go to the library or bookstore and scan up to 10-15 books at a time and extract the 10% or so new information or the information which was relevant to what I was working on and retain a good hunk: book, page, location on the page, what topics came before and after.

Later I became gravely ill. Silicon Valley will do that. Afterward I was no longer able to read and did not retain the information needed for my very high tech job. It took many years of slow practice to start over.

  • The first books I read after my initial illness were the first 3 Harry Potter books when they were first released in USA. I read them 1 page a day and reread the previous day’s page for 2 pages. It was a start.

Other things have not recovered as well but I can read a fair bit now, in short bursts and I am mindful of mind-overload.

re: reviewing mechanisms for chemical reactions

I have to laugh because I had a similar experience. The solution for me was 5 hours in an empty classroom with a white board. I put up every reaction equation I could find in the text and notes. I went one by one until I could solve every one of them without fail. It was more determination than any particular interest in chemical reactions.

Overall, for difficult topics I eventually came up with this:

  • Do Not Turn the Page, Do Not Go To The Next Paragraph, Do Not Go To The Next Sentence UNLESS you fully understand the sentence, paragraph and page you are on.
  • Do Not Accept: You Will Get It Later because you won’t. Knowledge is built layer on layer and if you skip a layer something will go pear shaped.
  • When confusion hits. STOP and Back up. You missed something and your brain is telling that.
  • Do not expect anyone other than yourself to figure it out For YOU. This means the instructor already knows. The guy next to you may already know. The person who does NOT know is YOU. It is YOU that needs to sort it out. If you give up, you give up and you may never know. Life goes on. But it is 100% up to YOU.
  • Not every topic is scintillating and not every instructor a standup-comic entertaining the class. Get what YOU need and don’t let anyone get in your way.
  • Books are the summation of all civilizations. Twitter is not.

How long will it take for me to learn to ride a horse?

  I can teach you to stay on a horse in 3 days.
  However, it takes a lifetime to learn to ride.

MarkH November 5, 2021 5:54 PM


I wrote a reply hours ago which vanished into “moderation limbo.”

I’ve always been a slow reader, and not necessarily a quick learner.

As others offered, writing it out works (on a word processor is fine for me), sometimes “copying out” but more often recapitulating in my own words. When I copy the author’s verbiage, I’ll insert notes about my process of figuring it out, or relating to other material.

This “rewrite” process helps me especially for math or intricate logic. I’ll add intermediate steps and reformat equations to make it more clear to me. For deep passages, I might reread 5 or 6 times (usually not all on the same day) before the light comes on.

Ted November 5, 2021 9:02 PM


full fracture of the lower jaw

Oh my god Clive. This is unreal. I’m so grateful you were one of lucky ones to survive and recover. It’s hard to find that new normal after an unbelievably senseless and violent experience.

That is a topic I have tried to do some reading on. I think its hard to really capture the changes that happen, even for less extreme events.

Did you have anything that helped you through that time? Were there any resources (people, or later books) that could share or reflect those experiences back for you? Being isolated with these feelings can be a whole extra layer of grief. (No rush on this of course.)

It sounds like a story deserving of a cool, relaxed night and a few good pints. 🙂

Jon November 5, 2021 9:30 PM

@ all the ‘longhand’ writers…

Feel for the left-handed. I used to loathe all writing (although I loved to read), and never really knew why until I had to give up my old Apple ][ (not even a + !) one day and write out a few pages, left-handed, in other-people-readable longhand.

I hurt for days afterwards. “Writing it out longhand” for a left-hander is torture*. J.

(*at least in left-to-right written languages. I have never tried writing in Arabic, vertical Chinese, or boustedephron…)

Ted November 5, 2021 10:14 PM


recapitulating in my own words

Greatly appreciate all your thoughts. Yes the rewrite process really helps in discerning what is important and how it is organized. It makes such a difference in retention and the affiliative association you build with the material.

I also think studying in the early morning is a wonderful time. There’s so few distractions and so much freedom to focus without interruptions.

I will have to try a version of this:

I’ll add intermediate steps and reformat equations to make it more clear to me.

Slowing down and organizing your thoughts is really a luxurious gift to give to yourself. I may try to work through module 4 of this session with those approaches in mind. 🙂

Ted November 5, 2021 10:40 PM


One can educate themselves if they want to learn, and are allowed the time to learn at their own pace.

That really resonates with me. I’ve most enjoyed learning when it was integrative or driven by an experience that held its own rewards (for example: photographing nature or plant identification).

I suppose if there was no task master forcing the learning process it might not happen for me on some topics. However it doesn’t mean that I’m not thinking about the value of this precious time in a broader perspective.

Ted November 5, 2021 11:25 PM


I have to laugh because I had a similar experience.

That made me so happy to hear you say that!

