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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in xopher_vh's LiveJournal:

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Tuesday, April 29th, 2008
10:32 pm
Review: Cory Doctorow's _Little Brother_
Suppose you're a high school student, and kind of a gaming geek. You get decent grades, but you're not exactly a model student, because sometimes you cut school to go pick up a clue in the game you play. One of those times, you're unlucky enough to be out of school when a major terrorist attack happens in the city where you live. You're picked up by the brutal thugs of the Department of Homeland Security and held, incommunicado and without access to a lawyer, for days. The DHS goons mistreat you physically and emotionally, interrogate you mercilessly, and then, sometime well after they know for sure you were not even remotely involved in the attack, they let you go, warning you that if you tell anyone what happened to you, you will simply disappear forever.

You'd be pissed. Anyone would. But if you're Marcus Yallow, the hero and narrator of Cory Doctorow's Little Brother (out today from Tor Teen), you decide to do something about it. But how can a lone high school senior go up against the mighty ogre that is (in his world as in ours) DHS? Well, therein lies a tale, and a gripping tale it is, too. Written in a brilliantly evocative narrative voice, Little Brother unfolds rapidly, keeping the reader's attention, while still conveying the sense that some things have to happen slowly, a little at a time.

Marcus knows from the very beginning that what he's planning to do will not be without cost. He loses some friendships and makes new ones; he's in constant danger of being tracked down (and has no doubt the DHS goons will make good on their threats if they catch him); and he still has to attend school on a daily basis—at a school even more surveilled and tightly controlled than it was when he rebelled against it. This book has high comedy and abject terror; it has budding romance and tragic loss; it has tender moments (both family moments and…not) and scenes of horrific violence.

That's the story, which by itself is worth the $17.95 cover price. But woven into that story is a wealth of information about security and defeating unreasonable surveillance. Marcus doesn't just tell you that he can defeat the gait recognition algorithms that spy on him at school; he tells you exactly how, and why it works when other techniques don't. (Do you know how public-key encryption really works? Neither did I, despite lesser writers' attempts to explain it to me, until I read this book. Now I'm confident I understand the concepts—and yet the explanation fits neatly into the story, and is written in Marcus' authentic voice; moreover it matters to the story that you understand it; it's not just there as some kind of Teaching Moment.)

This is not an apolitical book. It's in part a polemic about privacy and security. The two Afterwords make that polemic more explicit; the writers want you, the reader, to get involved in computers and computer security, and understand how to break security systems—because that's the only way to learn to create unbreakable ones. It's also a finger in the eye of the creeping police-statism that is taking this country (the US) by stealth.

If you're a teenager, get this book. If you're an adult, buy a copy for yourself and another for a teenager you know. If you don't have the money to buy the hardcover, you'll soon be able to download a free copy and read it that way (Doctorow does this with all his books, incidentally). Just hurry up and get it before the DHS makes it disappear.

Buy hardcover
Buy audiobook (DRM-free and remixable)
Free text download
Sunday, March 30th, 2008
7:19 pm
Imaginary Conversation
Comœdis Personae:
The Puppy, my boyfriend
The Harpy, his mother

