More Books I've Read Recently

Mar. 29th, 2015 02:44 am
[syndicated profile] sumana_feed
More book reviews from the past year or so! I am still catching up and am not done catching up.

Up Against It by MJ Locke. You can read the first 5 chapters free online. I read this fast-paced space mystery during the 2014 summer vacation I shared with Julia and Moss, and enjoyed it as a mystery/procedural, as solid hard scifi, and as a character study of the protagonist. The first time we see Jane Navio, head of the Resource Commission, she makes a tough call. She is the kind of creative, tough leader who can abandon a few likely-to-die people in order to save resources the space colony's going to need in three weeks' time. Later we see that she's a cunning, passionate, thoughtful, and empathetic leader as well -- once you've read it, talk with me about a monologue she delivers in the last few pages of the book, about work and the public eye, because when I read it (as I was thinking about the job I then had at Wikimedia Foundation) it struck me as though I were a gong. And you get space surveillance, posthuman subsocieties, and some teen drama as well, but basically I am all about super leader Jane. Incidentally, MJ Locke is an open pseudonym for Laura J. Mixon, whose work Leonard has really liked. I should pick up more Mixon.

Life Class and Toby's Room by Pat Barker. I thank yatima for bringing my attention to Barker's Regeneration trilogy, which is super great. And thanks to Sam Read Book Shop in Grasmere, where Julia, Moss, and I stopped during our walk. I saw and picked up Perfecting Sound Forever, then got to talking with the store clerk, found out Pat Barker had new World War I fiction out, and bought it. I read both of these books in spare moments while continuing the Coast-To-Coast walk, which meant I had a sort of double vision of England, seeing it in front of my face in 2014, and seeing it in my head a hundred years previous. During my Coast-to-Coast walk in 2012 with Mel, I'd basked in the hospitality of rural northern England. And I enjoyed it again when I came back last year, but I also saw it through wartime eyes -- participant and observer at once. The cosy bits of life -- board games, pub trivia nghts, jokes over breakfast -- felt like civilization, like something to protect, like "what we're fighting for." Life Class -- in comparison to Regeneration -- feels like Young Adult, perhaps because we see the journey these youngish adults take because of the war. Toby's Room has a lot to recommend it but there is a sex-related content warning that I'll put in the comments as it's a spoiler.

The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo by Zen Cho (reread). So fun and funny and heartwarming and incisive. "I used to be a good girl and that was uncomplicated, but I thought complicated would be more interesting than safe." If you liked Jade Yeo, check out this interview with Cho about fluff for postcolonial booknerds, the fantasy of communicating easily with your ancestors and heritage, and her writing in general. I particularly love the bomb she drops nonchalantly: "I've always loved stories that examine the dynamics within small communities with their own rules and conventions -- Jane Austen's two inches of ivory, Enid Blyton's school stories, L. M. Montgomery's Canadian villages, Star Trek's starships." YES. Just add that last one on there. Ooof.

your blue-eyed boys by Feather (lalaietha). Via a recommendation from yatima. I read this both before and after I watched a bunch of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and it makes more sense afterwards (me during the first read: "who's this Sam guy?"). It's the longest piece of MCU fic I've read, but you might also like my Archive of our Own recommendations and Pinboard bookmarks.

American Taxation, American Slavery by Robin Einhorn (2006, University of Chicago Press) (partial reread). This history remains brainbending and full of astonishing anecdotes. Dr. Einhorn's particularly great in describing the importance of institutional competence in government agencies and in refuting "taxation=slavery" rhetoric. Check out this example of her amazingness.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X (reread) and Iacocca: An Autobigraphy (reread). I wrote about these at the time but I did not really talk about why I read Iacocca. I was about eight, and visiting India with family, and I read voraciously. I remember reading many issues of Reader's Digest (the Indian edition, which was different from the US edition). And a relative of mine had a copy of Iacocca and I read it with tremendous interest. I had never read such a detailed narrative about grown-up work before! He used the f-word and I was SCANDALIZED. Cars, these things that I utterly took for granted, did not just emerge ab nihilo; someone had to think them up and design them and compromise and whatnot. And I think I also liked reading Iacocca -- as I liked watching and reading Andy Rooney -- because they used plain language and owned up to their frailties.

So I monologued, a lot, the way kids do, but about Lee Iacocca and Chrysler and the K-car and the Mustang and various other topics, and these Indian aunts and uncles of mine smiled and nodded and perhaps presumed I would be an automotive engineer when I grew up. And then my parents held a sort of family reunion party (the hook being "Sumana's and Nandini's birthday (Observed)"), and my uncle Ashwin gave me one of the most memorable gifts I've ever received: Iacocca's new book of essays, Talking Straight. I don't think I even knew it existed before I had it in my hands! I was SO EXCITED. I probably forgot the minimal socialization my parents had painstakingly attempted to instill in me and went off to a corner to start in on it right away. I am still laughing about this.

Incidentally, the hunger for reading material also affected me eight years later, on another trip to India, as I was preparing to return to the States. Airplanes had no seatback entertainment; you brought twenty-two hours' worth of self-entertainment resources to get you all the way to San Francisco or you explored new depths in boredom. The day before my flight, Mom took me to an English-language bookstore. I'd heard The Lord of the Rings was good, and long. The store didn't have it. But they did have this other super long book. And that's how I read Atlas Shrugged.

(Even so, somewhere above the Pacific I started skimming that Galt radio speech. It is so repetitive you could programmatically transform it into a musical score suitable for Koyaanisqatsi!)

An inflight shopping magazine that helped me discover my roller derby name ("Asian Competence").

On the cheery side

Mar. 28th, 2015 07:40 pm
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[personal profile] badgerbag
Moomin is singing along to Janelle Monae songs and all is peaceful. <3

as usual....

Mar. 28th, 2015 07:21 pm
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[personal profile] badgerbag
I had like 3 nice days and now am weirdly ill again. Bah!!!!!

Reflux or something. allergies. i slept most of today. I keep just falling asleep. Can't walk around without coughing painfully. eating hurts. why! I hate this. It was nice out... at least I fell asleep in the sun a lot. its like i suddenly have painful bronchitis from ... stomach acid? not for the first time. Am taking Dexilant (which i've been on daily for like, a year) and drinking carafate to help with the pain. it barely helps.

Simcoe’s March 2015 Checkup

Mar. 27th, 2015 07:07 pm
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[personal profile] pleia2

Our little Siamese, Simcoe, has Chronic Renal Failure (CRF). She has been doing well for over 3 years now with subcutaneous fluid injections every other day to keep her hydrated and quarterly check-ins with the vet to make sure her key blood levels and weight are staying within safe parameters.

On March 14th she went in for her latest visit and round of blood work. As usual, she wasn’t thrilled about the visit and worked hard to stay in her carrier the whole time.

She came out long enough for the exam, and the doctor was healthy with her physical, though her weight had dropped a little again, going from 9.74lbs to 9.54lbs.

Both her BUN and CRE levels remained steady.

Unfortunately her Calcium levels continue to come back a bit high, so the vet wants her in for an ionized Calicum test. She has explained that it’s only the ionized Calcium that is a concern because it can build up in the kidneys and lead to more rapid deterioration, so we’d want to get her on something to reduce the risk if that was the case. We’ll probably be making an appointment once I return from my travels in mid April to get this test done.

In the meantime, she gets to stay at home and enjoy a good book.

…my good book.

Originally published at pleia2's blog. You can comment here or there.

The spaces between

Mar. 27th, 2015 06:58 pm
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[personal profile] pleia2

It’s been over 2 months since I’ve done a “miscellaneous life stuff” blog post. Anyone reading this blog recently might think I only write about travel and events! Since that last post I have had other things pop up here and there, but I am definitely doing too many events. That should calm down a bit in the 2nd quarter of the year and almost disappear in the third, with the notable exception of a trip to Peru, part work and part pleasure.

