laurie_robey: (Default)

Puttylike is a website by the creator of the TED Talk linked on the page above. I will be exploring it in depth, in true multipotentialite fashion.

Barbara Sher refers to us as "scanners," but as someone interested in film who was in high school and college in the 1980s, that conjures up images of people making other peoples' heads explode, so I don't think I'll use that term.
laurie_robey: (Default)

They're talking about how multipotentialites have difficulty choosing an appropriate career.

After graduation from high school, the multipotential student may vacillate between career choices, "delaying career decisions until financial need and the end of a nonfocused education drive the student to take a job by default. As an adult, the multipotential gifted individual may dabble in a series of jobs, finding success but little satisfaction in any. Parents, teachers, and counselors are puzzled throughout the disappointing and spotty career of the multipotential individual.
They continue to insist. "But you could be anything you want to be!" not understanding that this is precisely the problem. Too often, multipotential students make misinformed, misguided, or just plain wrong career choices.

Another part I noted with irony because I know far too many people who have had it happen to them:

Counselors and teachers need to be alert to the appearance of unusual talent and interests not only in traditional academic areas, but also in such areas as inventiveness and leadership. They should also be aware that a child's passion and brilliance at such recreational activities as Nintendo, Dungeons and Dragons, or skateboarding may be a sign of early emerging spatial-visual genius, verbal creativity, and athletic excellence, respectively. Ignoring these abilities because they emerge in play may be costly to the student's career development.

Destroying the early emerger's passion may not be easy, but it is done by belittling the talent or interest ("Who cares about someone who doodles and draws all the time instead of listening?" "So what makes you think you will ever be able to get a job as an anthropologist'?"). It can also be done by insisting on "well-roundedness." Although the concept of the "well-rounded" person is deeply embedded in American educational tradition, research does not support the notion that eminent adults are knowledgeable in all fields or competent in all skills. Too often teachers and parents mistake a specialized interest as evidence of imbalance or poor adjustment when there is no basis for this evaluation. Sometimes parents or schools actively disallow needed training (e.g., refusing to allow a mathematically precocious child to accelerate in math), causing a talent to wither. Finally, overly enthusiastic encouragement and pressure may also remove the intrinsic pleasure the child feels in the interest talent area. When a child's first, tentative explorations of piano playing _ show precocious ability, too intense a practice schedule and concentrate _ parental focus may kill the child's natural desire to play well.

So, "Tiger Moms" need to lighten up and let their kids play D&D! ;)
laurie_robey: (Hamm Hamm)
For someone like me, with progressive values, the next four years look bleak. But we've known this was coming since November, and Trump's administration is living down to my expectations. I just want to remind others like me that we will control the damage as much as possible, and work on improving things in the 2018 mid-terms.

One more thing we need to work on: the electoral college, preferably before 2020. That's the real reason we're in this situation.
laurie_robey: (Default)
I'll be deleting my LJ account soon.
laurie_robey: (Hamm Hamm)
I got 853/900! I was so convinced I was going to fail it at first because of one of the simulations. Now, on to the CCNA studying. But first, a celebratory dinner.
laurie_robey: (Hamm Hamm)
I passed my ITIL Foundation v3 exam with 90% today. Security+ and CCNA to go. Possibly Network+ too, if I can swing it. Then on the Certified Ethical Hacker.

Also working on my resume and LinkedIn profile.

I really hope I can find a good job I like with all this.
laurie_robey: (Default)
Do I get up and be groggy, or lay here and try in vain to sleep?
laurie_robey: (Hamm Hamm)
This is a reminder to <lj user="the_gneech"> to write down your dream idea of putt-putt billiards. I think it's a great idea!
laurie_robey: (Helikitty Grenade)
I was scheduled to be off today and tomorrow. I have tons of PTB (vacation and sick time combined) and quite a bit of comp time built up after working so many nights and weekends in September. So I scheduled some time off once the end of fiscal year surge in work had passed. The surge was made even more busy this year because of the loss of one contract, and another was going to have its budget cut in the new fiscal year.

Then the shutdown happened. While I was out today, everyone in the office was sent home around 1:45. They were told they were all furloughed, and they can't charge PTB or comp time either, so it's leave without pay.