The Harpy.  I hope you aren’t still seeing that man.
The Puppy.  Christopher?  No, I’m not.  We broke up.
TH. Oh, good!
TP. I have someone much better now.
TH. Better?
TP. Yes.  His names José.  He’s from Colombia.
M. Uhhh...
TP. (laughing) He’s such a bear! He’s over six feet tall, and weighs 325 pounds.  And he’s even got hair on the inside of his forearms!  It’s so cute.
TH. (weakly) ...hair...forearms...?
TP. And he’s got his own business!
M. Oh, that’s good.  What kind of business?
TP. He’s a sugar salesman.
M.  A sugar salesman?
TP.  Yep.  But it’s not ordinary sugar.  It’s superexpensive upscale powdered sugar imported all the way from Colombia!
TH. (silence)
TP.  I help out with his business sometimes.
TH. Help out?  How?
TP. I make deliveries.  It’s amazing; some of these super-rich people want powdered sugar delivered right in the middle of a party!  But I can’t stay at the parties, or he’ll thrash me.
TH. Thrash you?
TP. Oh, come on, Mom, wake up to the real world.  He has to hit me if I do something wrong, or else I’ll never learn.  But I can get away with it sometimes, if I come to him with his tequila in my hand.  By the time he finishes the bottle he usually falls asleep in his chair, and by morning he forgets he owed me a thrashing.
(long pause)
TH. Um. (pause) I don’t know if I like you...making deliveries.
TP. Well, I kinda have to.  See, I look harmless, but if anyone saw him even walking into these neighborhoods, they’d call the cops.  And that would be OK, except that these days the cops might check with INS.
TP. Yeah, you see he kinda overstayed his Family Visit visa.  I don’t want him to get sent back to Colombia.
M. He has family here?
TP. Well, just his grandchildren.
TH. (head explodes)
TP. (looks at the gory mess for a moment, then dials phone) (pause) Christopher?  It worked!  See you in a couple of hours, love!


Current Mood: annoyed
Saturday, January 27th, 2007
11:56 am
As long as it's SPIRITUALLY open...

No wonder they don't want people calling there...but I don't understand how they got the firemen out. I'm so glad I live in a temporally open location...at least I think I do. I could be in a timeloop too.

Current Mood: amused
Tuesday, November 14th, 2006
1:06 pm
My Accent
What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Inland North

You may think you speak "Standard English straight out of the dictionary" but when you step away from the Great Lakes you get asked annoying questions like "Are you from Wisconsin?" or "Are you from Chicago?" Chances are you call carbonated drinks "pop."

The Midland
The Northeast
The South
The West
North Central
What American accent do you have?
Take More Quizzes
Monday, October 2nd, 2006
10:19 pm
From Jim MacDonald (a US Navy veteran) at Making Light:

You are not required to obey an unlawful order.

You are required to disobey an unlawful order.

You swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

The Constitution states (Article VI):
This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.
Here is article 3, the common article, to the Geneva Conventions, a duly ratified treaty made under the authority of the United States:
Article 3
In the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions:

1. Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria.

To this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:

(a) Violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;

(b) Taking of hostages;

(c) Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment;

(d) The passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.

2. The wounded and sick shall be collected and cared for.

An impartial humanitarian body, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, may offer its services to the Parties to the conflict.

The Parties to the conflict should further endeavour to bring into force, by means of special agreements, all or part of the other provisions of the present Convention.

The application of the preceding provisions shall not affect the legal status of the Parties to the conflict.
Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions is straightforward and clear. Under Article VI of the Constitution, it forms part of the supreme law of the land.

You personally will be held responsible for all of your actions, in all countries, at all times and places, for the rest of your life. “I was only following orders” is not a defense.

What all this is leading to:

If you are ordered to violate Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, it is your duty to disobey that order. No “clarification,” whether passed by Congress or signed by the president, relieves you of that duty.

If you are ordered to violate Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, this is what to do:

1. Request that your superior put the order in writing.

2. If your superior puts the order in writing, inform your superior that you intend to disobey that order.

3. Request trial by courtmartial.

You will almost certainly face disciplinary action, harassment of various kinds, loss of pay, loss of liberty, discomfort and indignity. America relies on you and your courage to face those challenges.

We, the people, need you to support and defend the Constitution. I am certain that your honor and patriotism are equal to the task.

This post may be quoted in full. A linkback* would be appreciated.

Current Mood: angry
Wednesday, May 24th, 2006
4:25 pm
Barbara Bauer
Barbara Bauer is a scam literary agent, as you can see from the listing there. Barbara Bauer tried to get a friend of mine fired because she posted a link to SFWA's Twenty Worst Agents list, which is where all these links to Barbara Bauer go.

