Redshift Research Project



Missile Strikes on Kyiv

There have just been two missiles strikes in central Kyiv; I’m on the 15th floor, and I can see the plumes of smoke rising from the impact locations from my apartment window, about a kilometer away. It was about 9.30am, and it’s a residential and business district, and the strikes are near an office tower I’ve walked past when exploring the city.

I was still asleep; I had seen the night before the photo of that poor young Kurdish woman, in her hospital bed, who was murdered by the morality police. I had been strongly affected by it, and found it hard to sleep.

As such, I missed the air raid sirens; I was woken by the first strike, but you know how it is - you were asleep, something woke you, but being asleep you were not really awake for it and you’re only just now waking up. Then maybe fifteen or so seconds later, the second strike occurred.

I’m about a kilometer, I’d say, from the strike location I can see from my window (I’m guessing both hit there, since I would say the sound and feeling of both strikes was the same, but I don’t know that). I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a large, moderately nearby explosion before, so this is new to me.

There’s a big grey plume of smoke rising from the impact site.

(Hmm. As I’m writing now, I’ve just hear another “boom”, but much further away. I guess missiles are still incoming. Ah, and one more, just as distant. And one more. About five or ten seconds between each.)

The best I can do to describe it is to say it’s a “dull boom”. If any of you have played Silent Service II, the old submarine sim, the sound a torpedo makes when it hits a ship is a pretty realistic approximation. The sound lasts for about two seconds; quite deep, kind of a rolling sound, dddeeeebooooommmm… with a solid bass component.

With the two first strikes, which were nearby, there was a physical component; it wasn’t just that you heard it, you could also feel something - not very much, I was a kilometer away and indoors, but something - of the shock wave, not just hear it.

I think everyone here has for a long time ignored the air raid sirens, because nothing has happened for a long time. I think each of the those booms I heard, as I heard it, meant people just died, with others maimed, more injured.

I heard sirens, earlier, while writing, as the emergency services headed to the nearby impact sites.

The power supply started cutting in and out, and has now cut out for a good fifteen minutes, as I’ve been writing (and so no internet now). I wonder if this is an infrastructure attack, to cut electricity to Kyiv.

Presumably this is revenge and retaliation for the Kerch bridge strike.

I may be wrong, but to my thought, there’s a rule by which we can judge right and wrong, good and evil - that everything must be voluntary and well-informed, except in self-defence.

You can’t force others to do things, you can’t trick them into doing things either; but there is an exception to this, which is self-defence. Then all bets are off.

I think this is the actual definition of freedom. We all say we believe in freedom, but what do we actually mean by that? I think freedom actually has a specific meaning, and this is it; no one is forcing you, no one is tricking you.

I think it is also the definition of justice : because justice is that which is right, and injustice is that which is wrong - and in fact, if we think about what we consider unjust, robbery, murder, fraud, political oppresion, you name it - it’s all about forcing or tricking others. Justice is in fact the presence of freedom, injustice is its absence.


I walked down to the Samsung building and took some photos.

They’re all on imgbb because I’m sure my server won’t cope with handing over half a dozen ~13mb images to every viewer.

These photos are all of the buildings.

(I’ve taken the photos down for now. I posted them after I saw other web-sites doing so, but now I feel it may be those other sites should not yet have posted. The problem is the Russians use them to calibrate missile fire, and judge the effectiveness of their strikes.)

This last photo is of someone’s dried blood, on the pavement. I would guess they were passing by, and were hit by flying glass. There’s a lot of broken glass on the street.

Blood on Pavement

That Samsung building - I know it - when I moved to Kyiv, about two months ago, I needed to find a swimming pool. There’s a gym in that building, sixth floor, which has a two lane swimming pool. I was in there, checking out the pool, finding out the prices.

I have to remark, I can’t see any fundamental difference in this between Osama bin Laden and Putin. The former flies airliners into office tower blocks, the latter fires guided missiles into them.


