Mortality

Got an email from a friend and colleague today letting everyone know that he has a serious case of metasticized cancer, and that was not how I wanted to wake up today. I hate being reminded that everyone is mortal but more I hate that idea that he is mortal, that he might really die... =(

This guy is hardly thirty. And I find myself partly relieved that he is French, because if he were in America, with his lifestyle this would mean a death sentence.

Then... the realization that "his lifestyle" is roughly the same as mine. Fuck. Overly passionate but not making enough money for this work to be worth his time or effort. Fuck. Underpaid, taking on too many projects, putting up with bullshit, under continual threat of burnout. Fuck.

Mortality is awful.

I should really learn C at some point

On the way to the coffee shop, it occurred to me that the way I approach coding is not unlike how artists approach art. My coding is not a precision instrument, though I frequently wish it {were|could be}. I'll feel inspired and throw hours or days or weeks at a problem. Frequently the thing I start out planning to build doesn't work out, so I change tactics and build something else.

I take the torn painted canvas and stitch it together again to make something altogether new.

"It's rustic," I'll say. "Artisanal."
"It... doesn't pass linting."
"It does now!"
"...are those polygons?"
"Artisanal!"
"Why is it a Google Chrome app??"
"Because I don't know C."

The latte is critical to this story

Recently, I met with a two men about a possible career shift. One has a Swedish name, originally from Australia. He's living in Tunisia, but about to move to Costa Rica, where there's just as much sun but fewer explosions. The meeting's in Manhattan -- I took the train from DC, he took the redeye from Istanbul. Amsterdam is nice this time of year, don't you think? We discuss politics of the field in which we work -- there's only about a hundred of us -- and it occurs to me that we've all left our original homes in favor of greener skies and bluer pastures elsewhere. We're digital vagabonds, like some Silicon Valley VC's idea of what refugees are.

It's an interesting life... Surveillance and stress aside, we have it far better than 99% of the world, and all feel compelled to use our skills to help other people. It occurs to me that this is the most low-stress business meeting I'll ever have. No matter what happens next, we'll still probably collaborate again and continue seeing each other at events until we die or quit.

I've become lost in thought. The second man, originally from San Francisco, brings me back to the conversation:

"So when can you make a decision?"
"I'm really not sure. I have my sister now, and I'm... not sure. It would be kind of weird to move her to Berlin."
"We can offer you both a visa. So long as the country is within the EU, we can assist with the visa process. We'd really love to have someone in Berlin right now, but we could be flexible on location."

I told him I'd think about it and went on my merry way, past the office of a prominent Chinese propagandist, and down a sunny street leading into the abyss. On the way to visit a Cuban friend, I stopped into an Indian restaurant for some sambusas. They had Thai iced tea on the menu, but I wasn't really feeling it.

The sun shone brightly through the window... I ordered a latte and pondered the future.

Quinnspirators

I have had a hard time trying to refine my feelings about the whole "gamergate" butthurt extravaganza into something that actually makes sense to people who aren't already familiar with it. But this line from Zoe Quinn herself sums it up far better than I could:

"They talk like they're exposing the Watergate scandal -- but instead of the president, it's just a woman they've never heard of supposedly doin' it with some other people they've also never heard of." ~Zoe Quinn

Then the death threats started, based around the idea that One Woman was able to control the entire gaming industry via her vajay. The more unseamly parts of the internet love a good (albeit far-fetched) scandal, and this campaign rapidly spiraled even farther out of control than it already was. Imagine having a few dozen people who hate you and will do anything to "uncover" the "conspiracy" which doesn't exist. Her family and friend's accounts got hacked, bank statements and social security numbers got released into the wild. All based around the idea that someone may have had sex at some point and that this offense simply could not stand.

"If somebody doesn't take down these female indie developers who make games about depression and give them away for free, who knows what will happen? There could be other women out there making games and having sex, right now, dammit!" ~Zoe Quinn

4chan took the unprecendented step of barring the topic from being discussed at all, and even bringing it up can garner you permanent banishment. From 4chan. Let that sink in for a moment. This crusade is so ridiculous that even /b/ doesn't want to touch it with a ten-foot dildobat.

Eventually, as always, the tide turned and idiots were cast aside in favor of even-handed critique. Namely about the fact that jesus christ, who cares who is fucking each other? Everyone deserves to be and feel safe. I hope that if nothing else, this (insane) event has given her work more exposure and gained her more fans than she might otherwise have. I've never played one of her games, but I'm very likely to play her next one due to how well she's maintained her composure throughout this entire ordeal.

You can play Zoe's game Depression Quest here: http://www.depressionquest.com/

Community Relations

1997-ish

"Why aren't you ever on IRC?"