Needless to say, Barbara Bauer is on the list. She's a particularly belligerent creature, as you might be able to tell from the above. Recently she called up some clueless moron at Absolute Write's ISP and got them shut down for the nonce. They're swiftly getting a new ISP, and lots of people are furious over it, including me. Some of them are urging Absolute Write to sue their former ISP over their rolling over for Barbara Bauer in apparent violation of AW's contract with said ISP; whether this will work I don't know, since IANAL.

In any case, Barbara Bauer is definitely a Bad Person. Avoid the Barbara Bauers of the world, and you'll be happier.
Monday, May 15th, 2006
10:41 pm
I called my mother yesterday
For Mother's Day, I mean. That may not seem unusual, but actually it's the first time in years and years that I've done it. We were estranged for a long time, for reasons that amount to dysfunctional family TMI.

Dysfunctional Family TMICollapse )

We did pretty well at their anniversary in October 2004. I even enjoyed hanging out with them. (Yes, you heard me right. I enjoyed. Hanging out. With my parents.) Still, I didn't call her on Mother's Day 2005. Out of the habit I guess.

But yesterday I did call her. She was delighted (and, I think, amazed) to hear from me. I just had a pleasant conversation with her as if nothing had ever been wrong.

I felt good. Letting go of an old grudge is always better than hanging onto it.
Tuesday, January 17th, 2006
12:41 pm
Fun Facts! (meme)

Ten Top Trivia Tips about Christopher!

  1. Japan provides over thirty percent of the world's Christopher supply!
  2. Pound for pound, hamburgers cost more than Christopher.
  3. The colour of Christopher is no indication of his spiciness, but size usually is!
  4. If you toss Christopher 10000 times, he will not land heads 5000 times, but more like 4950, because his head weighs more and thus ends up on the bottom!
  5. Scientists believe that Christopher began billions of years ago as an enormous ball of dust and gas.
  6. The international dialling code for Christopher is 672.
  7. A lump of Christopher the size of a matchbox can be flattened into a sheet the size of a tennis court.
  8. The military salute is a motion that evolved from medieval times, when knights in armour raised their visors to reveal Christopher!
  9. Christopher will become gaseous if his temperature rises above -42°C!
  10. Christopher is the male seed of a flower blossom which has been gathered and treated by bees.
I am interested in - do tell me about
Friday, December 30th, 2005
1:24 pm
You scored as Linguistics. You should be a Linguistics major!






























What is your Perfect Major?
created with QuizFarm.com

Interestingly, I WAS a Linguistics major, with minors in Psych and Sociology (and Computer Science, but that doesn't appear to be on this quiz). So maybe I picked the right major after all. But it did go to a tie-breaker with English. An English major would have been more practical, and could have led to a teaching career. I rated the quiz High, but they could have been a little broader. Not that it would have changed my outlook much.
Tuesday, December 27th, 2005
10:02 pm
Monday, December 12th, 2005
5:26 pm
I figured something out.

As I was grocery shopping, it occurred to me that I needed a new water bottle. So I went down the "Seasonal" aisle, which I normally skip, that being where I'd gotten my other ones, the two I still have and the one I needed to replace.

(Lest you think I learned that 'seasonal' means 'of the current season' by not finding one, I will say HA! I did find one. No, two, and I bought them both. Remnants merely of the scads, oodles, and slews that were there in August, but I needed one or two (three would have been nice), not a scad or oodle or slew.)

As I was walking past the Christmas lights, I did a double-take, and realized why excess in Christmas lighting is so very common. Do you know what a string of 100 nice, safe mini-bulb Christmas lights costs these days? Or rather, the price in that particular "Seasonal" aisle at that particular grocery store?


Yes, you saw right. Here it is again: $1.99.

Now I have no use for Christmas lights. I don't celebrate Christmas, not being Christian. I have no house (my condo association would have to approve any external decorations, so bump that). My apartment is too small for a lot of lights, and I don't ever have a tree or anything.