Unfortunately it looks like stress I mentioned in that last post flipped the switch on my already increasing-in-frequency migraines. I’ve seen my neurologist twice this year and we’ve worked through several medications, finally finding one that seems to work. And at least a visit to my neurologist affords me some nice views.

So I have been working on stress reduction, part which is making sure I keep running. It doesn’t reduce stress immediately but a routine of exercise does help even me out in the long term. To help clear my head, I’ve also been refining my todo lists to make them more comprehensive. I’m also continuing to let projects go when I find they’re causing my stress levels to spike for little gain. This is probably the hardest thing to do, I care about everything I work on and I know some things will just drop on the ground if I don’t do them, but I really need to be more realistic about what I can actually get done and focus my energy accordingly.

And to clear the way in this post for happier things, I did struggle with the loss of Eric in January. My Ubuntu work here in San Francisco simply won’t be the same without him, and every time I start thinking about planning an event I am reminded that he won’t be around to help or attend. Shortly after learning of his passing, several of us met up at BerkeleyLUG to share memories. Then on March 18th a more organized event was put together to gather friends from his various spheres of influence to celebrate his life at one of his favorite local pizzerias. It was a great event, I met some really good people and saw several old friends. It also brought some closure for me that I’d been lacking in dealing with this on my own.

On to happier things! I actually spent 30 days in a row off a plane in March. Home time means I got to do lots of enjoyable home things, like actually spending time with my husband over some fantastic meals, as well as finally finishing watching Breaking Bad together. I also think I’ve managed to somewhat de-traumatize my cats, who haven’t been thrilled about all my travel. We’ve been able to take some time to do some “home things” – like get some painting estimates so we can get some repairs done around the condo. I also spent a day down in Mountain View so I could meet up with a local colleague who I hadn’t yet met to kick off a new project, and then have dinner with a friend who was in the area visiting. Plus, I got to see cool things like a rare storm colliding with a sunset one evening:

I’ve been writing some, in January my article 10 entry points to tech (for girls, women, and everyone) went live on opensource.com. In early March I was invited to publish an article on Tech Talk Live Blog on Five Ways to Get Involved with Ubuntu as an Educator based on experience working with teachers over the past several years. I’ve also continued work toward a new book in progress, which has been time-consuming but I’m hoping will be ready for more public discussion in the coming months. Mark G. Sobell’s A Practical Guide to Ubuntu Linux, 4th Edition also came out earlier this year, and while I didn’t write that, I did spend a nice chunk of time last summer doing review for it. I came away with a quote on the cover endorsing the great work Mark did with the book!

Work-wise, aside from travel and conferences I’ve talked about in previous posts, I was recently promoted to root and core for OpenStack Infrastructure. This has meant a tremendous amount to me, both the trust the team has placed in me and the increased ability for me to contribute to the infrastructure I’ve spent so much time with over these past couple of years. It also means I’ve been learning a lot and sorting through the tribal knowledge that should be formally documented. I was also able to participate as a Track Chair for selecting talks for the Related OSS Projects track at the OpenStack Summit in Vancouver in May, I did this for Atlanta last year but ended up not being able to attend due to being too sick (stupid gallbladder). And while on the topic of Vancouver, a panel proposed by the Women of OpenStack that I’m participating in has been accepted, Standing Tall in the Room, where we hope to give other women in our community some tips for success. My next work trip is coming up before Vancouver I’m heading off to South Carolina for Posscon where I’ll be presenting on Tools for Open Source Systems Administration, a tour of tools we use in order to make collaborating online with a distributed team of systems administrators from various companies possible (and even fun!).

In the tech goodies department, I recently purchased a Nexus 6. I was compelled to after I dropped my Galaxy S3 while sitting up on the roof deck. I was pretty disappointed by the demise of my S3, it was a solid phone and the stress of replacement wasn’t something I was thrilled to deal with immediately upon my return from Oman. I did a bunch of research before I settled on the Nexus 6 and spent my hard-earned cash on retail price for a phone for the first time in my life. It’s now been almost a month and I’m still not quite used to how BIG the Nexus 6 is, but it is quite a pleasure to use. I still haven’t quite worked out how to carry it on my runs; it’s too big for my pockets and the arm band solution isn’t working (too bulky, and other reasons), I might switch to a small backpack that can carry water too. It’s a great phone though, so much faster than my old one, which honestly did deserve to be replaced, even if not in the way I face-planted it on the concrete, sorry S3.


Size difference: Old S3 in new Nexus 6 case

I also found my old Chumby while searching through the scary cave that is our storage unit for the paint that was used for previous condo painting. They’ve resurrected the service for a small monthly fee, now I just need to find a place to plug it in near my desk…

I actually made it out of the house to be social a little too. My cousin Steven McCorry is the lead singer in a band called Exotype, which signed a record deal last year and has since been on several tours. This one brought him to San Francisco, so I finally made my way out to the famous DNA Lounge to see the show. It was a lot of fun, but as much as I can appreciate metal, I’m pleased with their recent trend toward rock, which I prefer. It was also great to visit with my cousin and his band mates.

This week it was MJ’s turn to be out of the country for work. While I had Puppet Camp to keep me busy on Tuesday, I did a poor job of scheduling social engagements and it’s been a pretty lonely time. It gave me space to do some organization and get work done, but I wasn’t as productive as I really wanted to be and I may have binge watched the latest slew of Mad Men episodes that landed on Netflix one night. Was nice to have snuggle time with the kitties though.

MJ comes home Sunday afternoon, at which time we have to swap out the contents of his suitcase and head back to the airport to catch a red eye flight to Philadelphia. We’re spending next week moving a storage unit, organizing our new storage situation and making as many social calls as possible. I’m really looking forward to visiting PLUG on Wednesday to meet up with a bunch of my old Philadelphia Linux friends. And while I’m not actively looking forward to the move, it’s something we’ve needed to do for some time now, so it’ll be nice for that to be behind us.

Originally published at pleia2's blog. You can comment here or there.

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Between A Wreck And A Hard Place

Mar. 27th, 2015 01:00 pm
[syndicated profile] cakewrecks_feed

Posted by Jen

Gents, are you feeling a bit... droopy... lately?

 

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Do a little dribbling:

 

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Even little Brandon here knows:
There's more than one way to win the race.

::WINK::

 

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Thanks to Nicole F., Katy B., Jennifer V., Annette M., Angela B., Nathan M., & Malisa I. for helping me salute Viagra Day the penis way I know how.

*****

Thank you for using our Amazon links to shop! USA, UK, Canada.

[syndicated profile] accidentallyincode_feed

Posted by Cate

My notes from @jaimeejaimee‘s fantastic talk at @NSConf.

Rocky Balboa

Credit: Flickr / Scott D Welch

We’re going to talk about burnout.

Before graduated college was dishwasher, waitress, heavy equipment washer, pilot car driver, sign painter, production assistant, bank teller, park ranger, metal sculpture (that was degree).

After graduated realised need to figure out what to do for a living. Decided to be a web designer. Taught herself.

Dad was a U.S marine, sky diver, scuber diver, karate instructor, occasionally big jerk. Taught 1) life is short. Be smart be kind, life is short don’t waste time doing you don’t like doing. 2) love what you do, because life if short.

Loss of 15yo brother at 11, learn – life is short. At 27 lost her mom, reinforced this message. Taking the positive, love her work. In a time of loss, found that work was thing that could poor pain, passion, love energy into. Made her work better. Sure that work saved her life, was a sanctuary.