1999-ish

"...is... is that a girl on our party line?"

2001-ish

"That's a pretentious handle."

2003-ish

"Pfft. Phone Phreaking is dead."

2005-ish

"Come on man, don't let drama get to you."

2007-ish

"You're not really gone. No one ever really leaves. It's like Hotel California."

2009-ish

"If they're trans and in the military, they pretty much deserve what they're getting. What did they expect?"

2010-ish

"You think you're helping these people, but you're not."

2011-ish

"Prove that you're not up to anything bad. No, that isn't enough."

2012-ish

"I really like your work, but there's no budget right now."

2013-ish

"Why don't you come to events more often? People would trust you more if you came to events. That's not classist!"

2014-ish

"Why aren't you ever on IRC?"

Some things never change...

ICANN Advisory on ClipboardSec

Note: emails to ICANN's security-ops team on this issue bounced. Yes, really.

Keen observers of last night's Horizon: Inside the Dark Web special may have noticed a split-second shot of this clipboard:

This clipboard contains instructions on accessing the high-security restricted areas of ICANN's Virginia doom fortress office, as well as information on the devices used to update critical backbone infrastructure.

As televisions improve clarity and resolution, the threat posed by invited camera crews will only increase over time.

Threat Mitigation

However, advances in technology that help mitigate the threats posed by ClipboardSec vulnerabilities:

As you can see, this clipboard is equipped with an opaque metal cover which protects the contents from cameras, curious interns, and the intense bleaching effects of the sun. Such a cover acts as an effective mitigation of presently-identified threats, although the metal composition increases overall clipboard weight and may adversely affect user experience. Initial user feedback also reports that this solution is ineffective against both rain and coffee. (More research is needed).

Ongoing Research

Sadly, ClipboardSec vulnerabilities do not just affect the backbone of the internet, but the backbone of governments as well. Earlier this year, a critical document on the UK's stance on the Russian invasion of Ukraine was revealed after a journalist with a camera took a picture from some ten meters away. Such events have identified a need for more research into opaque document covers and related technology.

Or, you know, just put it in a fucking folder.

As sysadmin Mike Graziano quipped, "If I ever see the contents of your clipboard on television again I will shove it up your ass. As the modifier is left dangling this could be the contents, the clipboard or the television, depending on my mood."

Nomenclature

Note: This blog post started off many months ago, but for various reasons was scrapped. After revisiting it, I've decided to edit it to hide the subject's operating pseudonym.

Samantha Dee is an interesting lady, who like many people in the netfreedom community has a more layered identity. She started off with a pseudonym, and when asked for her real name, gave Samantha Dee (which is another pseudonym). This is kind of cool for a few reasons.

She's a journalist who goes to lots of, er, "interesting" places to meet with interesting people and write interesting stuff. This has the expected side effect of making her life very interesting. ;P But while lots of people get followed and surveilled and kicked out of countries, she's less likely to run into trouble because people are looking for Samantha Dee. And she blends in with the legion of reporters who go to Qatar for A Story.

Anyway, we met in Berlin, and had a lot of fun discussions. People tend to assume that my name is a pseudonym, and she's no different. So we got to talking:

'People always say 'is that your real name'? Well what is a real name? You know, when I was born, I was given a name. And then I was baptized with a slightly different name. And the name on my birth certificate was different than that. And that isn't what my driver's license says. And the name on my passport isn't any of those names. And what everyone calls me is different still. And NONE of those names are Samantha Dee.'

I got the feeling that she took her partner's name in marriage also, so perhaps that's another layer to the onion. She's fun =) And her airgap device is this really old tiny... laptop... thing that no one would bother to build malware for anymore.

I've had lots of names and identity (both real and perceived) is highly contextual. What my father's family called me as a child was not what my mother's family called me. My name at birth was not my name as a child which was not my name as a young adult which is not my name now. People frequently assume that my name is a pseudonym, which is fairly amusing. It's the name that's on my birth certificate and my passport. But more importantly, it's what people call me.

For years and years, everyone called me Saint, which is a name I actually quite like. It's been my handle since the nineties, but due to rampant nymspace collision, basically never gets used anymore.[1] It was in my highschool yearbook. Some years ago, I was living in Tulsa and fell in with a new group of people. I introduced myself as Saint a few times. "But what's your real name?" "Oh, it's Griffin, but no one calls me that." And so it came to be that everyone calls me Griffin.

However, I am so attached to Saint that it became part of my legal name in 2004. <3 So that's another layer, I suppose.

So yeah, the concept of the "real name" is malarkey.

[1] I recently managed to re-obtain Saint as my handle on OFTC. So there's that.