Visiting Two New Craters In Kyiv

Yesterday, the day after the missile strikes, I went out to look at the crater by the Klitschko bridge.

The bridge is about 50m high, set in a nature reserve, is for pedestrians and bikes, and is designed to give the most amazing views over the city, which it does.

I visited for the first time in the summer, and took this photo.

Klitschko Bridge

You can see the the bridge, and also the arch it leads to - the “Monument to Commemorate the Reunification of Ukraine with Russia” - this is a translation, and I cannot find the original name in Russian or Ukrainian Cyrillic - built by the Soviets (which is to say, the Russians) in 1982, while they ruled the place, before the Ukrainians (and everyone else) finally were able to break away during the collapse of Communism.

It’s a huge metal arch, titanium, which also used to have under it two larger-than-life bronze figures, a Russian worker and a Ukrainian worker, holding up a banner, the Soviet Order of Friendship of Peoples.

The bronze was removed after the invasion (before I visited), as, to roughly quote the mayor, “it no longer seemed appropriate”, and the arch has been renamed (pending dismantling, which is intended, but not yet planned), “Arch of Freedom of the Ukrainian people”.

Well, there’s now a small Russian missile crater just to the right of the bridge, on the ground, on one of the many pathways which wind through the nature reserve.

Klitschko Bridge Crater

I can just imagine Putin now, in a German accent, “you VILL be friends vit us!”

I have to say, although I may be completely wrong, I have a real feeling they were aiming for the bridge.

It was the Kerch bridge which the Ukrainians hit, and destroying this bridge in return would to my eye be in keeping with the culture of the Russian State as it is now.

The only thought which makes me unsure it that it just seems to narrow a target to be sure of hitting - but maybe they were not sure, but thought it worth a gamble. After all, something like a hundred missiles were sent over; you got some budget to play with.

What was more surprising was the crater I passed on the way to the bridge, walking up into town.

Where I live, I step outside the building, head left for a block and a half (Kyiv is fairly block-based, although the blocks are rectangular, rather than square), then left again - a big long avenue, pair of two lane roads, which leads all the way into the center of town.

Nice, simple, easy route.

Well, in the center of the cross-roads on that road, which I have walked past many times, where on one of the corners of the cross-roads is block given over to the very lovely park is where my chess club play in the seating and space set aside for board games, there’s now a big Russian missile crater.

Tara Shevchenko Crater

And I thought Russians liked chess.

You can see in the photo it’s mainly been cleared up already, but here’s a photo I found on-line, which someone took shortly after the strike. As you will not be surprised to see, there is a car on fire; this is a major road running through the city at the missile came down at about 9.30am. There were cars on that road, and people in that car. I have no idea if they got out or not.

Tara Shevchenko Impact

What I’ve seen by these missile strikes (here at the cross-roads, and also at the Samsung building), is that any cars nearby get fairly shredded. Windows smashed, tyres are flat - penetrated by shrapnel - bodywork likewise perforated and also deformed from the blast.

I’ve not taken photos of this - a building, yes, it’s not a personal object, the same for a crater in the road or in a path, but a car belongs to someone, and they are going to be shocked and stunned by what happened.

The missile which formed that crater, in the road, I would say was larger. The crater is simply bigger, and there’s considerable damage to the front of the buildings for about 150m down each of the four roads coming away from the cross-roads.

That part of town, it’s all big, old buildings, very grand, Institute of This or That, chartered accountants, or agronomists, or what-have-you. Some big Kyiv University buildings, Research This or Library That. Those buildings, and the park. That’s it.

The hit is bang on the center of the cross-roads. I may be completely wrong, but that feels like too unlikely to be co-incidence. Again, I’m not sure, because it seems to small a target for such accuracy.

