Back from Florida Poly Retreat!

I still plan to post more about both FPR and Frolicon (which was last weekend), when I have time to get around to it. Apparently, during the weekend, some spammer forged the domain name of the place where I work for a spam run,a nd the powers that be are freaking out about it, even though it had nothing to do with any sort of attack against or compromise of our servers. *sigh* No matter how many times you tell someone never to trust what it says in the From: field of an email, folks don’t get that the From: address is trivial to fake.

In any event, Florida Poly Retreat was a roaring success, and there was much strip “Are You a Werewolf?”. I had a great deal of fun giving a presentation on ways to screw up a polyamorous relationship, and I’ve even put a PDF of the workshop’s handout on my Web site (though it isn’t linked directly from my poly pages yet…it will be). This handout probably shouldn’t be read by anyone who is satire-impaired.

Dropping back into the real world always makes for a bit of culture shock, and I think I’m going to bed early tonight to catch up on missing sleep.

Anatomy of computer crime

Note: Followup to this entry at

So apparently, Macintosh users are now the targets of Eastern European organized crime.

First, a bit of backstory. Last December, I wrote an article about how I had done a Google search for my name and uncovered a massive hacking attack against a Web hosting company called iPowerWeb. iPower, a company in Phoenix, Arizona, has trouble securing their Web servers, and Russian organized crime can hack any Web site hosted by iPower completely at will.

That was last December. Today, as I write this, iPower still has not fixed their server security; each day, a whole crop of new Web sites hosted by iPower is hacked, and the hackers plant redirectors on the site that are designed to snare unwary visitors and send them to servers in Eastern Europe that attempt to infect users with computer viruses.

For the past couple of months, I have been emailing iPower every day with new lists of hacked Web sites they’re hosting. Each day, I bug them to fix their computer security. Each day, they remove the virus redirectors that I tell them about, but they do not fix their server security; so the next day, more of their Web sites are hacked. Some poor sots who host Web sites with iPower have had their sites hacked over and over again.

In the past 48 hours, the nature of the hacks has changed. Between December and now, the hacks were all the same; the hackers would penetrate an iPower Web site, create a directory on the site named /her, create a directory on the site named /bad, and then create a directory with a one or two digit number as a name. The redirector pages would go in the numered directory. This made spotting hacked iPower Web sites trivially easy.

About two days ago, the hackers began changing the naming scheme of the directory. This led me on a path to discovering an entire network of compomised Web sites, feeding into an elaborate underground network of computers used to distribute computer viruses.

And they’re distributing Mac viruses now, too.

If this stuff interests you, read on! (We're about to get technical here.)

Some thoughts on communication

Eliot Spitzer

This man has a problem. Actually, he has several problems — he’s just resigned from the office of the governor of New York, he’s facing an FBI probe, and his wife is well and truly pissed off at him. But really, those aren’t his problems; they’re merely the consequence of his real problem.

As you’re no doubt aware unless you live under a rock or in Kansas City, this man is in a lot of trouble. He’s in a lot of trouble for a very simple reason: he had sex with this woman.

Now, I already know what you’re thinking. “How can the person that someone has sex with possibly have any bearing on his ability to govern the state? What, did she break into his office and steal government funds? Was she engaged in industrial espionage for a shadowy group of French business executives? What difference can it possibly make?”

And I agree with you. I won’t pretend to understand our cultural obsession with the penises of elected government officials; it’s a little weird, and a little unhealthy, and a little stupid.

That’s not the problem, though.

The woman into which Governor Spitzer inserted his member is, or rather was, a very high-priced call girl, which is the euphemism we use for prostitutes who make more than a certain amount of money. The term “prostitute” carries to our sexually repressed, Puritanical ears certain…unsavory connotations, but fortunately, as with all things American, a sufficient application of money is often effective at removing the stain. Hence, a person who charges $100 for sex is a prostitute, whereas a person who charges $4,500 an hour for sex, as Ms. Dupre is alleged to have done, is a “call girl.”

Now, I don’t know about you, Gentle Reader, but when I hear of folks making $4,500 an hour for having sex, all I can think is that I’m in the wrong goddamn business. And hey, if Ms. Dupre can make that kind of money without even getting out of bed, more power to her, says I. I frankly have no interest in the adventures of a politician’s penis, nor in the amount of money those adventures cost. Some people spend their mad money on skiing, some folks buy $1,200 titanium golf clubs…hell, if I were to trade money for recreation, and those were my choices, you could bet I wouldn’t be buying the golf clubs. Stupid goddamn sport anyway…but I digress.

