Earlier this month Lyssa and I took the daughter of a good friend of ours to her first concert at the 9:30 Club in downtown DC. We decided that we wanted her first concert to be a memorable one, so we took her to see VNV Nation when their latest tour took them through our nation's capital. So, one evening, we hit up a local restaurant for dinner and then headed downtown, a remarkably short jaunt these days since the move.
Shortly after arriving I ran into Mike and Tara, two old friends of mine from a previous trip through the Beltway circuit. We caught up on old times and everything that's been happening in the past two or three years, raided the merchandise table, and then staked out space on the dancefloor to watch the show.
The opening act was called Straftanz, and they are a pair of crazy German cyberpunks who seem to have about as much fun on stage performing as the rest of us did watching them. At first a few of us thought that they were going to be yet another "boot up the laptop and press play" act, but they made up for having 'just' a laptop by bouncing around the stage as if they'd mainlined shots of espresso prior to hitting the power button. You'd have thought that they were at their favorite club night on the dancefloor from the way they.. well... had a good time. Granted, I'm not really one for audience callbacks when they're in a language I don't know but it was fun to watch them interact with the crowd just the same. There was even a drum machine solo by DJ P0n-3 about halfway through their set, which reduced a few of us to giggling heaps on the floor. I was kind of upset when their set was over because it was so obvious that they were having so much fun up there I was enjoying watching them to see what they'd do next. I also recommend that you read the blog on their website, it's just as fun as they are.
Then came a set break, followed by a countdown on the big LED boards at the back of the stage before VNV Nation took over. VNV always puts on a high-energy show, and this time was no different. I'm probably putting myself in the line of fire by saying that you have to respect an industrial act that has a drummer playing drum pads hooked to a sampler in their stage show rather than a preprogrammed drum machine. However, their sound mix that night was a little off (way too much bass, not enough of everything else) so everything sounded... flat? Empty? Missing something important, at any rate. I spent the show feeling like there was something really important that I wasn't getting that everyone else obviously was. I'm not sure what it could be - intellectually I know what should have been there, but on other levels I felt a little like I messed up the secret handshake or didn't lift the goat's tail or something. We were extremely amused when Straftanz good-naturedly bought the band a round of drinks and brought them up to the edge of the stage; unfortunately, it's not legal to do that in DC so they had to be turned away at the last moment. I maintain that Ronan having identified the libations as Jagermeister at the last minute had nothing to do with it.
I don't know how long VNV Nation's set lasted; I do know that they did two encores in addition to a full concert (here's the setlist) and by the end of the night each and every one of us were sore and reeling. None of us are really used to such a short drive home after a show, so I think all of us got rather more sleep than we otherwise would have under the circumstances. I still highly recommend that you go to see VNV Nation live if you get a chance, I think there is an excellent chance that you'll take something away from their lyrics that you don't expect if you listen carefully. I took a few pictures at the show where I could, feel free to take a look at them if you like.
Note: Updated January 4 2012 in response to a comment by Jamie Zawinski, proprietor of the DNA Lounge.
I haven't been writing about SOPA (the Stop Online Piracy Act) or PIPA (the PROTECT IP Act) because, frankly, I've been too busy trying to fight them. To keep abreast of them following the #SOPA hashtag on Twitter is really the best way to go about it because things are changing so rapidly. Between the people watching the live stream of the markup hearings and people who are actually attending the hearings and livetweeting (I'm looking at you, @EFFlive) things are changing too rapidly to do much more than write about point-in-time snapshots. Suffice it to say that when Congress dismisses the words of the people who built the Internet with contempt and ignorance, something's dangerously wrong.
These two bills pose a serious threat to the Internet as we know it. If you haven't been paying attention, the Net has done something heretofore unprecedented in Human history, which is give everyone who can get access to it a voice. Books can be burned, getting on television is too expensive, and gathering in the town square can get you picked off by a sniper but the Internet makes it possible to exchange ideas, evolve new ones, and share media and culture with minimal effort and maximum potential of propagation. That is what has some people frightened; hidden in the guise of stopping software piracy and the sale of counterfeit goods are provisions that would make it possible for nearly any online resource to be taken down with a single complaint, legitimate or not.