Do Not Turn the Page, Do Not Go To The Next Paragraph, Do Not Go To The Next Sentence UNLESS you fully understand the sentence, paragraph and page you are on.

You have a very strong approach to learning. I wish I were that disciplined. I have been studying by doing what I can in the homework and picking up a few more concepts at a time as I work through them. I get really resistant to studying when feel frustrated about all the things I still don’t understand.

However, I think one of the students in our class had an approach closer to the one you mentioned. She said she was meticulously working through the problems and writing out all the logic of the mechanisms as she did them even though it was, in her words, annoying and tedious. She said she had done well in our previous class (I didn’t do bad either), but I really do admire her.

Books are the summation of all civilizations. Twitter is not.

Haha! Agreed. The depth of some authors’ writings is just so satisfying, isn’t it?

Clive Robinson November 7, 2021 6:45 AM

@ Ted,


Yes, both my parents died within a few months of each other shortly after I had started what was then higher education but before I’d reached what is for some reason called “the age of majority” so I had to be adopted…

Fun times not.

There have been other “earthquakes” in my life, and whilst you can not predict them you can atleast prepare for some, and with time turn even the bitterest of lemons into something more palatable.

Ever asked what the most important “Security Criterion” is?

Well it is (no mater what others say),

“Survival of a system in the face of adversity”

That is a system has to be resilient, and that applies to the human system at all levels as well as the technical at all levels. So the most important rule in both life and security is plan for the earthquake moments and build in resilience to meet them. Hence the expressions “Ten year Storm” and “hundred year Storm” you will get to here at some point in systems design.

It’s why when I advise students about the projects they should pick I give them a little life advice as well.

One is, being engineers that if they are any good, one or both of two events will happen in their proffesional life,

A, They will be made unemployed.
B, They will strike out on their own.

And that they need to prepare for six moths to eighteen months of no income or assistance to get back on their feet, hence they need,

“A year and a half of ‘drop dead’ money.”

Also one half will statistically have a life changing event that will knock them or their family off their feet, so they need to make preperations as they go along.

This is sound advice to every one, and not “SHFT” thinking, it goes back to the times of our greater grand parents and started centuries if not many millennia before that.

As I’ve indicated in the past I have a Doctorate of Divinity from one of those “back of a cornflake packet universities” that existed in the US[1], even though I have no belief in deities and the rest of the power grab nonsense of churches and cults. However I did honest research about the morals and life rules and why they exist[2].

More than one religion has as a basic tenant the storage of a years supply of food water and four years supply of seed crop to see people through the lean times in an agrarian based society.

What is different in modern times?

Well we assume that food will always be on the shelves. Well as we’ve recently seen that is not a wise assumption for quite fundemental reasons.

We also assume that we can pay our way out of future problems via insurance. Well as we’ve recently seen that is not a wise assumption for quite fundemental reasons.

I could list a great many more but the part that remains constant with each one will be,

“that is not a wise assumption for quite fundemental reasons.”

What are those reasons? Well many will argue, but the one top of the list has to be,

1, Hierarchical control structures.


2, Abdication of responsability.

Then what some call,

3, The dark triad.

Of mental disorders that are significant in some (psychopaths, sociopaths, narcissists, sadists, and similar that prey on others that sometimes get called “Hawks”).

4, Authoritarian following.

These are those that do the biding of others, and so alow the building of “guard labour” that is an instrument of both fear and oppression against who ever it is directed.

You realy do not need anything else as the roots of other things are grown in the soil those four make.

Thinking about 1&2 tells you that you have to be responisible for yourself and your family, and that it is best to keep it as secret as possible from others. Which gives you the fundementals of OpSec.

Because thinking about 3 tells you how they think about 1 and how 4 is their enabler.

And so on. We also know it’s a system that is doomed to fail. Over countless millennia “nature” by evolution has found that whilst there is growth in such a system, it fails to random but probable events, or it becomes fragile and just breaks for various reasons.

Nature appears to have developed a 2/3rds rule for systems I won’t go into the maths that shows it’s valid but it appears that ~2/3rds is the optimum for many things including efficiency and even “water rockets”.

So the idea of supply chains or any queuing system can be 100% is a nonsense, which means the 100% utilisation of resources is also a nonsense, you have to keep reserves to see you through not just the lean times but those rarer earthquake times, you know they are going to happen and they do fairly regularly if your timescales are large enough but are compleatly unpredictable in much shorter time scales.

One thing is certain though is that despite warnings, society has through 2 alowed 3 to take away resilience from the majority of society,

“It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance.”

From 1790 by Irish orator John Philpot Curran.

“There is an imperialism that deserves all honor and respect — an imperialism of service in the discharge of great duties. But with too many it is the sense of domination and aggrandisement, the glorification of power. The price of peace is eternal vigilance.”