No use at all.

I bought four boxes.

That's right. I spent right around eight bucks - which is NOTHING - and bought a box of green, a box of yellow, a box of red, and a box of blue. I'd've had some excuse if they'd had purple and orange, because then I could make a giant illuminated rainbow flag. And to be sure, I COULD decorate the entire North wall of my living room with 100 green lights, the South in red, and the West in Blue (the East wall, like my common sense, has a bit of an existence problem...and decorating a nonexistent wall with yellow lights strikes me as just too artsy for words). These colors, in case you don't know, are associated with the elements which are associated with the listed directions. (I mean Earth, Air, Fire, and Water, not antimony-arsenic-aluminum-selenium etc. Teach the controversy!)

They'll probably work their way down my hoard-pile until either a) I grow sense and throw out a whole lot of stuff, including them, or b) someone says to me "Damn! If only we had some green (or red etc.) Christmas lights right now, that would be PERFECT!" and I come sailing to the rescue because bah-hah-hah, I thought ahead.

Yeah right.

Current Mood: embarrassed
Monday, September 5th, 2005
4:37 pm
Chertoff, Bush, and Brown (a song)

Something that started running through my head at the gym:

Chertoff, Bush, and Brown
Drowned New Orleans town.
You may think it was Katrina,
But these three were much, much meaner:
Chertoff, Bush, and Brown.

Marie Antoinette said "Let them eat cake;"
Michael Brown said "For heaven's sake,
They all were told to evacuate!
If I heard that I wouldn't wait,
I'd get in the back of my long black car
And tell my driver to take me far

And when somebody hollered "Shame!"
He said "It isn't the time to blame
Chertoff, Bush, and Brown."


I need to write a couple more verses.  I have a nice little sweet-nightmares lullaby tune for it, too.

Monday, August 15th, 2005
11:30 pm
Unbiased Facts
I'd just like to present the following Plain Facts:
1. Toilet paper must hang OVER the roll.

2. Toilet paper that hangs under the roll gets stuck to the wall in a soggy mess if you take a shower in the bathroom.

3. Toilet paper must hang over the roll.

4. Households where a kitten roams loose may temporarily hang their paper the WRONG WAY to avoid having the kitten unfurl it all over the bathroom floor.

5. Toilet paper must hang over the roll.

6. Putting the TP on the counter is a wicked heresy that must be stamped out without pity by all righteous people. Also, it inevitably falls into the toilet eventually, and this is a sad, sad thing.

7. Toilet paper must hang over the roll.

8. Should you be in someone else's home, and discover that their toilet paper is hung (or should that be 'hanged'?) incorrectly, the most polite thing to do is to correct this oversight without comment. Mentioning it is extremely rude; reporting them to the Toilet Paper Inquisition is downright wicked.

9. Toilet paper must hang over the roll.
I trust that the simple recitation of these unbiased empirical facts has persuaded everyone of the simple truth: Toilet paper must always be hung OVER the roll. If not, I'll be distributing torches and pitchforks to the angry villagers in your community later this evening.
Monday, August 1st, 2005
4:07 pm
Books I haven't written
Someday I'm going to write books.  Many books.  I've got all these stories bouncing around in my head, along with other ideas that aren't attached to any story yet.  Someday I'll write them  (yeah, someday).  Meanwhile I thought I'd give an excerpt or two.  Btw: usually I don't care much, but this is Copyright © 2005 by Christopher Hatton.

So after that, Anthony decided to go to the park for a while.  He sat there on a bench, staring at the river as it lapped against the pier, trying to make everything except the waves he was watching go away.  It wasn't working; in fact he noticed someone coming toward him.

It was an older man, bald as an egg, walking up to him with a purposeful stride.  Too well dressed to be begging...and for certain other purposes, Anthony knew, they didn't walk right up to you this way, but pretended they just happened to be standing next to you...the older man stopped about five feet away, which was a relief.