I was unaware of this until about 7:30 this evening when one of the project directors called me to tell me that one aspect of her contract had not been shut down, so my staff could continue to work on those tasks. I called them all and told them to work from home, which they were grateful to hear.

Now, I was scheduled to be off tomorrow, but if I take off tomorrow, it will be leave without pay, even though I have comp time and PTB "out the wazoo" so to speak. Given that John's last day at the company was Monday, I'm wondering if I need to go ahead and work tomorrow, just to keep my paycheck from being short.

This really sucks.


Sep. 28th, 2013 09:56 pm
laurie_robey: (Edna and Elastigirl)
On our way to check in for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention walk downtown this evening, we were coming around the Tidal Basin from the Jefferson Memorial, heading for Constitution Gardens. As we passed a couple who looked like they had stepped straight off the Jersey Shore set, they asked us, pointing to where we had just come from, "Is there anything over there?"

"Yeah, there's the Jefferson Memorial."

"Is there a shopping center over there or anything? We saw a sign for the National Mall."

"No, there's no shopping center for miles. The National Mall is an open area of lawn that runs between the Washington Monument and the Capitol Building."

"So is there any shopping around here?"
laurie_robey: (Hamm Hamm)
Since Facebook is being its usual self, I've uploaded the bluebird pictures to Flickr.

I'll just use Flickr instead!
laurie_robey: (Hamm Hamm)

A Buyer's Guide to Safer Communication

by Quinn Norton, Special to ProPublica, June 18, 2013, 10:45 a.m.

This is part two of a two-part series. Here's part one: Worried about the Mass Surveillance? How to Practice Safer Communication.

"Encryption works." --Edward Snowden

What makes choosing good security tools hard is that despite the news, we don't know what government agencies like the NSA are really doing on their wiretaps and with their court orders. People in the security community call the NSA the "ultimate adversary," and point to a huge array of ways they could be analyzing and attacking every part of the net and telephony system. They could be able to decrypt everything, and even without breaking encryption, they could be able to look at enough of the internet to determine who is talking to whom just by looking at the timing of conversation. But on the other hand, they might not be able to do any of that, and are trying to project the image of data omniscience to discourage people from even trying to protect their privacy. Parts of the NSA could be pretending to be able to do things it can't while other parts are doing things more invasive than anyone knows, hidden from oversight. In the end, our questions still exceed our answers, and even the parts we think we know keep changing. The NSA's data collection is a story that will only make sense in hindsight, and we don't know how far from now that perspective is.

While Americans get to have a conversation with their government about whether this is right or wrong, the 95% of the planet the NSA is allowed to surveil without further scrutiny doesn't get to weigh in at all, nor do the people living in countries whose governments practice widespread Internet surveillance and censorship. That's billions of people for whom choosing tools for protecting their privacy on the net is simply a question about the technology, not about the law.

The good news is that as we understand more about how surveillance works, it helps the people who create and use secure tools to make better and more informed choices -- even if that choice is simply not minding having their data collected.

There are a lot of ways to talk to people securely on the internet, some are purpose-built to enhance your privacy and security. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it's a place to start.

We'll keep filling out this list over the next few days, so if there's a piece of software you want us to have a look at, mention them in the comments or e-mail them to us at


What does it let you do? Cryptocat is a web-based encrypted text chat for two or more people.

Cryptocat heads up this list of tools because it stands out for good interface and good policies. It's the easiest tool on this list to use, and Cryptocat's creator is transparent about how the software handles your data: It goes through a server run by Cryptocat's creator, Nadim Kobeissi. Kobeissi wrote a blog post with a table explaining who can see your metadata and messages when you use the service.

To get it, go to, and download the browser plugin. Mac users can also find it as a standalone program in Apple's App Store. After that, you pick a name for the chatroom and for yourself. Share the chatroom name with whoever you want to talk to, and start chatting. It is hands-down the easiest way to get started with end-to-end encryption, where only you and the person you're talking to can see the message. For more on what end-to-end means, see part one.