Attributed to Leonard Henry Courtney, 1st Baron Courtney, who more famously gave us,

“Facts are facts, and although we may quote one to another with a chuckle the words of the Wise Statesman, “Lies — damned lies — and statistics,” still there are some easy figures the simplest must understand, and the astutest cannot wriggle out of.”

Yet we alow them to do so hence “fake news” we see so much of.

[1] Yes there used to be a lot of them you payed them money wrote a 100-400 page thesis and you would get issued a qualification that you could hand to your HR department etc. A few years ago it created a scandle in the US State and Federal Governments, apparently very many people had them. Not realy surprising it’s the basic law of economics, if there is demand then the supply will appear. If you bring out rules about employment then you create restrictions thus your arbitary rule limits supply in some way that creates the demand and a lot of other problems. It’s why I’m all for “equal hiring” but against the idea “positive discrimination” quotas.

[2] For instance “ingestion rules”. What some call Kosher foods, are not from one faith you have halaal foods amongst many others they often have basic or fundemental similarities. Which have since been found to be scientifically valid despite the pronouncments of the medical proffession. The next one I suspect will finally be alowed out is “short fasts”. The medical profession backed by the food industry pushes lots of little meals every day which is easily provable as harmful. Many religions however promote regular short term fasting which has not been shown to be harmfull despite many attempts to do so. So we have an epedemic of obesity and lifestyle diseases all around us in the west even though we apparently live longer. However studies have shown that those who participate in religion live longer than others, and some evidence suggests they have a lot less life style diseases hence expensive interventions… One of the most expensive life style diseases in the US is diabetes, and recent research shows that fasting provides ways to control it with out the eye wateringly expensive drugs and by following those food rules…

Tef November 7, 2021 7:58 AM


Yes, both my parents died

Tragic in the very nature of the word. Do you think it’s interesting that there are more than a few Disney movies whose main protagonists are orphans? I pray you felt especially acknowledged and loved by your adoptive parents.

That is a system has to be resilient

Yes if it is to remain that particular system, right? Otherwise its pieces can hopefully be salvaged.

And that [engineers] need to prepare for six moths to eighteen months of no income or assistance to get back on their feet

I am big on that. Being unemployed for whatever reason is a backdrop to life. If you can save, do it, right? Otherwise send funny xmas cards to family and friends to build up a little equity in the ‘couch-surfing’ fund.

One of the most expensive life style diseases in the US is diabetes

Yes, my step father has sent us many articles on the insidious dangers of sugar. I don’t know if there is a one-and-done mitigation strategy for this.

Clive Robinson November 7, 2021 10:22 AM

@ Ted,

I pray you felt especially acknowledged and loved by your adoptive parents.

As I said “fun times not”. I won’t go into details, but I understand the abusive nature underlying the idea of slavery and indenturedhood, and how even your legacy can be stolen away from you legally.

But worse how those that abuse think that they must be forgiven because they claim to have found god…

You can dye the pelt of a leopard or dalmation, but in time the spots grow back just as befor.

People can change, but it takes a crucible to do it, there is a saying that translated into English is,

“The hammer that breaks the glass, also forges the iron”

So the real questions are,

“What comes out of the crucible, not what went in?”,

“Was the crucible hot enough to effect change?”

If people are sufficiently cold, there is no crucible hot enough that can cause them to change even unto death.

Something people should wisely learn from orhers hurt, and not have to endure their own.

There is a legal way out called “emancipation” but you have to have the means to buy your freedom, which is difficult when it is legaly taken from you,

Freedom has a price few can afford as long as others can legaly take all that you have. So even though we claim freedom as a right it is not a gift that is bestowed, it is continuously taken from us by those that would do us harm, it is the principle of “kings” and the games they played through guard labour. The latest version is the hidden hand of the free market, devaluing money and aquiring assets to rent-seek to keep society in check…

MarkH November 7, 2021 11:20 AM


You’ve been generous enough with your life story that I was already aware of the head trauma you suffered, though not in so much detail as now.

It evokes so much pain in my heart that it’s difficult for me to spend even a minute trying to understand it. What you experienced in 2000 was a vignette from Tony Burgess’ “A Clockwork Orange” — ultra-violence for its own hideous sake.

That you have adapted so well is testimony both to the strength of your character, and the “reserve capacity” of your formidable brain.

I made a light-hearted reference not long ago to your guardian angel, and my imagining that your feelings toward this hypothetical being would be ambivalent to say the least.

the ICT industry for some reason fails to learn it’s history my long past knowledge becomes current again over and over

A metaphor in the U.S. are the daytime “soap opera” dramas. If you miss 6 months of the serial and then tune in again, you find that you didn’t really miss anything at all.

echo November 7, 2021 2:32 PM

Clive misses that he’s not the only one who knows stuff and that things are not as easy as talking about it. Reality doesn’t work how some of you perceive it because you’ve never experienced it and lack the perspective. I’m not going to bang on about privilege or male privilege (and that’s only half the story anyway) but you really don’t get it. Really you don’t. I don’t even bother posting links to authoritative texts or studies or anything because you don’t understand the topic and would go into it with the wrong perspective or yawn or bikeshed at best. There’s no point building a narrative because the second you hear something you don’t like or it sounds a bit strange you knock it all down.