April 9, 2012. Dad was doing something he loved – riding his motorcycle from her house to his, didn’t make it. Again found, positive from something negative, he died doing something he loved. Lived a life of making decisions to do things he loved, so the odds of him dying doing something he loved were pretty high.

Thought it would be the same, work would be saving grace, everything would be fine.

This time it wasn’t. Work was the balloon, string cut, drifted away. Fell to the ground like a limp noodle.

Thought could just keep going.

It’s important to understand the difference between dissatisfaction and burnout. Wasn’t dissatisfaction. Was different.

When designing experiences for people, you need to be able to connect.

Single mom of two beautiful girls, could not give up, sell everything and run away to the mountains.

Dad was into self help, was so cheesy to her growing up. Thought, dad really found something in it, threw herself into it in search of something that she liked.

Reinforced – needed to pick self up, and carry self through this.

Movie Rocky – unconventional training methods. Drinking raw eggs and punching meat.

Seen movie hundreds of times, “It doesn’t matter if I lose this fight, all I want to do is go the distance”. Realised most important part of the movie.

Started looking design process. Realised. “I am a designer I have 15 years of tools in my Mary Poppins bag for solving problems.” “I have what I need”.

You could design your life, just like your life is a product. We’re making stuff. We pour all this emotion and soul into the stuff that we make, had never before thought of flipping it onto herself.

If my life is the product, and I can control the outcome, what do I do?

No one size fits all, basic process.

Step 1: Understand.

“Breakdown occurs when clarity of vision is lacking.”

First mobile product was the zappos mobile app. Had been working on website for about a year, was approached to look at the mobile apps. 

You can take these questions and turn them at yourself. Her goal: to get unburntout. 

Stakeholders are really important in this too – these are the people who depend on you and you depend on.

Whatever the goal is, have clarity of vision.

Step 2: Discovery.

Context – users – this applies to life too. To be a better mom, did stakeholder interviews with kids. Interviewed teachers, talked to their friends.

Brand – can take that at a personal level. Need to decide what the personality of the brand is.

Existing patterns – hugely important, what patterns exist in user behaviour, what patterns exist in the world.

Feasibility.

Behaviours – want to understand the environment, look at day to day rituals, what is working what is not working.

Existing processes.

Once gathered – can brainstorm things that are targeted at a very specific problem. Then you get solutions, and puzzle pieces.

Side-note: What’s good – looking at product, looking at what is wrong, don’t forget what’s good.

Step 3: Design

Once you understand what problem you are designing, you have puzzle pieces. Design is nothing but solving puzzles. 

Problem is carrying stuff. Hate bags. If has a bag, leave it.

Disney came up with a solution – band, magic band, photo ID, credit card, hotel room key. All these things in one magic band, don’t need to carry stuff, they have solved that problem! If only we had that in the real world (apple watch).

The Power of Habit – story of convinving americans to become a nation of people who brush their teeth. Trigger, action, reward.

These are patterns we need to think about when designing products, but also when designing your life. The reward re-enforces the action.

BJ Fogg tiny habits. Improving health. Drinking water feels small and insignificant. Fill my water glass – do it after waking up. Automatically drink the water after fill the glass. Break it down so small, impossible not to do it.

Because of little things, was able to fold this sort of habit form into life.

Break it down so small that you can’t deny it in your life.

Celebrate the little things.

Do some kind of physical manifestation of the reward.

Get something out there – whether it’s your product, a beta, or your life, then you can immediately get feedback on it. That feedback helps you.

Step 4: Iterate

Once you have feedback you can start iterating on things and make it better!

Jesse James Garret – watch, fail or succeed, learn, try again.

We need to iterate.

Really rare that we throw something perfect out there the first time.

“All I want to do is go the distance” – Rocky lost, but he went the distance. Then there was Rocky 2 and he totally kicked ass.

Test, tweak revise. Don’t give up. There’s so much out there.

Wrapping Up

The tools – you have the skills. Whatever you do to build the products you’re building, you can use these.

Worked on products. Works on life. Learned take these skills, and coaching, can not just help people inside companies, can actually help companies. Came back around, now focused on people, not products. Means that people are building better products.

Everything needed to get out of burnout was inside, just had to figure out how to apply it.

another amusing story

Mar. 26th, 2015 05:31 pm
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[personal profile] badgerbag
I had forgotten this but my mom reminded me. During our trip to the Dude Ranch over 10 years ago (Moomin was maybe 3 or 4?) There was a scene where a little girl younger than Moomin had accidentally locked herself into the bathroom, sort of an outhouse dealy in between the different cabins. The little kid was screaming, and people were all crowded around freaking out and trying to tell her what to do, and suggesting different things like calling the fire department and I walked up to this scene, took out my leatherman which I was wearing on my belt, and unscrewed the hinges off the door without really consulting anyone. As I recall I muttered something in the way of informing them what was going to happen. Problem solved. My mom says it was pretty hilarious. I think now I find it more amusing than I did then. Like then I would have just felt momentarily smug at getting to use my leatherman, like, perfect opportunity. Now I see a little more how odd or maybe alien that must have looked to everyone else and it must have made them feel slightly silly. I probably didn't do the human interaction part correctly at all or defer in the proper gendered way to whatever Dudes were taking charge of what was to be done. Not making any big deal out of that just doing it swiftly before anyone could object. So, I am now extra smug. Maybe I was then too and have just forgotten it. It is nice that my mom liked it and considered it characteristic but it also felt a little like she considered it characteristic of my being able to shoot lasers out of my eyeballs unexpectedly when I was a baby.
[syndicated profile] valerie_fenwick_blog_feed

Posted by Valerie Fenwick

Bob Griffin, EMC, and I will be presenting the history of PKCS#11 and where we are going with the standard in our OASIS Technical Committee Friday, March 27, 2015 at 8AM PT.  This is in preparation for our OASIS wide vote for PKCS#11 2.40 to become an official OASIS standard (boy, this process has taken longer than I imagined possible!)

Come along and hear all about it, and ask me and my co-chair questions!

You can register here at the OASIS site.

"See" you there!


Who Is the Antidetect Author?

Mar. 26th, 2015 02:48 pm
[syndicated profile] krebsonsecurity_feed

Posted by BrianKrebs

Earlier this month I wrote about Antidetect, a commercial tool designed to help thieves evade fraud detection schemes employed by many e-commerce companies. That piece walked readers through a sales video for Antidetect showing the software being used to buy products online with stolen credit cards. Today, we’ll take a closer look at clues to a possible real-life identity of this tool’s creator.

The author of Antidetect uses the nickname “Byte Catcher,” and advertises on several crime forums that he can be reached at the ICQ address 737084, and at the jabber instant messaging handles “byte.catcher@xmpp.ru” and “byte.catcher@0nl1ne.at”. His software is for sale at antidetect[dot]net and antidetect[dot]org.

Antidetect is marketed to fraudsters involved in ripping off online stores.

Antidetect is marketed to fraudsters involved in ripping off online stores.

Searching on that ICQ number turns up a post on a Russian forum from 2006, wherein a fifth-year computer science student posting under the name “pavelvladimirovich” says he is looking for a job and that he can be reached at the following contact points:

ICQ: 737084

Skype name: pavelvladimirovich1

email: gpvx@yandex.ru

According to a reverse WHOIS lookup ordered from Domaintools.com, that email address is the same one used to register the aforementioned antidetect[dot]org, as well as antifraud[dot]biz and hwidspoofer[dot]com (HWID is short for hardware identification, a common method that software makers use to ensure a given program license can only be used on one computer).