Now, it appears that Mr. Spitzer may have spent official State of New York funds on doing the horizontal mambo with Ms. Dupre, and engaged in some complicated financial handwaving to conceal that. Which is a problem; in fact, I believe there are even words for that sort of behavior. “Fraud,” for one. And “corruption,” that’s a good word. “Embezzlement,” too.

That’s still not the problem, though.

As news of this whole penis-related affair broke, the predicable wailing in the media began. How can this happen?” some people asked. (Well, it’s really quite simple. You take some money, you give it to a person-I’m told it’s customary to leave it on the dresser–and in return, that person engages in sexual intercourse with you.) “Who would think that a powerful political figure would do such a thing?” other people–presumably, people who are not students of history–asked.

Magazines ran articles about how Men Are Like That, and Our Biology Makes Men Cheat And Women Fidelitous…because there’s nothing we like more than pop junk science that affirms cultural norms. Religious leaders wailed about The Death of Public Morality (from the smell of the corpse, I think it’s probably been dead for about as long as we’ve walked upright on three legs…but again, I digress).

Some folks wondered Why A Powerful And Successful Man Would Need a Prostitute, which betrays a profound lack of insight into the nature of power. A man in Mr. Spitzer’s position doesn’t pay for sex because he can’t get his dick wet any other way; he pays for sex because his money is an extension of his power. By exchanging money for sex, the way he wants it, on his terms, when he wants it, with the implied understanding that the person to whom he is giving this money is going to go away when it’s over, he is exerting power over the world around him; he can call up sex, and dictate its terms, at any time he pleases.

Now, far be it from me to cast any negative words on the notion of mixing power and sex; far from it. I’m a big fan of the idea of sex as an expression of power, and indeed spent about two hours last night expressing sexual power with dayo, a process that involved two vibrators, sixteen feet of rubber tubing, and a great deal of screaming. (Okay, so I lied about the rubber tubing, and once again, I digress.)

I personally don’t project power by means of money, largely because…err, I haven’t got enough money to make a very compelling statement. “Drop your pants and I’ll give you a dollar” doesn’t really do it, you know? Also, though, because I really dont like that particular expression of power; the business of sex tends to commodify the folks involved, and my partners are not interchangeable. I’m not keen on the implicit “go away without a fuss after we’re done” part of the equation.

That’s not the problem either.

The problem is basic. In the transcripts that came out on the news after the state of Mr. Spitzer’s penis was uncovered, it was claimed that he had a fondness for asking those people with whom he exchanged sex for money to do unusual things, or even “dangerous” things. Now, I have no idea what that means, and the folks who do know aren’t telling. I’ve probably got a wildly miscalibrated scale for evaluating unusual and dangerous things in bed; when I think “unusual and dangerous,” things like fire, knives, and trying to tell one of my sweeties how to live her life spring to mind. For other folk, maybe it’s more a question of letting her be on top without a condom, I dunno.

But anyway, that’s getting close to the problem. Forget issues of projecting power through money; forget issues of the thrill of getting some on the sly. If it’s “unusual and dangerous” our boy Eliot wanted, one might reasonably surmise he wasn’t getting it at home.

Which probably means he wasn’t asking for it at home. In fact, it would surprise me not one whit to learn that if his wife ever discovered the whatever-it-is that Mr. Spitzer is into, she’d be startled, shocked, stunned, surprised, and other words beginning with the letter “s”. My hunch? Eliot’s been kinked for quite some time, and his wife of twenty years now (anyone want to take any bets on the two of them hitting twenty-one?) doesn’t know a goddamn thing about him.

So when faced with an urge for the unusual and dangerous, he hired a stand-in.

It’s hard to know where to start with this. Actually, no, I take that back. It’s easy to know where to start with this. Let’s start with how goddamn fucking ridiculous it is to spend two decades, or more than one-quarter of one’s normal life expectancy, with a person that you don’t even talk to about yourself. Seriously. What do these two talk about, the weather? Jesus fucking Christ on a pogo stick, this isn’t rocket science. You want to get down and get jiggy with the trapeze and the Day-Glow Silly String, say so! Partnerships are built on communication and trust, you know?