What does it replace? Cryptocat replaces unencrypted instant messaging and chatrooms, and has some Facebook- and Google-style group coordination features. It's sometimes the only option when you don't have the ability to install software on the computer you're using.

Cryptocat, like all the tools on this list, go through a third party server. This means the communication is more like making a phone call, (which goes through the phone company) than talking on walkie talkies (which go directly to the other party). All of Cryptocat is Open Source, so if you are up for more of a challenge, you can run a server inside your own network, and your Cryptocat chats, in addition to being end-to-end encrypted, never traverse the open Internet.

This chart covers the kind of information we should all have access to about the software we use. It would be fantastic to see more projects and companies follow Cryptocat's lead, and tell their users who can see their data.

Jabber with OTR

What does it let you do? Jabber, also called XMPP (thanks for another great name, computer scientists!), isn't a specific program or service. It's a protocol, which is a term for an established procedure for doing something on the net. In particular, Jabber is a protocol for text-based chat, also called Instant Messaging, between two people.

OTR ("Off the Record") is a plug-in that encrypts text chat content so that only you and the person you're corresponding with can read it.

"Only the actual content of your messages is encrypted with OTR, but usually the XMPP channel is secured with SSL as well," says Chris Ballinger, creator of Chatsecure, a Jabber client for iOS devices. Ballinger listed some of the metadata that is visible if your service doesn't use SSL, which is separate from OTR message encryption. (Again, see part one for details.) Ballinger's list included:

  • When you started or stopped typing
  • Your availability
  • Your status messages
  • When you send or received a message
  • The sender and recipient of each message (full Jabber ID)
  • Your buddy list
  • A constant stream of your buddies status updates.

What does it replace? It can replace SMS on phones, or IM and Facebook Chat online. Unlike proprietary services like Facebook Chat and Google Hangouts, Jabber lets you talk to anyone who also speaks Jabber, even if they're not using the same service you are.

The Jabber protocol isn't itself secure or private, though most Jabber services will use SSL to encrypt your traffic. With OTR, which is built into some clients and is a separate add-on for others, you can encrypt your messages so that even the Jabber server can't read them; only the person you're talking to can. OTR is one of the easiest forms of encryption. All you need is an OTR-capable chat program.

OTR-encrypted IM is reportedly the way Edward Snowden initially corresponded with Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald.

Jabber Clients

Chatsecure for iOS Devices

By default, Chatsecure tries to use SSL to talk to your Jabber server, but it can switch off SSL. The advanced options allow you to "Force TLS," which is another name for SSL.

Gibberbot for Android devices

The creator of Gibberbot, the Guardian Project, specifically makes software for people who need security. Using the software can be difficult, but it doesn't let you make too many mistakes. Gibberbot won't connect to a server without using SSL. Gibberbot can also be used with Tor, which we'll come to in a bit.

Pidgin for Windows/Linux; Adium for Mac OS X

You download Pidgin for Windows and Linux from and Adium for Mac OS X from

While they're easy to use and also interoperate well with services like Facebook Chat and AIM as well as Jabber, these programs might not be secure by default, so you should check your settings. In both of them you have to hunt through menus to "edit" or "modify" your Jabber account. On Pidgin, SSL is under the "Advanced" menu as "Require encryption" inside the accounts screen and may already be enabled. On Adium, it's under "Options" as "Require SSL/TLS." You have to enable SSL to be sure you're using it.

You'll also want to make absolutely sure that logging is turned off, as logs are stored on your computer unencrypted. Also, in some cases, like Pidgin your Jabber password is stored in a plain text file on your computer. This is why if you're a target, (which this tutorial assumes you are not) your computer is often your weakest point, not your communications.

A Note on Jabber Services

If you want to use the Jabber protocol you need to use a service that supports it. There are a lot of Jabber services out there, some better than others. Services like and German) have explicit policies about when they do and don't cooperate with governments. Jabber gains some of its privacy protections from being decentralized (as opposed to, say, Google, AOL, Facebook, etc.) but that puts more burden on you to research your provider. maintains a list of Jabber servers that are open to use, listing their jurisdiction and what SSL certificate they use. It's a good starting point, but it's up to you to look at a prospective service's website or ask them about their privacy policy.