These were quite recent registrations (mid-2014), but that gpvx@yandex.ru email also was used to register domains in 2007, including allfreelance[dot]org and a domain called casinohackers[dot]com. Interestingly, one of the main uses that Byte Catcher advertises for his Antidetect software is to help beat fraud detection mechanisms used by online casinos. As we can see from this page at archive.org, a subsection of casinohackers.com was at one time dedicated to advertising Antidetect Patch — a version that comes with its own virtual machine.

That ICQ number is tied to a user named “collisionsoftware” at the Russian cybercrime forum antichat[dot]ru, in which the seller is advertising software that routes the user’s Internet connection through hacked PCs. He directs interested buyers to the web site cn[dot]viamk[dot]com, which is no longer online. But an archived version of that page at archive.org shows the same “collision” name and the words “freelance team.” The contact form on this site also lists the above-referenced ICQ number and email gpvx@yandex.ru, and even includes a résumé of the site’s owner.

Another domain connected to that antichat profile is cnsoft[dot]ru, the now defunct domain for Collision Software, which bills itself as a firm that can be hired to write software. The homepage lists the same ICQ number (737084).

The ICQ.com profile page for that number includes links to accounts on Russian fraud forums that are all named “Mysterious Killer.” In one of those accounts, on the fraud forum exploit[dot]in, Mysterious Killer lists the same Jabber and ICQ addresses, and offers a variety of services, including a tool to mass-check PayPal account credentials, as well as a full instructional course on click-fraud.

Antidetect retails for between $399 and $999, and includes live support.

Antidetect retails for between $399 and $999, and includes (somewhat unreliable) live support.

Both antifraud[dot]biz and allfreelance[dot]org were originally registered by an individual in Kaliningrad, Russia named Pavel V. Golub. Note that this name matches the initials in the email address gpvx@yandex.ru. KrebsOnSecurity has yet to receive a response to inquiries sent to that email and to the above-referenced Skype profile. Update, 1:05 p.m.: Pavel replied to my email, denying that he produced the video selling his software. “My software was cracked few years ago and then it as spreaded, selled by other people,” he wrote. Meanwhile, someone has started deleting photos and other items linked in this story.

Original story:

A little searching turns up this profile on Russian social networking giant Odnoklassniki.ru for one Pavel Golub, a 29-year-old male from Koenig, Russia. Written in Russian as “Кениг,” this is Russian slang for Kaliningrad and refers to the city’s previous German name.

One of Pavel’s five friends on Odnoklassniki is 27-year-old Vera Golub, also of Kaliningrad. A search of “Vera Golub, Kaliningrad” on vkontakte.com — Russia’s version of Facebook — reveals a vk.com group in Kaliningrad about artificial fingernails that has two contacts: Vera Ivanova (referred to as “master” in this group), and Pavel Vladimirovich (listed as “husband”).

The Vkontakte profile linked to Pavel’s name on that group has been deleted, but “Vera Ivanova” is the same face as Vera Golub from Pavel’s Odnoklassniki profile.

A profile of one of Vera’s friends – one Natalia Kulikova – shows some photos of Pavel from 2009, where he’s tagged as “Pavel Vladimirovich” and with the link to Pavel’s deleted Vkontakte profile.  Also, it shows his previous car, which appears to be a Mitsubishi Galant.

Pavel, posing with his Mitsubishi Galant

Pavel, posing with his Mitsubishi Galant in 2008.

A search on the phone number “79527997034,” referenced in the WHOIS site registration records for Pavel’s domains — antifraud[dot]biz and hwidspoofer[dot]com — turns up a listing on a popular auto sales Web site wherein the seller (from Kaliningrad) is offering a 2002 Mitsubishi Galant. That same seller sold a 2002 BMW last year.

On one level, it’s amusing that a guy who sells software to help Web criminals evade detection is so easily found on the Internet. Then again, as my Breadcrumbs series demonstrates, many individuals involved in writing malware or selling fraud tools either do not care or don’t take too many precautions to hide their identities — probably because they face so little chance of getting into trouble over their activities as long as they remain in Russia.

The above photo of Pavel in his Mitsubishi isn’t such a clear one. Here are a couple more from Kulikova’s Vkontakte pictures.

Vera and Pavel Golub in April 2012.

Vera and Pavel Golub in April 2012.

Pavel V. Golub, in 2009.

Pavel V. Golub, in 2009.

Thursday Favs 3/26/15

Mar. 26th, 2015 01:00 pm
[syndicated profile] cakewrecks_feed

Posted by Jen

I'll be celebrating a special holiday here tomorrow, so Friday Favs has been bumped up to Thursday!

Isn't that great news, "Demon Dog For A Five-Year-Old?"

::gutteral snarling::

Aw, I guess he can't hear me over all the screaming.

 

Actually, looks like it's been a pretty rough week all 'round for 5-year-old girls:

Can YOU say, "creepy anatomical inaccuracies?"

No?

'Cuz I'd like demon dog back, please. [shudder]

***

If I told you someone ordered "Congratulations Cub Scouts, Pack 47" on a cake, which of those words do you think most likely to be misspelled?

AHA!
You guessed wrong.
(I'm guessing.)

It is, in fact, every word except that one:

"Club Scott Pac 47."

[salutes]

*****

Two wrongs may not make a right, but two rights DEFINITELY make this wrong:

[give it a second]

 

You'll gladly foot the bill for that one, though, after I show you this:

SOMEONE CALL DEMON DOG!

 

Thanks to Donne G., Leah S., Maura M., Anony M., & Diana M. for the womb with a view.

*****

Thank you for using our Amazon links to shop! USA, UK, Canada.

Music - Best of May 2014

Mar. 25th, 2015 10:56 pm
ponyville_trot: Six cartoon ponies in a huddle (Default)
[personal profile] frith posting in [community profile] ponyville_trot
Very few recommendations this time around! Just three in all, and one isn't from May, it's from August 2013.

Yourenigma -- Tavi and Scratch - I'll Come Running. Pop, vocals, strings, electronic reverb.


Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pXcBHrcH158

Bandcamp: https://yourenigma.bandcamp.com/track/ill-come-running-feat-lady-aria

Strike any key if more music you wish to see: ♫♪│▌▌▌│▌▌│▌▌▌│▌▌│▌▌▌│▌▌│▌▌▌│▌▌│▌▌▌│▌▌│♪♫ )

You Get What You Incentivise

Mar. 26th, 2015 12:00 am
[syndicated profile] accidentallyincode_feed

Posted by Cate

tulip stair

Credit: Wikipedia

It’s about 18 months since my friend Tracy wrote this post pointing out that whilst the tech industry evangelises data for decision making, there is very little available when it comes to diversity numbers. And about 12 months since we started seeing companies release their numbers. Helped along by radical shareholder action from Jesse Jackson Sr.

This is progress, right? These things didn’t used to be discussed even internally, which is ridiculous because if you’re a woman on a team with more men named “Dave” than women, it’s the kind of thing you notice. Just because you don’t know the global, or local, percentage, doesn’t mean you don’t have a good idea of what is going on.

These are good developments, but at this point perhaps it’s worth stepping back and considering – how far have we come, actually?

Firstly, there is no consistent definition of what “engineering roles” means. My understanding is that it ranges from a narrow definition of ENG/UX/PM, through to a “everyone who reports into an engineering cost centre”. The numbers vary accordingly, but not everyone knows this – I’ve spoken to women who were comparing numbers at companies as part of their decision to take a job (or not) thinking that it was a different of percentages… when it was actually mostly a difference of definitions.

Secondly, if we’re going to blame the pipeline of women and minorities with CS and related degrees, and by “we” I mean “tech companies disclaiming responsibility for the culture they have created” it makes sense to tie the numbers to roles where a CS degree might actually be a benefit.

It’s not like there isn’t precedent for this – the ABI Top Company for Women awards use a standard definition for technical roles. Companies who have participated in this have that data. They have just chosen to release other – better looking – data instead.