I have conversations–my God, do I have conversations–with folks all over the place about this. I get emails from my Web site, I see folks posting in net forums and on mailing lists: “I know communication is important, but…”

There’s no “but.” The correct way to punctuate the phrase “I know communication is important” is with a period at the end. That’s it. No fucking “but.” The “but” that inevidably follows always ends up boiling down to “but it feels awkward to expose myself to my partner and I’m scared of feeling awkward” or “but what if my partner says no” or “but what if rabid shapeshifting werewolf-aliens from the planet Zolog-9 come and carry us away for unspeakable experiments aboard the mothership” or some other real-seeming but ultimately kind of silly thing that’s a damn stupid reason to undermine and corrode the very foundation of a romantic relationship.

There’s also the little niggling subtext: “Of course I wouldn’t want to tell my partner about it, becausewhat if she thinks poorly of me? But it’s cool to tell a prostit–err, call girl, ’cause, y’know, it doesn’t matter what they think.” And that’s a little creepy, but kinda beside the point.

Now, there’s a universal rule of life that I always tell folks: You can’t reasonably expect to get what you want if you don’t ask for what you want. Clearly, I’m wrong; you can’t reasonably expect to get what you want if you don’t ask for what you want or you don’t have a pile of money you can use to buy what you want from someone whose opinion on the subject doesn’t matter to you, more like. But that’s beside the point, too. The truth is, that’s the real issue at work here. Mr. Spitzer went elsewhere–with the taxpayers’ money, Eliot, you naughty boy–quite likely because he couldn’t find the guts to ask for what he wanted from the one person who had pledged her love and commitment to him.

And that’s pretty damn stupid, if you ask me. Which, I realize, nobody has, but still.

At least we can trust American pop culture to get it right. In all the media circus surrounding this whole sad tale of a powerful political figure’s penis, only VH-1’s coverage has got it right:


It is now four o’clock in the morning. The carpet guy, who has an Australian accent and swears like the devil with a hot poker in his foot, just left. He ripped up all the carpet, vacuumed up the rather astonishing quantity of water beneath it, and departed. The place is well and truly trashed, though surprisingly the only things that were destroyed (other than the carpet) were a 25-pound box of kitty litter and a twelve-pack of toilet paper. I have gone from a plethora of toilet paper to a paucity of toilet paper in a snap of the fingers.

Twenty-five pounds of kitty litter is more kitty litter than you think. Especially when it’s burst out of a soggy cardboard box onto the kitchen floor, where it’s then absorbed approximately sixteen metric tons (or two-thirds of a metric fuckton) of water.

I passed “utterly exhausted” about two hours ago and I am now in the Land of Delirium beyond, where pixies cavort in unsavory ways with the shade of Henry Kissinger.

The cat is no longer amused.

So I just got home from Tallahassee

It’s one o’clock in the morning. I spent the weekend in Tallahassee visiting Shelly, and arrived home to find…

…the burner in my gas-powered water heater running full blast, the water heater emergency venting like crazy, and my entire apartment flooded ankle-deep in hot water.

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Goddamn shit fuck goddamn fucking fuck.

The cat thinks this is all terribly amusing.

Bizarre spam, now in Russian!

So I get an enormous amount of spam every day. About half the spam I get is in Russian, with another quarter (half the remaining) in English. The rest is more or less evenly divided among Spanish, Polish, French, Hebrew, and Arabic, in more or less that order.

Every now and then, something truly bizarre lands in my email. Case in point: this Russian language image spam, which as near as I can tell is an advert for a company that makes the gigantic rectal probes used by space aliens when they abduct human females and anally examine them. Cut for not-work-safeness

Hey, folks, let’s play!

icedrake posted a question in this conversation thread which I thought might deserve wider discussion. On the subject of intentional, functional body modifications, his challenge was to put together a list of desired augmentations. The augmentations should be something reasonably attainable within the next decade; assume that money is no concern. For bonus points, say why you want it.

My own list:

Subdermal BlueTooth controller/display combination

Availability: Now (sort of)

This is a subdermal black and white programmable tattoo, with built-in BlueTooth connectivity. It’s powered by your body’s own metabolism (using a nifty little fuel cell that runs on blood). It can be programmed by any BlueTooth device, so the display can be changed at will, and in theory at least can even show streaming 3G media. (I’d love to watch The Matrix on this thing!)

No new technology here; we can make it with off-the-shelf parts, though there’s no plan at the present for commercialization.

Why I want it: The idea of a direct, implanted interface with other devices is just too cool for words. On a geek cool scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being “not cool” and 10 being “übergeek,” this clocks in at about a 27.4. I am a big fan of tattoos and a big fan of wireless communication; combining the two is just…well, a geekgasm of cool. And it’s functional!

