big scary pond
Monday, October 23 2000
My housemate John has loaned me his copy of Guns, Germs & Steel, a geographic deterministic explanation of the ascendance of Eurasian culture, and I've been reading it voraciously. It's a fascinating book, concentrating on the nooks and crannies of human history ignored by conventional texts of this sort. I never really knew, for example, how thoroughly the Inca Emperor Atahuallpa was humiliated by Pizzaro's rag-tag band of steel & horse-equipped soldiers. I'd never even considered all the disadvantages faced by animal and human populations attacked by (but unaccustomed to) the weapons and brazen treachery of Eurasians (or, for that matter, earlier waves of human invaders). They couldn't be expected to effectively defend themselves from or even fear them. To get a sense of how it must have felt to be Atahuallpa (or, for that matter, a New Zealand Moa stumbling upon a Maori for the first time), imagine aliens from another galaxy invading Earth, seemingly pathetic and incompetent at first, then suddenly snapping their tentacles to produce a space-time vortex out of which an entire alien army marches.
Yes, the lesson taught early by this book is that we, even intelligent, hip, street-smart humans, are sitting ducks for intelligences bred in more competitive, overpopulated places.
In this day and age, there isn't any place left for Eurasian culture to go. We're left with the task of speeding up the spread of information and inventions among ourselves. Through the internet, the entire Earth is becoming a very big overpopulated pond. You have to be careful; anyone can stick you in the back at any time.
At my peril, perhaps, I hadn't really been paying attention to the
Dave Van phenomenon. People in the online journal scene have been grumbling and complaining about him for years but I figured he must be doing something worthwhile to cause such unrest and displeasure. So I'd only ever said good things about him. People warned me about Dave, saying things like "you just don't know." Well, folks, now I do. He's a sociopath of sorts, but, as it turns out, a rather incompetent one. Though he has an inquisitive nature and is relentless in his pursuits, he is too eager to exploit and brag about his achievements, to tip his hand and show himself to be the utterly unredeemable schmuck that he is.
After another day of Dave Van smugness and rubbery punch-tempting duplicity in my forum, the hallmark of which was his keeping silent on a security hole he'd exploited, I finally figured it out for myself. The discussion board system is a large, complex application and has never been adequately QA'd, so it's no big surprise that security holes could exist. It turns out that Dave didn't master my cookie encryption problem after all. Instead he'd exploited a security hole I'd accidentally left in my forum's profile editing form, which allowed someone to alter the variables in a URL to view a page containing any user's password, which could be viewed in plain text by examining the page's source. I'd grossly overestimated Dave; this wasn't nearly as sophisticated as the cookie decryption I'd first thought he'd pulled off. Still, it reflected an obessive determination that is clearly pathological. On the internet, it turns out, you have to plan for people like Dave Van.
Unfortunately, Dave's unhealthy determination actually bore him some fruits. For reasons unknown to me, people on the web never once questioned the security of my system and, upon registering, entered into it their most private passwords. I should take a moment to remind people: web masters have access to the passwords you enter into their systems. I myself have repeatedly shown myself to be somewhat unscrupulous, even hackerly, and yet here were people, intelligent and even suspicious people, entrusting my system with their most secret passwords. I could examine these at will with a simple database query. It bears noting that all web databases are this way, even big-budget operations like Hotmail.
Because of the security hole, Dave Van was able to get any password he wanted. I've received word that he did a number of immature, stalkerly things with these passwords, and I sincerely hope he is hounded to the ends of the Earth and universally reviled. But, people, you have to make some effort to protect yourselves. You need to use special low-security passwords for shitty non-profit mom & pop forums like Vodkatea.com. And you need to punch Dave Vanderbyl whenever and wherever he shows his unpleasant rubbery face. Someone please send me a JPEG of that guy, and be sure to cc Fandango Matt.
In the evening, I again rode my bike to Venice, this time to help Bathtubgirl with a "test" webcast using a streaming server over at Luver.com. For whatever reason, the webcast didn't work. There are so many things that have to work correctly in order to stream video out onto the web that I hardly know where to begin to debug. Somehow, though, I suspect Windows Millennium edition has something to do with it.
On the way home, Dirtygirl was doing the driving, and we had to stop in Century City at the home of an erstwhile boyfriend, a Doctor with a Porsche and a 21st floor luxury unit. The mission: to pick up a Windows 98 installer CD. The whole ride there, Dirtygirl had a cell phone to her head, talking non-stop in rapid-fire staccato Spanish. Her nine year old son David was with us and he just rolled his eyes and said, "she's always like this."
I think that Dirtygirl's old doctor boyfriend was entertaining hopes of a little three way action with Bathtubgirl and Dirtygirl in exchange for the CD and few glasses of wine, but he ought to know those girls don't come anywhere near that cheap. As Bathtubgirl pointed out later, it's never attractive for a guy to hit on more than one girl at the same time.
I got home and found the Windows 98 disk was an "upgrade CD." This did me absolutely no good.
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