As with all processes and incentives, you get what you incentivise. What concerns me is what is what is incentivised in this scenario: padding the definition of “engineering role” to make the numbers appear better, and focus on hiring “diverse” new grads.

What would we want to incentivise? Perhaps:

  • Hiring under-represented groups at every level.
  • Paying them equitably.
  • Building a culture where everyone is allowed to succeed:
    • Where they have equal opportunity to do equal work.
    • Where promotions aren’t delayed by gendered or racial feedback and expectations (hello, lawsuits).

What I would love to see is firstly a standard definition of what “engineering role” means.

The second, more revolutionary thing that I would like to see, is companies reporting not just the percentage of minority groups but the percentage of compensation going to minority groups (e.g. as determined via a standard measure, like taxation).

This removes the incentive to pad out “engineering” with less prestigious, and less well paid roles to make the numbers look better.

It makes hiring more senior people from under-represented groups, and paying those people equitably more important.

And for people looking at these numbers when evaluating companies, it would be a helpful metric. For myself, I’d prefer a company with 15% women in “engineering” roles receiving 13% of “engineering” compensation than one with 18% women in “engineering” roles receiving 12% of compensation. We know there is going to be a gap – women are better represented at lower levels. But the size of, and comparison of that gap would be very telling.

As in all things when it comes to diversity in the tech industry, we know that the data on people of color is even worse, and there is a racial pay gap as well as a gender one, generally.

I suspect we’ll never see this data. Because yeah we saw some progress, but we saw a lot more PR.

[personal profile] mjg59
One project I've worked on at Nebula is a Python module for remote configuration of server hardware. You can find it here, but there's a few caveats:
  1. It's not hugely well tested on a wide range of hardware
  2. The interface is not yet guaranteed to be stable
  3. You'll also need this module if you want to deal with IBM (well, Lenovo now) servers
  4. The IBM support is based on reverse engineering rather than documentation, so who really knows how good it is

There's documentation in the README, and I'm sorry for the API being kind of awful (it suffers rather heavily from me writing Python while knowing basically no Python). Still, it ought to work. I'm interested in hearing from anybody with problems, anybody who's interested in getting it on Pypi and anybody who's willing to add support for new HP systems.

Swing time

Mar. 26th, 2015 07:57 am
[personal profile] puzzlement posting in [community profile] incrementum
Originally posted to incrementum.puzzling.org. Comment there unless you have a Dreamwidth login.

At last, V and A share an interest:

Loving my swing Swinging himself

Peak swing Yay!

Look, no hands

[syndicated profile] krebsonsecurity_feed

Posted by BrianKrebs

Some of the most frank and useful information about how to fight fraud comes directly from the mouths of the crooks themselves. Online cybercrime forums play a critical role here, allowing thieves to compare notes about how to evade new security roadblocks and steer clear of fraud tripwires. And few topics so reliably generate discussion on crime forums around this time of year as tax return fraud, as we’ll see in the conversations highlighted in this post.

File 'em Before the Bad Guys Can

File ‘em Before the Bad Guys Can

As several stories these past few months have noted, those involved in tax refund fraud shifted more of their activities away from the Internal Revenue Service and toward state tax filings. This shift is broadly reflected in discussions on several fraud forums from 2014, in which members lament the apparent introduction of new fraud “filters” by the IRS that reportedly made perpetrating this crime at the federal level more challenging for some scammers.

One outspoken and unrepentant tax fraudster — a ne’er-do-well using the screen name “Peleus” — reported that he had far more luck filing phony returns at the state level last year. Peleus posted the following experience to a popular fraud forum in February 2014:

“Just wanted to share a bit of my results to see if everyone is doing so bad or it just me…Federal this year has been a pain in the ass. I have about 35 applications made for federal with only 2 paid refunds…I started early in January (15-20) on TT [TurboTax] and HR [H&R Block] and made about 35 applications on Federal and State..My stats are as follows:

Federal: 35 applications (less than 10% approval rate) – average per return $2500

State: 35 apps – 15 approved (average per return $1600). State works just as great as last year, their approval rate is nearly 50% and processing time no more than 10 – 12 days.

I know that the IRS has new check filters this year but federals suck big time this year, i only got 2 refunds approved from 35 applications …all my federals are between $2300 – $2600 which is the average refund amount in the US so i wouldn’t raise any flags…I also put a small yearly salary like 25-30k….All this precautions and my results still suck big time compared to last year when i had like 30%- 35% approval rate …what the fuck changed this year? Do they check the EIN from last year’s return so you need his real employer information?”

A seasoned tax return fraudster discusses strategy.

A seasoned tax return fraudster discusses strategy.

Several seasoned members of this fraud forum responded that the IRS had indeed become more strict in validating whether the W2 information supplied by the filer had the proper Employer Identification Number (EIN), a unique tax ID number assigned to each company. The fraudsters then proceeded to discuss various ways to mine social networking sites like LinkedIn for victims’ employer information.

GET YER EINs HERE

A sidebar is probably in order here. EINs are not exactly state secrets. Public companies publish their EINs on the first page of their annual 10-K filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Still, EINs for millions of small companies here in the United States are not so easy to find, and many small business owners probably treat this information as confidential.

Nevertheless, a number of organizations specialize in selling access to EINs. One of the biggest is Dun & Bradstreet, which, as I detailed in a 2013 exposé, Data Broker Giants Hacked by ID Theft Service, was compromised for six months by a service selling Social Security numbers and other data to identity thieves like Peleus.

Last year, I heard from a source close to the investigation into the Dun & Bradstreet breach who said the thieves responsible made off with more than six million EINs. In December 2014, I asked Dun &Bradstreet about the veracity of this claim, and received a blanket statement that did not address the six million figure, but stressed that EINs are not personally identifiable information and are available to the public.

THE PREPAID MESS

By May of 2014, Peleus reported that he’d more or less worked out the best ways to avoid the IRS’s fraud filters, and was finding great success at the state level. The key, he said, was having the bogus refund sent to a unique prepaid debit card account for each filing. In this case, he found success with Green Dot — a widely-used prepaid card.

“The season is over, and my stats improved A LOT once I used one Greendot for one refund, instead of 1 checking account for 10 refunds,” he wrote.

The prepaid card industry has been an indispensable tool of tax fraudsters for several years, and remains one of the favorite means of cashing out phony refunds — as well as the proceeds from a broad range of other cybercrime activity.

At a March 12, 2015 hearing on the tax refund fraud epidemic, Utah State Tax Commission Chairman John Valentine told the U.S. Senate Finance Committee that all of the suspicious returns it has seen so far this year had the direct deposit information changed from the previous year’s bank account to prepaid debit cards — often Green Dot brand debit cards.

Once the funds are transferred to such cards, they cannot easily be traced or recovered, a perfect vehicle to commit fraud,” Valentine told the panel. “Prepaid debit cards appear to be preferable to fraudsters because the identity thief doesn’t have to bother with banks, credit unions or check-cashing stores that may become suspicious when one person starts bringing in multiple tax refund checks to be cashed or deposited.”

Valentine said one problem his state ran into when trying to isolate filings involving prepaid cards was that there is currently no uniformity in numbering that distinguishes traditional checking and savings accounts from prepaid debit cards.

“For example, a prepaid reloadable debit card sold by Green Dot appears to be linked to a bank account even though the debit card had no actual checking or savings account associated with it,” he said in his prepared remarks (PDF). “A simple fix would be to require a different series, letter or additional numbers to distinguish these cards from cards connected to bank or credit union checking and savings accounts.”

SAFE MONEY & FREQUENT FILERS

Judging from his fraud forum postings, our tax scammer Peleus was having more luck filing bogus refund requests with both the IRS and the states in this year’s tax season, which appears to have started in mid- to late January for phony filers.