So, I’ve been reading history all my life; since I was a child. Not professionally, of course, but, still - four decades reading history, my current project is reading the history of every country in the world and I’ve come a fair way - and so although I may be completely wrong in what I think, but I have ended up with a sense of the countries I’ve read about, and also about countries in general, and what they’re like - different forms of Government and what they tend to do, how cultures differ, that kind of thing.

Looking at Russian history, what I see is a theme of territorial expansionism.

Russia over time conquers its neighbours, and once conquered, the schools are required to teach Russian and Cyrillic, the local culture is suppressed, and after a few generations of that, you are Russian.

Periodically though Russia collapses, with the recent collapses being in 1917 with the fall of the Monarchy (and the rise of Communism) and in 1990 with the fall of Communism.

When Russia collapses, all the countries recently enough absorbed to still remember who they are make a bid for freedom and escape - they return to independence - but only for a little while.

Russia recovers, and then resumes expanding, and those countries are absorbed once more.

After the most recent collapse, the fall of Communism, the countries to the West all escaped, and this time, there was a large power block they could join - NATO and the EU - and they did, and this secured them from being taken over again.

The exception was Ukraine, which joined neither, and Russia for ten years now has been trying to take over; first by corruption and political infiltration - Yanukovych was Putin’s man - and when the Euro-maiden revolution happened, and Yanukovych fled to Russia, about a month afterwards Putin began the intervention in the Donbas region, and Russia has been spending a great deal on its military since then, in, as it turns out, preparation for actual invasion.

Had the Ukraine been on its own, it’s not clear to me the Russians would have lost; but as it is, the West has backed Ukraine, and Russia is being defeated. They will be pushed out. The only real danger now is Putin deciding to use weapons of mass destruction.

So when you read about Putin saying one of the conditions for peace is that the Ukraine remains permanently neutral, remember - this is not about Russian security. Russia is not threatened by Ukraine. This is about having another go in ten or twenty years time.

What’s been happening here in fact brings to me a larger view on this general subject, and it is the subject of the type of Government in a country.

Broadly speaking, over a reasonable number of countries, over a reasonable period of time, democratic countries do not invade their neighbours. There is very rarely so much public support for unprovoked military action that it simply does not happen. A democracy must be attacked, to turn to war.

By contrast, a dictatorship sooner or later always goes to war, with its neighbours; the exception being when such an invasion would clearly fail - the neighbour is too strong.

In that case, when the strong neighbour is also a dictatorship, sooner or later it will be doing the invading. If the strong neighbour is a democracy, then peace reigns, for as long as the democracy remains sufficiently stronger than the dictatorship.

This all happens because in a dictatorships, control rests in the hands of a very few, or even just a single man, men or a man who have taken control of their own country and hold it against the will of their fellow men, and so will have no qualms to impose their will on even more men, in a neighbouring country, and who will themselves bear none of the risks or horrors of war, and so it becomes possible for war to occur, and anything which can happen, sooner or later does happen.

A year or two ago, I read a quote from Sakharov;

A country which does not respect the rights of its own citizens will not respect the rights of its neighbours.

I realised I understood him; it is dictatorships which are feared by their citizens, for such Governments are not elected and impose themselves upon people, and it is that very same type of Government which will invade its neighbours.

Russia, then, as with all dictatorships, will remain a threat to her neighbours. Peace will come only when Russia attains democracy. How this is to happen, I know not.

But let us not lose hope.

We are many, and we are strong; the West, with its democracy and so greater freedom, is much greater economically than Russia, with its pervasive corruption. Ukraine is free now, and will win this war, by virtue of its determination and the lending of that strength.

I will quote Smith;

Little else is requisite to carry a state to the highest degree of opulence from the lowest barbarism but peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice: all the rest being brought about by the natural course of things.

Russia will never become wealthy in the way of a Western nation, because there is no tolerable administration of justice. In the absence of a ground-roots economy, where the general skills and efforts of the people, secured from expropriation by a functioning judicial system, Russia will remain strongly dependent, as it always has, on the mass production of a few energy resources, as this work can be managed by a few companies, directly or indirectly controlled by, and subservient to, the State, and so essentially part of the State.