I get worn down reading Clive’s “instruction manuals” because I know most of it already but Clive never goes far enough either. The technical always gets pushed aside and instead of looking at the overall pattern seagues into a personal narrative of fireside stories. Entertaining to a point but ultimately blinding.

Clive Robinson November 7, 2021 5:28 PM

@ echo,

How are your dreams of pom-fritz, are they jumping about, sautéing your French tats on your German induction hob to be, whilst chosing which pink apparale to try and wow the boys with?

Then having regailed us about your tat you say,

Clive misses that he’s not the only one who… …seagues into a personal narrative of fireside stories.

La reine fainéant proclame à tout le monde.

Freezing_in_Brazil November 7, 2021 7:21 PM

@ Clive

I make Teds and MarkHs words mine, since I cant make them better. What you describe seems to me like the embodiment of Kants categorical imperative. There is nothing in a person`s life that I could admire more than this. Thanks for sharing.

With respect.

name.withheld.for.obvious.reasons November 7, 2021 10:07 PM


On one the most useful, at least to my thinking, the German mathematician James Maxwell in the application and demonstration of mathematics in the real world. Two areas of focus that are served well are in electrical theory and wave principals (general physics). His postulates, proofs, and lemmas for specific descriptions of both observable and invisible phenomena are illustrative of applied mathematics and the value it provides to society. Nicolas Tesla, probably did more any one person to fundamentally impact society and the world. Just my opinion, though I’d give a strong 2nd to Issac Newton.

John November 8, 2021 4:58 AM


Hmmm… It is nice that this group has allowed some members to share their life stories and their deepest, darkest secrets. For me this was that path that allowed me to return to sanity.

I remain amazed at the combined effect of the “Standard American Diet” or “Ultra processed foods” if you prefer and the subsequent need of ‘medicines’, hospitals, dentists, and drugs by most persons!

A HUGE amount has been written, much of it many years before I was born and even then predicts where we are today!

If you would like to read a really thought provoking piece, read chapter two of Pottenger’s Cats – “the raw meat verses cooked meat feeding experiment”.

If you re-read it a few times, Our Societal problems and their cause and cure will become clear.

A few souls may actually change what they eat and become content about life!


Clive Robinson November 9, 2021 8:07 AM

@ John,

For me this was that path that allowed me to return to sanity.

Some years ago now back in 1986 there was a film called “Crocodile Dundee” and there was a scene where mental health gets mentioned.

In it Mick Dundee (Paul Hogan) is listening to Sue Charlton’s (Linda Kozlowski) explanation of having a friend who sees a therapist. Mick looks at her and says

“Hasn’t She Got Any Mates?”

Sue,looks suprised and says

“You’re right. I guess we could all use more mates.”

Then asks Mick,

“I suppose you don’t have any shrinks at Walkabout Creek.”

Mick smiles in a soft way and replies

“Nah, back there, if you got a problem, you tell Wally. And he tells everyone in town, brings it out in the open, no more problem…”

It’s stuck with me for over three decades as it’s another side of “It takes a village” observation.

Apparently I’m not the only one it’s stuck with,

Ted November 9, 2021 9:25 AM

@Clive, John

For me this was that path that allowed me to return to sanity.

You reminded me of a book I once read. (Sorry about all the book references, but I like a lot of quiet time.) The book was called Evil Hours and I was so gleeful, gleeful, gleeful that such a book had been put together.

I mentioned something before to the effect of sharing info. And how nice it is to have someone tell you what exactly the “kick me” sign says on your back – lets say if it was a tome rather than a juvenile scrawl.

Here’s a few lines:

In normal time, you move from one moment to the next, sunrise to sunset, birth to death. After trauma, you may move in circles, find yourself being sucked backwards into an eddy, or bouncing about like a rubber ball from now to then and back again. August is June, June is December. What time is it? Guess again. In the traumatic universe, the basic laws of matter are suspended: ceiling fans can be helicopters, car exhaust can be mustard gas.

People that do that kind of writing are heroes IMO. He goes all kind of deep in so many directions that I’m ashamed I didn’t know what the best part to share was. It’s stupid that you can get bit by a dog and have a rabid-ic response out of nowhere. Do you still cower around teenagers?

SpaceLifeForm November 9, 2021 5:09 PM

h tps :// www

SpaceLifeForm November 9, 2021 5:42 PM

htx ps://w ww.theguardian. com/world/2021/nov/09/mexico-arrest-businessman-nso-israeli-company-spyware

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