Knives Episode 32 Published

This is a gentler episode than we’ve had lately; if this were a heavyweight boxing match this would be one of the rounds where both boxers’ ears are ringing from blows in the previous rounds. Martin is not one to stand toe-to-toe with an opponent, so perhaps this is for the best. He is also not a team player, and that may show a bit this time around. Elena and Katherine have an accord, but how deep does it run?

From a writerly viewpoint, in this episode I’m working more on the connective tissue of the story than on the meat or the bone. But the best stories have great ligaments — the connections between characters and events that turn a travelogue into a story. So I’d best pay careful attention to this stuff. I wasn’t feeling terribly creative this afternoon, but I had a great time going back over the draft and adding another layer of detail to the descriptions. You learn a lot about a character by what they observe.

Some stuff I thought I’d cover in this episode has been pushed back; I’m not trying to be coy about The Thing From The Well, but there are more immediate problems to solve first.

Behind the scenes, progress on the next two episodes was, it turns out, greatly exaggerated. But the good news is that I had an idea today that totally ties the room together, but I hadn’t included in my plan.

So please enjoy Episode 32: What Needs to be Done

All for $500

I’m not the most connected social media guy. I tell you this honestly: I’m more interested in talking than I am in listening. The only thing that separates me from the rest of the social media world is that I admit that fact.

When I started hearing about the United Airlines kerfuffle, I assumed it was a tempest in a teapot. I assumed that some asshole had been forcibly kicked from a flight and that, absent context, the Internet had got all riled up. So I ignored the whole thing.

But Internet, this one time I have to say that you were right. And I have to acknowledge that the ubiquity of video cameras is a powerful force for social justice. For all we know, this sort of scene was common, back in the day.

Note to Airlines: if you want to get people off the plane for minimum cost, the reverse auction model is perfect.

So United Airlines did the math, and after no one took the offer of $800 to take a later flight, they stopped bumping the price. Technically, they could have pushed the payout by more than $500 (oddly there is a limit to how much they can offer), but at that point they decided to play hardball. It was time to throw people off the plane, by force if necessary.

The cost of that decision will never be measured, but it’s more than $500. Then came the lame-ass corporate responses. “We’ll try to not be such giant assholes, but we’re going to keep doing the same things.”

Had United Airlines asked me (they did not), I would have advised them that there was only one way forward. A way forward pioneered by Jack-in-the-Box in the face of a set of food poisoning cases: That’s not who we are, that’s not how our process works. We’ll fix it. A few years later when a tainted meat scare hit the United States, JIB was affected less than any other fast-food outlet. They were honest enough about fixing their food safety problems before that the vague, ill-defined public perception of them turned them into a stalwart of public safety.

United Airlines fucked up that day, but sometimes decisions made in the moment backfire. Now they’ve had plenty of time to figure out how to deal with this, and they continue to fuck up. All for $500.

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Ah, Spring

On the patio, working on fiction while the sun slides toward the horizon, sipping inoffensive Canadian whiskey and watching the doves bang..

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Now With More Security

In the case of Muddled Ramblings and Half-Baked Ideas, the increased security protects only me, but these days some mobile browsers are refusing to connect to sites that aren’t protected by encrypted connections, even if those sites don’t handle sensitive data. We can’t have that, so bring on the encryption! Now you need never fear again; the comments you post will be carefully guarded from snoops and ne’er-do-wells — until they are shown on the screen for the world to see.

You should see a little lock icon by the Site name in your navigation bar now; for a while some plugins I use were violating the security policy, but I think I have them all whipped into shape.

For the curious, I set out to use certbot from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, but found that it didn’t play well with CloudFlare, which I use to speed up the site around the world and to block massive chunks of the Internet from trying to spam me (when CloudFlare blocks them, my server doesn’t have to lift a finger — it doesn’t even know the blockage happened.)

It turns out in the time since I last checked, CloudFlare has begun offering free SSL services even to their lowly non-paying customers. So I got that all set up today and started the process for Knives and the other sites I host.

Other folks who host Web sites: if you don’t use CloudFlare or a competitor, the EFF now makes it free to get encryption certificates and they have what looks like a solid tool to keep those certs up-to-date. ALL Web hosts should check out certbot

Debugging

I left them, the two, chasing a detail, he a he and she a she but maybe unaware of that before the elusive truth.

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Off to Geek Camp Tomorrow!

Tomorrow I set sail for Big Nerd Ranch West, to have my head crammed full of all kinds of luscious knowledge in an idyllic location. Seven days of pretty intense instruction that I might possibly be able to get directly from my employer, but not without distractions and a thousand tiny demands for my time.

I’m downright tingling with excitement. I have been to Big Nerd Ranch before, back in 2003, and the result was Jer’s Novel Writer. This time, I don’t think the result will be as visible to y’all out there, since the people paying for my week expect me to use my newfound mojo on their projects, and those are projects you will not see.

But I’m not complaining, not at all. I’m getting paid to learn stuff that is very interesting to me, and that’s never a bad thing. I’ll take my camera and a lens or three (it occurs to me I don’t have a good walking-around wide-angle lens with auto-focus) and there’s even a chance I’ll have time for some writing. But maybe not. That’s the future. A good future.

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Your Privacy, Sold (Again)

If you watched the last season of South Park, you know what can happen if your entire Internet history is made public. Riots, divorce, the collapse of civilization. But did you know that your Internet Service Provider can keep track of every Web site you visit? Forget privacy mode on your browser; that only affects what gets stored locally. It’s mostly good for letting you do credit card transactions on someone else’s computer, or at an Internet Cafe.

It does not keep a host of companies from recording every site you visit.

Up ’till now, those companies haven’t been allowed to share that information. But that’s about to change. The companies that keep that data have cashed in on the current legislation-for-sale atmosphere and have bought a rule change that will enable them to sell that data.

Our President will no doubt sign the bill, and if there’s any silver lining to all this, it’s that his own browsing history will shortly be available for purchase. If he, or other congressional leaders, had any idea what they were signing, they would have realized that they have more to lose than just about anyone else.

For instance, DNS records already made public don’t look good for the GOP. They were collected by a group who thought the Russians were trying to hack the RNC, only to find that the communication went both ways.

Anyone want to guess how much child porn is in The Donald’s browsing history?

Meanwhile, even though I don’t go to any sites that are remotely illegal, I’ll be taking measures I probably should have done long ago to protect my privacy, rather than rely on laws. To be honest, I’m not sure exactly what I’m going to do; I’m not keen on using the Tor Browser (though I’m open to volunteering some server resources to the project). I’ll be looking at VPN’s (Virtual Private Networks) to see if they offer anonymity.

I’d be happy to hear from anyone out there with knowledge in this area. In any case, I’ll report back what I learn.

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