And bend to my current thought a quote from Θουκυδίδης;

Putin’s under-estimation of the power of the West is as great as that power will prove to be.

In the end, the military strength of a nation is limited by its economic strength.

The main risk I see with Russia is being lulled into a false sense of security, as Europe was in becoming so dependent upon Russian energy supplies, which encourages invasion, by allowing Russia leverage and so promoting it that mind the thought of opportunity to do so.

We must not forget : dictatorships will, sooner or later, invade their neighbours, given the chance.


Redshift Real-Time Query Monitoring

I’m working on an AMI, a WWW-based app (which you run locally).

Video here of real-time query monitoring.

The two really important columns are “transient” and “intermediate”.

When either (or worse, both =-) of these are large, that’s a killer query, and it’ll be bringing your cluster to a halt. The process ID is given, so you’ll know which process to cancel.

Large will vary by cluster provisioning, but you’ll find with a killer query it’ll stand out a mile in the query list.

I’ve not yet made a load generator, so I’ve had to improvise, and the polling rate is quite low in this first version, about one update every five seconds, so there isn’t tons of action =-) (On my laptop, using a different approach, which I cannot easily use with a web-server, I get one update every third of second; I think I can do something like this, but not now). You’ll note one or two queries show up with partial information - this is because the STV tables do not partake in MVCC, and so the query which is producing this information sees the query in one STV table but not in another - the query has already finished. I am thinking about whether or not to not show such half-results, but not decided yet.


More Missile Strikes

More missiles are hitting targets in Kyiv city. Started about 6.30am. I was awake, but in bed still; heard what I think was a small, quite nearby explosion. I looked out the window, but could see nothing. Shrugged. Went back to bed.

Not long after, I heard more noises - new to me - and I think now they were anti-missile fire, from the ground. Gunfire, I think, but also when I looked out the window I also briefly saw a bright yellow point of light, like a dot of bright sunlight, in the sky, and given the direction my apartment faces to be seeing the rear-end of a missile at low altitude that must have been the exhaust of an outbound defensive missile. There was then another, larger boom, further away, and the now-familiar sight of the grey patch of rising smoke from an impact - and now I can see from my window rolling, billowing smoke from the impact location.

Each boom means people have just died.

We’ve been asked here to conserve electricity, because of damage to the grid. The only power I use these days is for the laptop, and for the limited cooking that I do. No lights at all, no heating. It’s not very cold yet - still about 6C to 10C outside, so sitting in a quilt works just fine.

Going to pick up some candles when I get to the supermarket today, if they have any - I imagine everyone is buying right now.

Mmm. I can hear the different sirens of emergency services, police, fire and ambulance.

I’ll see if I can head down to take some photos, but later, once everything is sorted out; right now I’d be in the way.

Witnessed a Missile Strike

There’s just been two more explosions.

The first was unheralded, but for the second, first there was gunfire - I grabbed the camera and went to the window, opened it, and I could hear a loud droning noise, an engine - and then I saw a bright white missile in the sky, completely uncamouflaged, flying at a moderate altitude, perhaps 500m? it flew slowly, right-to-left in my field of view, and then began to dive towards its target, the sound of the engine becoming increasingly louder and stronger, and then it plunged below the line of buildings (I’m on the 15th floor) and I could see it no more, then the inevitable crack-bang - different to the explosions from a few days ago, not so large, but where I had the window open I felt the blast wave came to my face and body, and then of course with sick certainty the unfurling column of dark grey smoke shooting up from the impact site.

I’m hoping not too much additional damage is being done to the electricity infrastructure, although on the face of it, that explosion was simply in central Kyiv, not a very long way from the Samsung building which was hit last time.

I’m amazed at how slow the missile was. It was not rocket powered, but had an engine. I understand now how they can be shot down. There is time to aim and fire a missile.