"Excuse me," he said, in a surprisingly pleasing voice.  "There's something I'm supposed to tell you."  He seemed embarrassed, but resigned to having this conversation.  "It doesn't matter if you believe what I say, and I don't care if you think I'm crazy.  I'm just supposed to tell you something, and afterwards I'll go away, and most likely you'll never see me again."

Well, that's weird, thought Anthony.  The man's head was bald by art, not nature, he could see now that he'd come closer.  And one ear was pierced, which made Anthony suspect that he didn't always dress in the "business casual" he was currently wearing.  But before he could ask "Who the hell are you?" or "What do you mean you're supposed to--" the older man was going on.

"There's a question in your mind," he said.  "It may be something you're already struggling to answer, or it may not surface for some time yet.  When it does, you will be absolutely certain that it is the question I'm speaking of now.  There will be no doubt in your mind.

"The answer to the question is yes.  Not maybe; not partially; not under some conditions.  Just yes."

"What the hell are you talking about?!?!?" Anthony finally burst out.  The man took a step back, as if in fear Anthony might attack him.  Anthony held up his hands, palms out.  "No, sorry, but what the hell--"

"I've really told you all I know," the man said, apologetically.  "And now I'm gone."  And with a curious little inclination of the head, halfway between a nod and a bow, he turned and walked away.

What amazed Anthony when he thought about it later was that he just let the man leave, and didn't try to follow or stop him.  But Anthony's mind was full of twisting questions and cascading speculation.  And yet his irony sensor was going off something fierce; after a few moments he noticed that since the bald man had walked up to him, he hadn't given a thought to Carlotta and her craziness, or all the rest of the annoyances of what had unfortunately become his normal day.

Sometimes even total confusion is better than grinding tedium, he thought.  He chuckled, threw a stone at a seagull, and went home.
Tuesday, April 26th, 2005
11:21 am
No, you're not a liberal

A coworker of mine claimed to be a liberal yesterday.

"No, you aren't," I told him. Usually I don't deny people's stated political identity that forcefully, but this guy voted for Bush in 2004.

Now there are conservatives who voted for Bush. There are Democrats who voted for Bush. There are Independents who voted for Bush, and libertarians and Libertarians who (mistakenly) voted for Bush. One might even make a case for moderates voting for Bush.

But no liberals. I suppose you might be "liberal on social issues" and consider those massively outweighed by being right-wing on everything else, but if you voted for GW Bush in 2004, you are ipso facto not "a liberal." Period. Paragraph.

End of story.
Sunday, April 24th, 2005
2:58 pm
Tuesday, April 19th, 2005
11:49 am
Odstreth Irrem
</p>This is April 19, 2005. So far nothing terrible has happened today. But it's not even noon where I am.

On April 19, 1995, a bomb set by Timothy McVeigh destroyed the Alfred Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. 168 people were killed, including 19 children who were in the nursery housed in the building. More than 500 others were injured. McVeigh was captured, tried, and executed. Two accomplices were imprisoned. This was the worst act of domestic terrorism in US history. I remember that at the time rumors flashed around that "mideastern terrorists" were responsible; later, we found it was Midwestern terrorists instead. I note that blond guys from Michigan (like Tim McVeigh and, uh, me) were not especially targeted by security forces after this, oddly enough.

On April 19, 1993, a 51-day seige of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas ended when the building caught fire. 77 members of the group, including their leader, David Koresh, died in the fire, which many have alleged was set by the FBI or ignited by the teargas they sent inside. (Note that non-incendiary tear gas kills children pretty easily; there was no form of teargas that could have been used at that compound without expecting at least some deaths.) A government-appointed investigator cleared the FBI of any wrongdoing in starting the fire, which I'm sure amazes you. The Oklahoma City bombing was conceived as a retaliation for this incident.