Peleus’ 2015 tax tips for fellow fraudsters center around which payment instruments and banks to use and which to avoid like the plague. Peleus said prepaids are great, but getting your phony refunds deposited in a Suntrust account remains the safest option, while certain banks — particularly Wells Fargo — are to be avoided like the plague.

“Wells Fargo is old news and sucks big time,” Peleus wrote in a January 14, 2015 post. “It is one of the strictest banks and I do not recommend it. Try and get Suntrust. If Suntrust works like last year, you should have 5-7 refunds per account easy. They don’t seem to give a fuck.”

Peleus and other fraudsters continue to report strong success filing phony tax refund requests through TurboTax, the largest of the online tax preparation services — with nearly 30 million customers. Peleus urges like-minded crooks to consider asking TurboTax to credit the fraudulent refund amount as an Amazon gift code, which is apparently all the rage this year:

“You don’t even need your own bank accounts, you can use company checking accounts from Google or checking accounts from your older spam,” Peleus enthuses. “Basically, you need just an email to receive the Amazon code. Sure, it’s hard to sell it on eBay or Craigslist, but it works and they never get blocked, so it’s safe money.”

[In case you missed my recent series on how lax security and adherence to “know-your-customer” basics at TurboTax has contributed to the tax fraud epidemic, check out these stories.]

While the states and the IRS are becoming more vigilant about filtering out phony refund requests, the fraudsters are clearly responding by upping the volume of bogus filings. At least, that’s according to our virtual Virgil of the tax underworld:

“People, the secret still stays in numbers, so file as many applications as you can,” Peleus advises his fraudster friends. “No matter how accurate your tax info is, if you fly under the radar with small refunds (e.g. the average US refund was $2400 last year) you will be making money. Stop asking for $9k per refund you should make 3 of 3k, more refunds is better. Next year it will be harder I am sure, but we will all be smarter and fewer.”

ANALYSIS

Given the amount of cyber fraud that is committed with the help of the anonymity afforded to prepaid card users,  the Utah State Tax Commissioner’s suggestion about requiring a unique identifier for prepaid card account numbers seems like a sound one. Certainly, the prepaid card and tax preparation industries can up their game. As I’ve noted in previous stories, both industries probably need more encouragement from federal lawmakers and/or regulators to proactively institute more robust and effective “know-your-customer” policies.

Even so, tax refund fraud is a complex problem, with many core weaknesses contributing to the overall epidemic. Not least of which is that the IRS is required to process refund requests within a very short period of receiving the filing. Very often, the IRS has to make this decision even before companies finish sending out W2 information.

In an August 2014 report to Congress on the tax refund fraud epidemic, the Government Accountability Office said that for 2014, the IRS informed taxpayers that it would generally issue refunds in less than 21 days after receiving a tax return — primarily because the IRS is required by law to pay interest if it takes longer than 45 days after the due date of the return to issue a refund.

According to a January 2015 GAO report (PDF), the IRS estimated it prevented $24.2 billion in fraudulent identity theft refunds in 2013.  Unfortunately, the IRS also paid $5.8 billion that year for refund requests later determined to be fraud. The GAO noted that because of the difficulties in knowing the amount of undetected fraud, the actual amount could far exceed those estimates.

Further reading:

What Tax Fraud Victims Can Do.

All KrebsOnSecurity stories about tax refund fraud.

Update, Mar. 26, 4:56 p.m. ET: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Green Dot was managed by GE Money Bank. The latter sold part of its pre-praid business (Wal-Mart Money Card) to Green Dot back in 2013.

[syndicated profile] cakewrecks_feed

Posted by Jen

Say, just what kind of Mickey Mouse operation do you think they're running here?

 

Hey, laugh all you want; I'm just impressed they spelled it right.

 

It's like music to my eyes. Really.

Ok, not really.

 

And if you think e-mailing a picture to the bakery helps...think again.

Hey, a print-out of the entire Wikipedia source file still counts as a picture, right? Right?

 

Michael B., Jennifer C. & Jim H., Amber C., & Jessica C., I think I'd steal two icing roses in protest of that cake, too.

*****

Thank you for using our Amazon links to shop! USA, UK, Canada.

Photo print circle?

Mar. 25th, 2015 07:41 pm
puzzlement: (Default)
[personal profile] puzzlement
Hey all, I wouldn't mind some inspiration to take more non-portrait photographs. So! Who wants to join a photo print circle? As in, take some photos, share prints by posting them to other people.

Basics

If you sign up as a photographer+recipient: You will take up to five photographs and send prints to other people. You will get up to about five (but perhaps lower, due either low sign-ups or because some people may be recipient-only) photographic prints in the mail taken by other participants in the circle.

If you sign up as a recipient only: You will get up to two photographic prints in the mail taken by participants in the circle.

Rules for photographers

  • You should post each of your assigned recipients a print of a distinct shot, newly taken for this circle.

  • Rating: general audiences. Beyond that, you have free choice of size, camera, printer, subject, composition…

  • You retain all rights to the photographs you take and may sell them, publish them elsewhere, release them Creative Commons, etc. The recipient gets a print, not any rights assignments or embargoes.

  • Subject consent: if you take a portrait or small group shot, please explain to the subject(s) what the portrait will be used for and get their consent.

All that said, warning: I won't be tracking fulfilment. If your assigned photographers default, I will not arrange replacements. (If signups are small, as they probably will be, most likely at a minimum you'll all get a picture from me.)

Dates

  • Signups close Monday March 30.

  • Assignments go out Thursday April 2.

  • Your photographs should all be in the mail by Thursday April 30 (or if I'm posting them, to me for printing by Monday April 27).

Impostor syndrome?

Honestly, this is about having fun posting things and getting things in the mail. (I'm not even sure anyone will even sign up!)

All levels of photography skill and experience welcome! The requirement is: take a photo per recipient. Print it. Post it. No fancy camera required: use your phone or your point and shoot! No fancy printing required: print them at your local place or run them off on your own printer.

International signups?

Yes please. Photographers: please expect that you may be assigned recipients anywhere in the world and expect postage costs accordingly. (Keep reading if you can't afford postage.)

Privacy as a recipient?

Your assigned photographers will be given your DW account name, if you have one, and your website link or Twitter handle if you give one.

There are two options for postage: either your name and postal address as supplied in your sign up will be passed on to your assigned photographers; or only I will know your name and postal address, and you agree to let me print and post your photographer's shots to you as 6"×4" prints from a mainstream commercial photo printing service. (In the unlikely event I get too many people asking for this, I'll update here to remove the offer.)

Privacy as a photographer?

Your recipients will know whatever you choose to put on/in the envelope, or ask me to put on/in it.

Can't afford printing or postage as a photographer?

Indicate this in your signup comment and I'll arrange for your printing and postage from your digital files. (In the unlikely event I get too many people asking for this, I'll update here to remove the offer.)

Want to send directly from a printing site?

What needs to happen is that your recipient needs to get a print of your photo in their mailbox. How that happens is up to you: if you want to use a service/app that will print the photos and send them directly to recipients (eg Touchnote, Cards in the Post, Postagram), that's fine! Check for international postage availability on your chosen tool.

If you want to print yourself or print locally and send it through your post office, that's just as fine.

Don't have a Dreamwidth account?

You can sign up, comment as Anonymous.

Sign up

If you are a photographer+recipient, copy this into comments and fill it out:

I'd like to play!