I can hear more gunfire now, and another explosion just happened.

I was able to grab two or three photos, but it’s a wide-angle lens, so the missile is very small. Not publishing, don’t want to give information to the Russians.

Emergency services’ sirens now.


Living Without Electricity in Kyiv

So, rolling power cuts probably begin today, power company says four hours or less.

The attacks on power generation are awkward. To my eye, if Putin can keep up the attacks and inflict damage more quickly than it can be repaired, Ukraine ends up with increasingly long blackouts each day, and then maybe days of blackouts. Cities do not work without power, in ways we can hardly imagine - for example, you can’t buy anything, because the tills no longer work.

You could in theory use cash, with the shops keeping a pile of ready cash at each till for this, but how do you as a customer get cash when the ATMs are not working because the power is out?

The metro shuts down, of course. So do the traffic lights. How do you get into the city, or from A to B? you can walk, but only so far, and when you get to your destination, if it’s an office block, or condo, the elevators are not working.

I live on the 15th floor.

Automatic sliding doors are okay, you can force them open - but then you can’t really shut them, I think, so it gets cold.

How do you work from home, when the power is out - your laptop may be working, but you have no Internet.

Also when power is out, I think water goes out too, after a little while.

I need to buy some of those large containers of water, for home, in case needed.

I’ve been laying in some non-perishable foods, but most of what I eat is fresh and is in the fridge - fine for 24 hours, but after that, mmm. I will need to adapt my diet, and my life, to getting stuff done while electricity is available, and… getting other stuff done, which does not need power, when it’s not.

Needless to say, heating and lighting are off the menu. That’s fine so far, I’m in a well insulated apartment and it’s not yet cold (4C today, but sitting in a quilt is just fine), and lighting isn’t needed when you work at a laptop.

Well, in any event, back to coding :-) I’ve an AWS Redshift instance up right now, for dev work; if the power abruptly fails, I’ll be paying for until the power comes back - I could run an EC2 instance, and heartbeat to it, and when the heartbeat dies, it shuts down the cluster and itself… but that’s a lot of work and debugging and testing. I’d rather just wait the four hours :-)

First Power Cut Today in Kyiv

So, the cleaner unexpectedly came today. Lovely woman, diligent and consistent. I did the usual, cleared off all the surfaces so they’re easy to clean, moved the chairs onto the bed, and got out of her heir - headed out into town. I had a letter to post, and some bits to buy.

First stop, pharmacy.

Elevator, down, step outside and for the first time there’s a bite in the air - this is the first day I could and should have worn my Canada Goose Expedition Parka (you know, that big red thing worn up at the McMurdo Sound Arctic Station).

On the way, pass the hair salon I use; they have a big advertising screen built into one of their windows, and it’s still on. Go in, grab someone (might have been the owner in fact), take him outside, point, and suggest turning it off, which they do :-) I think they’d forgotten about it, because they do not see it from the inside.

Pharmacy looks closed - but, no - it’s just there’s no power. Door is open, business is on, but no lights, no tills.

I butcher the Ukrainian language for a while and after they clean up the blood coming from their ears, they rummage around and pull out what I’m after and it’s cash only, and all prices now are nice, easy round numbers.

Mucho idioto here has no cash - I should have picked some up yesterday, but I’ve been very focused on coding, and when you’re focused, you don’t think about thinking about other things.

However, the pharmacist indicates I can pay with my phone, a phone to phone transfer of some kind - except I can’t, because I do not keep a phone number. But I could in principle - and looking at their phone use for translation, I think the mobile networks are up and running.

I head out to the local bank I use for cash, which does not charge for ATM use (thankyou OTP Bank).

On the way I notice the traffic lights are working, but I pass a nearby bank and there also the power is off, and some workman-looking like guy is setting up a portable diesel generator and plugging it into a big Kryten-like groinal attachment socket built into the front wall, next to the (powered-down) ATM.