On April 19, 1972, speaking of exonerations, a government report excused the British Army for the deaths of 14 civilians in Northern Ireland's "Bloody Sunday" massacre. According to the BBC
The report by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Widgery, stated that if the illegal march - protesting against internment without trial - had not taken place there would not have been any deaths.
Internment without trial. In FREE countries it's taken for granted that internment without trial won't happen. (Are there any free countries? I daresay there are people in Guantanamo Bay who would say there are not.) Gee, if people would just not peaceably assemble for redress of grievances all sorts of trouble could be avoided. Widgery (I refuse to make jokes about his name) also concluded that the army had been fired upon. Yeah, right. This report, even more than the incident itself, has been cited as one of the things that increased the militancy of the IRA, leading to decades of terror and injustice.

On April 19, 1956, Prince Ranier of Monaco married American actress Grace Kelly. This is not a tragedy or a disaster, though tragedy and disaster have dogged that family. I offer it to show that this date is not necessarily cursed, though I suppose it could have been cursed as early as 1957 without this proving anything.

The Columbine massacre didn't happen until the 20th.

UPDATE: I have just heard that a bunch of old men in Rome have just appointed Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (aka Cardinal Rat) the new Pope. Pope Rat. Damnation. He's about as bad a man as they have; he was the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, formerly known as the Holy Office of the Roman Inquisition. He's the one who threw Matthew Fox out of the Church, even after an investigation by his own order cleared him of any theological unorthodoxy. Since Cardinal Rat has been Pope in all but name for years, it doesn't change anything...and that's the biggest problem with the Church: it needs to CHANGE! Those hoping for a Pope from Africa or Latin America, even a very conservative one, have had those hopes dashed, as the Europeans assert that Roman Catholicism belongs to Europeans, at least at the highest levels.

So, for my money you can add 2005 to the list of years bad things happened on this date.
Monday, April 11th, 2005
2:58 pm
Happy Information Day!
It's 4/11. That's Information Day, obviously.
Saturday, April 9th, 2005
10:16 pm
Unitarian Jihad

My Unitarian Jihad Name is: Brother Garrote of Reasoned Discussion.

Get yours.

Tuesday, March 15th, 2005
1:54 pm
Easy Problem in Text Semantics
Semantics is the study of meaning, or the meaning itself. (Trust me, it is.) So when we talk about the semantics of the sentence "Snow is white," for example, we're talking about the meaning of the sentence, which is to identify a particular substance as having a particular color (or lack of color).

Text semantics is, as the name implies, the study of the meaning of whole texts, particularly when that meaning is not to be found in any of the sentences of the text, or even ALL the sentences of the text. In fact, sentences of the text may directly contradict its overall meaning.

For example, the sentence "Brutus says he was ambitious, and Brutus is an honorable man" reports Brutus ascribing ambition to someone, and identifying Brutus as an honorable man, with the sentence-level semantics of "he must have been ambitious, since Brutus says so." But in the whole text (Mark Antony's funeral oration from Julius Caesar) this sentence is repeated over and over, and each time juxtaposed with evidence that "he" (Julius) was not ambitious at all. The text-level semantics of the speech is that Brutus is anything but honorable!

So here's the easy problem I promised you. The following text consists of two brief paragraphs. The first is a definition of an archaic slang term. The second, which never mentions that term, is a simple description of an event.
beard, n. A woman who knowingly or unknowingly dates or otherwise accompanies a closeted gay man in order to assist him in appearing to be straight. This term has fallen into disuse as the practice itself has declined, partly due to changes in the social stigma of being gay, and partly because the ethics of using an unknowing woman in this way are unsavory at best.

A certain ex-friend of mine showed up at the gym I use last weekend. He was there to introduce his new girlfriend to another ex-friend of his (who is a current friend of mine). Fortunately my friend had left, as had I, so we avoided what would almost certainly have been an unpleasant encounter.
What does this text mean, beyond what its sentences and paragraphs say individually?

Extra Credit: What are the text semantics of this entire post? Is it really what it at first appears, a brief introduction to text semantics with an example and an exercise? Why or why not?

You have five minutes. :-)
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