I will (remove the line that doesn't apply)
* post photographs to my recipients myself if their address is shared with me
* send digital photographs to puzzlement to print and post to my recipients

My name and postal address is: [doesn't have to be real name, but something that will reach you if you share an address with others]

I want my name and address (remove the line that doesn't apply):
* given to my assigned photographers so that they can send me photographs directly
* kept private by puzzlement, who will print and post photos to me on behalf of my photographers

My email address is (will always be private to puzzlement, used for assignments and a small number of deadline reminders):

[optional] My website link/Twitter handle (to be given to my photographers) is:


If you are a recipient, copy this into comments and fill it out:

I'd like to receive prints!

My name and postal address is: [doesn't have to be real name, but something that will reach you if you share an address with others]

I want my name and address (remove the line that doesn't apply):
* given to my assigned photographers so that they can send me photographs directly
* kept private by puzzlement, who will print and post photos to me on behalf of my photographers

My email address is (will always be private to puzzlement, used for assignments and a small number of deadline reminders):

[optional] My website link/Twitter handle (to be given to my photographers) is:


Comments are screened.
[syndicated profile] sumana_feed
Now that I'm not all arrrrgh I just want to launch this thing I'll talk a little more about why I made Randomized Dystopia: to help us think about how dystopian fiction (and real repression) works, and to remind everybody of rights that don't get enough airtime, like variety in breakfast

wait, no, I mean:

Freedom of association

In January, I read Courtney Milan's Trade Me, in which protagonist Tina Chen mentions how hard it is for many Americans to wrap their heads around the oppression of Falun Gong practitioners. A stripped-down excerpt, from page 9 of my edition:

I hate trying to explain Falun Gong to Westerners. Sometimes, I wish my parents had been caught up in something comprehensible, like tax reform or Tiananmen Square....

No, it's not a freedom of speech issue. No, it's not a religion, not like you understand it. It's never going to make sense to you ... It's like free exercise of ... exercise...

Milan goes into more detail on this point in an interview about Trade Me. Again, a snipped-up excerpt:

...the communist regime is very, very jealous of concentrations of power in anyone but the Communist Party. And so near the end of the '90s, there were probably millions of people who were practicing Falun Gong, and they would get together in the park and they would practice and, you know, all of this stuff, and they, the Communist Party started getting a little worried about it, because they didn’t like the idea that there were these people.... he had followers, and they don't like, they didn't like the idea of somebody having followers, so they banned the practice. And to their amazement, people protested it, and they didn't know the protest was coming. So, like, 10,000 people showed up to protest in Beijing, and they were like, the fuck did these people come from?

And that, it scared the shit out of them, basically. You know, like, all these people care, and this is just sort of like what happened with, like, almost no organizing over a weekend? This is scary. So they cracked down on it, and they cracked down on it really, really hard.

One way to understand the Falun Gong crackdown is as a denial of freedom of association (articulated as "the right of the people peaceably to assemble" in the First Amendment to the US Constitution, to oversimplify). A totalitarian state only allows relationships that the state can surveil or break. We need not only privacy in the metadata of our group membership, but respect for our underlying freedom of association, the freedom to belong to a despised group.

But when I hear people talking about rights, including when we explore dystopias where someone's denying us those rights, I don't usually hear us explicitly mention freedom of association. We talk often about privacy, freedom of speech, reproductive and sexual freedom, fair and free elections, and judicial due process.

And so I'd also like to raise awareness (especially in the US) of more comprehensive lists of rights. In "Randomized Dystopia" I draw from The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, The Convention on the Rights of the Child, and The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Too often in the US I hear people talk as though the first ten amendments to the US Constitution comprise all the rights we ought to honor, and humanity has done some more thinking on those topics in the intervening centuries.

Upon using Randomized Dystopia, several commenters noticed how the US falls short regarding many of the rights in the UDHR, CEDAW, and CRC. Yup.

How dystopias work

And then, in mid-March, I was talking with Sabrina Banes about current dystopian fiction, especially novels in English for the Young Adult market. She sketched out their basic themes and trajectory (and Sabrina I'd love for you to write more about your thoughts on what aspects cluster around Evil Villain Governments versus around Plucky Young Protagonists). And I realized how essential it is, as a plot mechanic, that cookie-cutter YA dystopias deny freedom of association.

Chapter 1. My parents, friends, and government tell me I can't ever go talk to Those People Over There. They're bad and wrong and subject to arbitrary arrest or execution. But sometimes I don't particularly want to be a WheelCog. But what else is there?

......

Chapter 5. So I talked to Those People Over There and hoo boy, I was spectacularly underinformed about the nature of my world, political system, and socially constructed values! [If freedom of association is limited, the author can more plausibly dribble out exposition to the reader -- it's easier to play keep-away with the MacGuffin -- and it gets easier for authorities to enforce limits on speech.]

.....

Chapter 10. Oh wow, I am one of Those People Over There. In fact maybe quite a lot of us don't fit as WheelCogs, down underneath! [If you hang out with someone, it's a lot harder to treat them as a category, an object. And once you can talk freely with an ostracized group, you might see how you are like them; your perception of your own identity might change. I believe the standard YA dystopia character development arc depends on struggles around freedom of association.]

...

Chapter 12. However this is causing certain problems with, well, every other part of my life. Time to overthrow things!

What other rights have interesting properties as plot mechanics within dystopian fiction? I hope writers find "Randomized Dystopia" interesting as a writing prompt, and I'd be interested to hear others' thoughts on the interaction of rights and dystopian narrative.

Technical details

See the README in the code repository (go ahead and reuse the code and the idea -- the code is GPL). If you've never written a web application before, this kind of toy -- massage some text into structured-data form and use random.choice or random.sample to display a few selections to the reader -- is a fun starter project.

Takeaways

  1. Yeah the US is not doing so hot (and many other countries are not, either); there's a lot to be done
  2. Please write science fiction about Article 30 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and Article 14, Section 2, Clause E of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (or, failing that, please write about insurance fraud and/or Quakers in space, so I can read it)
  3. I launched a project making fun of the tropes of dystopian science fiction just before Taco Bell did, which means I'm an influencer and available for consulting at exorbitant rates

Say Hello To My Little Claptrap!!

Mar. 24th, 2015 08:44 pm
[syndicated profile] epbot_feed

Posted by Jen

He's done!

 "HELLOOOOO, TRAVELER!"

I probably should have set up a better photo backdrop, but I was so excited I just had John wheel Claptrap out to the back deck for some quick photos.

Behold our marvelous creation! MWUAH-HA-HAA!

"Oooh, check me out!"

We worked off of our own screen shots from Borderlands and this excellent reference art by Keith Schaffer:
 

We made Claptrap as screen accurate as we possibly could, right down to the screw heads. The only major differences are a few tweaks in the arm structure:


Claptrap definitely puts the "pain" in painting; we spend a solid 4 or 5 nights getting all those layers on. I was in charge of all the detail work, outlining and highlighting. And for the record: I am NOT an artist, so that was some scary stuff. 0.o Good thing my screw-ups can be chalked up to battle damage!
 

 John came up with a genius way of constructing the hands; they're pose-able and can even hold things!

I'm still deciding on things Claptrap might hold - the funnier the better. Any suggestions?

We originally planned to put one arm on a puppet-rod so I could make Claptrap wave, but the arm turned out too heavy for me. So instead John attached both arms at an angle, which we can easily change.

Unfortunately Claptrap does require someone to move him; he rolls on one wheel, and has a small handlebar on the back. (It's pretty short, so I'll probably be the one "driving.") He also has a magnetic kickstand, so we can step away for pictures.

We painted the kickstand so it blends in to Claptrap's body when it's up, but now that I've realized it's more important to blend in when it's DOWN, I'll be repainting that black soon.

 
 I think I should also paint the push bar black. Right? Or yellow?