Distributed Power Generation

The bank I want is about three, four blocks away, and it has power.

I hit the ATM a couple of times (maximum withdrawal limits here in UA are very low - you’re lucky to find an ATM which will let you take out 100 USD/EUR at a time) to get enough cash for a month.

I then head up to the Nova Poshta, the private postal company, to buy jiffy bags (they currently no longer offer international postage) and they have one remaining, which is MINE ALL MINE MWAHAHAH… ah, wait, only a jiffy bag =-)

Then next door, the State postal service, and address the jiffy bag according to Ukrainian standards and hand it over to a girl working there who knows me by now =-) she does the business, and I give her a very nice bar of Lviv Chocolate.

Nothing says thankyou like chocolate, and nothing protects me from eating the damn stuff like giving it away before I do so :-)

Both post offices had power, I paid with my card in both cases.

Back to the pharmacy - still no power - hand over a 500, take the goods, head home.

I live in a condo, it’s only a block or so from the pharmacy.

I notice the electric sliding doors are still working. I head in. The lights are working. The elevators are working - but as I’m standing there, waiting for the lift, I’m thinking, if the power cuts out while I’m in the lift, going from A to B, am I going to be in the lift until the power is restored?

And I’m thinking the answer to that question is yes.

Lift arrives, in, up, out. Condo hallway lights are on (I’ll speak to the lobby guard about this - I think we don’t need them).

Into the apartment, and immediately to the right of the door is the boiler cupboard. I flip it open, to check the boiler is not heating water, and I notice there are no lights on the boiler at all.

Is the power off?

Step in, glance at the kitchen, and yup, lo and behold, all the appliance clocks are out.

There’s no power.

Wifi is out, heating is out (not that it’s in use), lights, well, the usual.

But this is really interesting - traffic lights are on. Building is still operable (I can get in and out - and I think it’s because the building has its own backup generator, which I can in fact see and hear from my apartment, and I can in fact also now new and long lengths of power cabling, laid down on the roofs of nearby buildings, improvised power supplies running from building to building). Mobile networks are up - Internet is available, just I need to buy access to those networks rather than relying on wifi. No problem.

I don’t need heating, I don’t need lighting. I need Internet (working from home), and I need a way to charge the laptop (and buy a power bank) to keep it running - and that’s not a problem. Water is working (but unheated, obviously).

Remaining question is food. I wonder how the supermarkets are handling this? I think they are going to have backup power, as well. I will find out.

But, you know, all in all, this is much less of a problem than I had thought.

As long as food works, this is viable.

Total outage was about three hours. During this time, the UK PM resigned =-) I spent the time tidying my apartment and moving the furniture around a bit, and then sorting out my backlog of bookmarks :-)


Missile/Drone Strikes On Kyiv City Now

I’ve been hearing the dull booms of moderately distant explosions and I can now see from my window the rising palls of smoke from two impact sites, different directions, both about 5km away. People have just died.

The power cut out for about one second, then came back, so I’m guessing it’s more of the same.

I’m guessing this is retaliation for the recent attack on the Russian fleet.

The actual effect so far of the attacks on the power infrastructure, for me, has been negligible. Typically a power cut has been four hours; so Internet goes out (I’ve not yet taken the trouble to sort out mobile broadband). The main upshot has been I get things done which I ought to be doing but never quite get round to because I’m too busy on the Internet =-)

Can hear emergency services sirens now.

Another boom.

The impact sites are probably going to be a bit harder to find, they’re quite a long way from me, but I’ll see what I can do about taking chocolate to the emergency workers.

There’s a lovely quote from Solzhenitsyn which I recently discovered. He was writing about the USSR, but to my eye what he wrote is applicable to the culture of the Government of Russia (which was expressed in the USSR). It relates to everything you hear from a Russian State organ;

We know they are lying, they know they are lying, they know we know they are lying, we know they know we know they are lying, but they are still lying.

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