Silent Circle

What does it let you do? Silent Circle is a commercial service that lets you text chat and make calls over your phone and video chat on Windows with end-to-end encryption and SSL.

Silent Circle has the benefit of being purpose-built for security, and a lot of thought has gone into its design, making it easy to use. It's got some drawbacks: It's centralized, it's closed-source and it costs money, which means the people running it need to know your real identity for you to use it. At the cheapest level, Silent Circle can be had right now for $10 a month with an annual subscription. You can only use some features with other Silent Circle subscribers.

What does it replace? Silent Circle replaces regular phone calls and text messages, and Skype for Windows. (Other operating systems are under development at this time)

Using a service like Silent Circle exposes one very important piece of data: That you are someone concerned enough about security to pay for it. That bit of consumer behavior that sends a strong political message, but it may also give the impression to attackers, state or otherwise, that you feel you have something worth attacking -- more so than the other services listed here.

Silent Circle also has an email offering, but like all encrypted email, it leaks metadata.


What does it let you do? Tor does one simple and important thing: It hides your IP address.

Tor is completely separate from encryption. It doesn't encrypt your metadata on the Internet via SSL. It doesn't know whether or not you're encrypting your messages. But your IP address is one of the hardest to mask and most personally identifying pieces of metadata there is on the net. As a result, Tor is used for anonymous speech and censorship evasion around the world. How Tor works.

What does it replace? Services called VPNs, or Virtual Private Networks, hide your IP and data from the wider internet by passing it through a encrypted private network. Tor duplicates one function of a VPN, but in a decentralized way. Rather than a single encrypted private network, Tor piggybacks your internet connection through a bunch of network connections run by volunteers. As far as the experts know, nobody can reliably record all Tor traffic, nor know the real origin of any internet connection.

Tor is the hardest tool to use on this list, but what it does is very powerful. Be prepared to give this one a little time. There's plenty of documentation to help you along.

Tor Clients

The Tor Browser Bundle for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux

The Tor browser bundle makes using Tor much easier. It comes with the Tor system, called Vidalia, and a Tor browser (based on Firefox) set up to use it. You can put Vidalia together with any other application on this list to hide your IP, even from the service you're using.

Orbot and Orweb for Android

Orbot is the Guardian Project's cellphone-sized version of Vidalia. Orweb is a Tor browser for your phone. Orbot can route any Android application with options for setting a "proxy server" through Tor, hiding your IP. For instance, it works with the Twitter app. Despite the first message you see, you don't have to "root" your phone to use it; ignore that message.

The Onion Browser for iOS

Onion Browser is a Tor-powered web browser for iOS devices, written by Mike Tigas, who currently works at ProPublica as its Knight-Mozilla OpenNews Fellow. Onion Browser allows you to use the web over Tor without having to jailbreak your iPhone or iPad. Like Tor Browser Bundle and Orweb, your traffic is encrypted and anonymized. Unlike the others, Onion Browser is a standalone app and cannot proxy traffic for other apps on your device.

So Many Tools, So Little Room.

There are many tools we haven't discussed here. Some, like Jitsi (Voice-Over-IP audio and video calls), because it's still too hard for the average user. Others, like PGP for email, because it doesn't address the issue of mass metadata surveillance that is the focus of this article. And still others, like Wickr for iOS, because I just don't have the room. But you can have fun with it: These services and many other out there do a great job of encrypting your messages and your metadata, and put you back in control of who gets to watch you on your networks.

This can all seem overwhelming, but learning even one tool makes the next one much easier to understand conceptually. These tools will get easier for everyone with time and development. The internet has, throughout its history, responded to threats by toughening up; threats change and the Internet evolves with it. It's an ecology as much as a network, a wild place, sometimes a forest, sometimes a swamp. It's early days, but the internet is where we live more and more of our lives, and as we get a sense of it, living there safely will become a normal part of life.

"The news this week makes a lot of people feel helpless," said Abel Luck, one of the Guardian Project developers. "There's a war on privacy on, and every time you use a bit of cryptography, you're winning."

Computer designed by Anton Outkine from The Noun Project

laurie_robey: (Hamm Hamm)
I graduated from high school 30 years ago today.


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