The kickstand uses extremely strong magnets to hold it in place both when it's up and down. It could still be kicked out, of course, but it's the best compromise we could find between stability and ease-of-use. We'll just have to stick close-by at cons and make sure no one gives him a hearty back-slap.

 
 Note to self: next time move the deck chairs.

 
These daylight pics don't show it, but Claptrap IS lit up inside in four places: his eye, warning sign, bottom window, and antennae.

I'm most proud of the window below the Warning sign: I hand painted everything on there, and then we used a blue LED ribbon to match the light from the game. Here's a comparison shot:




And here are some shots in our darkened back room to give you a better idea of the lights:


We tried to make the lights relatively dim so they wouldn't blow out anyone's photos - although the green antennae light is a lot brighter IRL. We also shortened the antenna, both so it would fit better in photos, and so it won't whack me in the face while I'm pushing him around. :D

We used screen shots for the name plaque - which, oddly enough, does NOT match the letters Claptrap gives you in-game. (He calls himself the CL4P-TP.)


Here's our screen shot. The C looks a lot like a B, but that'd be just crazy-pants, so we stuck with C.


Claptrap has a hinged top and is almost completely hollow inside, so we can use him for storing our gear while at cons. (Handy, right?)

The one feature I *haven't* shown you yet is the audio; Claptrap is wired to say four different things from the game, using small push buttons on the back. (We cut open this keychain and just wired it to a bigger speaker.) Here's his most famous line:

(Watch your volume; he's pretty loud!)

And that's our Claptrap!
Those of you going to MegaCon will get to see his big debut, so be sure to say hi if you see/hear him coming your way!

(I don't expect we'll be in costume with Claptrap for MegaCon, but John and I brainstorming options for Dragon Con in August.)

 And finally, since I know most of you haven't played Borderlands, here's a compilation I found of some of Claptrap's best lines, to better help you appreciate his comedic genius/annoyingness.


Hope this made you guys smile! 

Oh, and this week John and I drive to Williamsburg, VA to help my parents with some remodeling, so I hope you'll bear with me if it gets a little quiet over here. Lots of stuff to share; just gotta find the time to do it!
[syndicated profile] geekfeminism_feed

Posted by spam-spam

  • Every woman in every Disney/Pixar movie in the past decade has the same face: “Apparently every Disney woman is a clone/direct descendant of some primordial creature with huge round cheeks and a disturbingly small nose, because there is no other explanation (yes there is(it’s lazy sexism)) for the incredible lack of diversity among these female faces.”
  • Beyond: An anthology of queer SFF comics, coming in spring 2015. Currently fundraising.
  • Former Facebook Employee, Chia Hong, Sues for Sex Discrimination | Re/code: “A former Facebook employee is suing the company for a number of claims, including sex discrimination, harassment and race/national origin discrimination, according to a lawsuit filed with the San Mateo County Superior Court Monday.”
  • Robyn Launches Festival Promoting Women in Technology | News | Pitchfork: “In a press release, Robyn said she wanted to use the platform to inspire girls aged 11-to-18 who might be intrigued about technology—a historically male-dominated industry. ‘Tekla is a festival for girls, in which they get to sample different areas of future technology in what I believe will be a fun and imaginative environment,’ she wrote.”
  • New feminist Thor is selling way more comic books than the old Thor | Fusion: “While the audience breakdown is not available and there’s no way to know if the new Thor is bringing in more female readers, it is clear that she’s outselling the last series by A LOT. The first five new Thor books are currently selling more copies than the last five Thor books from 2012 by close to 20,000 copies per month, not including digital copies.”
  • Lighten Up — The Nib | Medium: Powerful comic about skin tone in comics coloring.
  • Chapter Three | Follow the Geeks: Profile of Lifehacker founder Gina Trapani. “Her skills as a programmer, leader, and writer are often overlooked, because she works so quietly. She flies under the radar, outshined by ideas shouted from the rooftops by Silicon Valley braggadocios. But Gina did something no other tech entrepreneur did, though most of them became big fans of it. She founded Lifehacker, the standard by which all productivity-enhancing web publications—now a dime a dozen—are judged. “
  • You can choose who submits talks to your conference | Julia Evans: “If you ask someone specifically to consider speaking at your conference, they’re WAY more likely to consider submitting a talk than if you don’t. If you then actively work with some talk submitters to help them focus and improve the talk they submit, their proposals will get better! And if you choose to focus your energies to work with (for instance) non-white people more than white people, then you’ll get more and better proposals from people who aren’t white.”
  • Doxxing to Defend Student Privacy | Hack Education: “If doxxing is the tactic – and “a primer” sure might indicate that it’s a-okay – then we have much more to do to prepare students about the implications of their online profiles, safety, surveillance, and discipline. Seriously, we have to think about what it means when political groups decide to use social media mechanisms not just to observe and monitor but to stifle dissent and quite literally to destroy their opposition.”
  • How This Young, Female and Latina Investor Broke Into a Middle-Aged, Male and White Industry | Hunter Walk: An interview with Ana Diaz-Hernandez of Kapor Capital. “I take my relationships very seriously: I believe deep, systemic issues require multi-disciplinary minds coming together. I work hard to bring together people who are taking radically different paths to address similar problems. It’s in those unconventional settings that amazing innovation happens. If you’re a driver of meaningful connections, people will want to work with you and you’ll be sure to have a place at the venture table.”
  • Art+Feminism Events on International Women’s Day « Wikimedia blog: “The Art+Feminism Campaign organized a global drive to host edit-a-thons on the weekend of International Women’s Day, to improve Wikipedia articles about women in the arts, feminism, and gender — as well as to raise awareness of the Wikipedia gender gap. Over 75 events took place around the world, bringing together about 1,500 participants — ranging from small gatherings of friends to large groups at significant cultural institutions like LACMA, the Walker Art Center, and the Stedelijk Museum. As a result, at least 400 new articles were created, and another 500 articles were significantly improved.”
  • Lawsuit: The 10 ways Twitter denies equal job opportunities for women | Mashable: “A software engineer suing Twitter for sex discrimination says the company’s mysterious promotions policy denies equal job opportunities for qualified women, according to court papers obtained Friday by Mashable — a document that handily alleges 10 personnel problems and five ways to fix them.”
  • Why I Don’t Want to Talk About ‘Women in Tech’ | Life as I Know It: “This week, I got an email from a local journalist asking if I wanted to participate in a focus group on writing about women in tech… here is the reply I sent.”
  • 24 Thoughts on Sexism, Feminism, YA, Reading, and The Publishing Industry | Stacked: A good summary for many situations. Women don’t get points for experimenting. They have to get it right the whole way through. Men are right when they try, even if they fail.

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Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

Daddy time

Mar. 25th, 2015 08:32 am
[personal profile] puzzlement posting in [community profile] incrementum
Originally posted to incrementum.puzzling.org. Comment there unless you have a Dreamwidth login.

Not enough awww in the world:

Daddy's hands Daddy! Family sized slide Arrived together

Walking with Daddy

8 Insult Cakes That Backfired

Mar. 24th, 2015 01:00 pm
[syndicated profile] cakewrecks_feed

Posted by Jen

They tried to be mean.

They failed.

 

This was supposed to say, "You're a traitor!"

 

"Drunken Loser"

 

"You Old Buzzard"

 

This one's almost accurate, if you think about it:

Like, "You get older, THEN dirt."

No?

 

Aw, thanks!

What's a riddens?

 

And who's Noboby?

 

Here's a hint: That's not supposed to say, "shix."

 

Ooooh, "burn."

I prefer using people when they're alive, though.
Less messy.

 

Thanks to Anony M., Warren E., Donna Z., Mandi O., Mark S., Jenny C., Anony M., & Robin K., who now know the BEST insult is to congratulate someone on their crapping dog.

*****

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