Implanted rare-earth magnets that offer the ability to feel electromagnetic fields

Availability: 1-3 years, or now (with potential problems)

A tiny (about the size of a grain of rice) rare-earth magnet is coated with silicone and surgically implanted in the fingertip beneath the skin. It reacts to electromagnetic fields, and its close proximity to the sensory nerves in the fingertips allows the wearer to feel such fields. You can run your finger over a power cord and tell if it’s plugged in or not, feel the hard drive in your computer spin up, trace the path of power cables through the wall, and even feel the electromagnetic field emitted by the grocery store anti-shoplifting sensors.

People have done this now, but the art of coating the magnets with silicone is still in its infancy. many people who have these magnets implanted end up rejecting them. Even a microscopic breach of the silicone jacket around the magnet causes the body to destroy the magnet, which often leads to infection. A lot of folks in the body-mod community are working on this problem. It’s a simple enough engineering challenge; with the right funding and research, it could be licked in a week. Body-mod enthusiasts don’t exactly have access to funding or to cutting-edge engineering or biomedical know-how, so I said 1-3 years on this one.

Why I want it: We live, every single day, immersed in an environment we are completely unaware of. We’re bathed constantly in electromagnetic fields of all kinds, and yet we’re totally blind to them. Adding a new sense opens up a new world; it’s like being born deaf and suddenly being given the ability to hear.

This ability is useful for a number of practical reasons; but forget those. It’s being given sight when you’re blind, touch when you’re numb. Anything that promises a whole new sense gets my vote!

Respirocytes: artificial mechanical red blood cells

Availability: 7-10 years (maybe)

The most speculative of the near-tech things on this list, respirocytes are nanoscale machines which could be injected into a person, and which perform the basic functions of red blood cells–transporting oxygen to the tissues and carbon dioxide away from the tissues of the body. They do this job, at least in theory, thousands of times more efficiently.

A person injected with a therapeutic dose of respirocytes would, if the technology works, be able to do things like hold his breath for half an hour, run at top speed without breathing for ten minutes, and even survive with his heart stopped for half an hour or more.

Actually making these things will require some pretty fancy work in nanoscale fabrication. The idea is pretty simple; it’s the execution that’s the tough part. The basic technologies are sound, but we’re not very good at making moving parts on the required scale yet.

Why I want it: It’s hard to know where to begin.

First of all, these offer a tremendous insurance policy against heart attack, injury, or environmental dangers that affect breathing. With medical technology as it is now, a person who drowns or suffers a heart attack and does not receive medical attention within minutes is likely to die or suffer irreversible brain damage; these expand the window of time tremendously. They also protect against things like dying in a fire (most people killed in building fires die of smoke inhalation, not burns), counteract the effects of weakened cardiopulmonary organs, and just generally make a person a whole lot more resilient.

On top of that, I suspect that we’d likely find that one of the limiting factors on brain functioning, the efficiency with which the brain can be supplied with oxygen, might be removed. I have a sneaking feeling that a person shot full of respirocytes would probably feel, and think, a lot better.

Okay, that’s enough for now. A lot of the things I want are likely more than ten years past the horizon, more’s the pity. How ’bout you folks? Your turn now!

Well, that was interesting…

So a week ago last Sunday, joreth came up to visit for a few days. Or, at least that was the plan.

Turns out that what was planned and what actually happened weren’t exactly similar. She left Wednesday, started driving back to Florida, and experienced what engineering folk like to call “sudden catastrophic failure” of her automobile. Specifically, the clutch, which if you’re not familiar with these things is the bit that connects the engine to the wheels. With no clutch, the engine spins and spins, but the car doesn’t exactly move. More like just sits there, in the opposite-of-moving kind of way.

So I drove down and brought her back, while her car sat in a repair shop in the middle of rural Georgia awaiting repair. Took them quite a while to make the car go again, which means her three-day visit turned into a nine-day visit.

Now, you might think that’d be good news, and that lots of Kinky Goings On would ensue. Except that, well, I managed to give her my cold, which made her useless to me not feeling up to being frisky for most of that time.

Right shame, it is.

Anyway, she and her car are now operating properly and are now back in Orlando. And in a wonderous stroke of good news, it turns out I’ll be at Frolicon this month after all…and better still, I’ll be there with dayo and figment_j! Life rocks.

The week after, I’ll be at Florida Poly Retreat and apparently I’ll be joreth‘s minion for the weekend. I’ll also be presenting a panel on how to muck up a poly relationship and make everyone in it unhappy, which will stress the importance of avoiding communication, behaving emotionally, and using boundaries as blunt instruments in the pursuit of lasting human misery.