This year something frightening started happening: US ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) began seizing domains that they claimed participated in the piracy of media. The way they did this is by strong-arming domain registrars into re-assigning ownership of the domains in question to US ICE, and then changing the DNSes considered 'canonical' for those domains to ones run by ICE. Whenever you plug one of those seized domains into your browser, you actually get a website run by ICE with the now-infamous This domain has been seized banner. Now, this next bit may come as a shock to the "Then they were obviously doing something illegal!" crowd: You don't have to be involved in piracy to get your domain shut down. Websites can and have been shut down "just because" and there is no legal recourse to get your domain name (and visibility, and search engine rankings) back. You pretty much have to register a new domain and go through all the trouble of making its presence known again.
For a clearer picture of how DNS resolution works, I recommend that you check out this article. I could recapitulate all of it, but that would put this article way off into the weeds and they did a better job than I could anyway.
Can you remember ever having lived in a time of peace?
Seriously. Give it a little thought.
This is something I've been thinking a lot about lately, and I've reluctantly come to the conclusion that I can't think of a single period of time beyond a week or two in all the years I've been alive that I've known anything like peace in the geopolitical sense. I was born in the late 1970's with the horrors of the Vietnam War fading slowly in popular memory. Even though I was too young to really record any memories the Vietnam War was one of the first "bad things" I recall hearing or reading about as a youngster. Of course, as a child of the 80's I'd be asleep at the wheel (or just distracted by one of the many funny image sites on the Net...) if I neglected to bring up the Cold War the United States was embroiled in for most of my formative years. Yes, I speak of the time in which Communism was the enemy of the USian way of life and myriad wars were fought by deniable assets, authors of propaganda, and the ever-present threat of thermonuclear annihilation. If we didn't buck up, stand true to our principles, and recite the Pledge of Alleigance reverently at the ol' Stars and Stripes each and every morning then we'd find ourselves either standing in a soup line anxiously awaiting our daily allotment of black bread and borscht or be reduced to so much ash blown away on winds several times hotter than those at midday in the outskirts of Las Vegas.
Then, things seemed to quiet down a little when the Berlin Wall came down. It was a time that none of us ever thought we'd see, the time when east and west Germany were no longer separated by walls and machine gun emplacements, and it looked as if we might just be able to heave a sigh of relief as the USSR threw in the towel. We won. Mom, Pop, and apple pie came down on top of the hammer and sickle like Hulk Hogan off the top rope, one-two-three, ring the bell because the match is over. Right?
More under the cut...
A couple of weeks ago the crowd over at Reddit started putting together a project that's been referred to online as /r/darknetplan, an effort to build a completely decentralized, encrypted wireless mesh network that is censorship-resistent and anonymized. They kick around a lot of ideas in their discussion threads (mostly links to other articles, with discussion of each on-site) and the project's IRC server is packed with interested people. Now, I'm not one to slam anyone who wants to give such a project a shot but they came under some scrutiny from a blogger whose opinion is that it's a waste of time and professes to have some knowledge of how such a thing would work (which is fair, from the references given I'm inclined to take this individual at their word).
First, the obligatory disclaimer: I am one of the hackers working on Project Byzantium, a live distribution of Linux that makes it fast and easy to set up an ad-hoc wireless mesh network. You're probably sick and tired of hearing me talk about it by now so this article strives to not be Byzantium-specific. The reason I'm writing a rebuttal is because the other developers and I have either already run into and fixed some of the problems described in the article, or our research and experiments have proven that certain aspects of the argument do not apply. I am also writing a rebuttal because Byzantium falls into the same category as /r/darknetplan and some of the same arguments seem to apply.
This is the weblog of the Doctor, who is (in no particular order), a geek, a writer, a musician, a mystech, a coder, a traveler, an adventurer, an engineer, a magickian, a system administrator, a consultant, a transhumanist, and is interested in just about everything to some extent.
The Doctor's life is quite busy (his career doubly so) so he posts whenever the opportunity arises. It isn't as often as he would like.