Saturday, April 12, 2014

Some Tips On Surviving Heartbleed

With the latest news that a particular bug in OpenSSL has pretty much made everyone's passwords to every registration-based website vulnerable, I felt it was necessary to use my computer-training skills to provide some helpful tips to all.

First off: Don't Panic.  Heartbleed has been out there for two years, so everyone's pretty much f-cked already.  If you're worried about the government or any private corporate entity getting into your emails and personal stuff, it's too late especially since the NSA has been exploiting this bug for all that time, and stressing about it now isn't going to change that.  Those cosplay photos of you hanging out at the Furry Con has already been passed around the NSA and Booz Allen offices and openly mocked.

Second: You're Gonna Need To Change Your Passwords and Security Questions to All Affected Services.  Which means you gotta change every security detail for your Yahoo!, your Google/Gmail, your Windows, your iTunes, your Blogger pages, your Facebook, your MySpace, your Twitter, Flickr, Tumblr, Bumblr, your online banking, Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Costco, Sams Club, Fight Club, Wikipedia, TV Tropes, Transformers Wikia, Playboy.com, that strip club on Dale Mabry that offered a good VIP membership deal...

You'll need to make sure the fix/patch for Heartbleed has been verified before you go changing those passwords though.

Third: Come Up With a Decent Password That's Easy To Remember But Difficult For The NSA To Guess.  This is always hard to explain to library patrons when they come in asking for help creating their first email accounts (yes, it still happens after 20 years of free Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail services.  Not everyone got an email account back in 1998...).

The rules for passwords are pretty simple: letters and numbers and special keystrokes like exclamations, asterisks, parentheses, percent signs, pound signs, and umlat.  Hope that's not too confusing...

Okay, let's make it a little easier.  The letters (a-z) can be lower case OR Upper Case (A-Z) when you create the password: passwords are Case Sensitive.  One or more letters cAn be upPer caSe.

NEVER use a common word out of a dictionary - Esoteric, for example - and especially NEVER use a name associated to yourself - say, Aunt Jessificiantia's middle maiden name Frank.  Hackers use social gathering info through other researched resources and they'll know about Aunt Jessificiantia, oh yeah...

Try not to use numbers that relate to yourself personally, such as: Year of birth, year of high school graduation, year of getting married, year of getting divorced, year of getting hacked by the NSA, etc.  Last four digits of your Social Security is WAY WRONG do not do that (last four of your SSN tends to get used for other things... oops).  A lucky number could work as long as no one else knows how unlucky that lucky number is to you.

The best tricks involve using abbreviations you can remember - nobody's gonna know what WDTSHTM stands for - and then a combination of numbers mixed in.  To make it harder, follow off the last number in the password with another smaller (two or three-character) abbreviation.

Oh, and the password is usually a minimum of 8 characters and a maximum of 14, maybe 16 chars.

A decent password is gonna look like this Wdts7htM601Ga.  Some sites will insist on throwing in a special keystroke character so Wdts7thM6Ga# is a workable variation.

Fourth: Do NOT Use the Same Password for EVERY Site that requires a password.  Yes, it may be simple to remember just the one password, but if someone hacks into your Facebook account they can use the same hack on your online banking records.  Mix 'em up.  You could try variations of a base password - changing numbers and/or abbreviated letters around, using different keystroke characters, etc. - but make the variation hard to guess.  Most sites WILL lock down an account after three failed tries, so don't make the passwords something that's just one character change between each other.

On that note, you can write down the different passwords you're using, but that sheet has GOT to be in a secured location and unavailable for anyone else to look at.  Best tip: don't write the password itself down, but write down a memory clue / hint that will make your remember "oooooooooh that's what my password is".

Fifth: Get the VOTE OUT and vote into office candidates sworn to make the NSA answer for their evil hackery.  Make the candidates swear on a copy of Orwell's 1984 for good measure.

Now.  Don't you feel better?

Friday, April 04, 2014

Anniversary: My Generation, And The One Who Fell Behind

No I don't have a gun/
No I don't have a gun/
No I don't have a gun...
- Kurt Cobain and Nirvana's lyrics to Come As You Are

Cobain, you goddamn liar...
- Paul Wartenberg, after finding out on April 8 1994 along with everyone else what happened to the guy


Friends, Americans, Culturists, lend me your media feeds.  I come to praise Generation X, not to bury it.

And no, I'm not talking about the punk band or the Marvel graphic series.  I'm talking about the boys and girls who were born roughly between 1965 - the year Dylan went electric - and 1980 - when Lennon was assassinated - so that they had to be three years old at least when Return of the Jedi was out and Reagan was in the White House.  I'm from 1970 - Year of the Dog - so me and the Class of 1988 (Go Spongers) are right in the middle of it.

We were the following generation of the Baby Boomers, the genealogical anomaly of a birthing group (1945 to 1963) that came after the Depression / War generation.  Where the War generation was defined by sacrifice, blood sweat and tears, and superhero comics, and where the Baby Boomer set defined by middle class affluence, reactionary rebellion, and rock n roll, the Generation X was defined by the X.  A random elusive variable...

Gen Xers were the generation that grew up in the wake of the national malaise post-Vietnam and post-Watergate, when our political and social institutions were beset with scandals.  We were the generation that was the first to be mostly self-raised as our parents both went to work (Latchkey kids), where divorce was common compared to previous generations or where single parents were becoming a norm.  We had to cope with the consequences of the burgeoning War on Drugs, the spread of sexual diseases in the aftermath of the Sexual Revolution, and the disaster that was New Coke.

But it wasn't all bad.  Ours was the generation that grew up to Star Wars, a cultural milestone akin to the Beatles.  We had the benefit of cable TV bringing us more Sports (ESPN), more news (CNN), more weather.  We got our MTV.  We gamed to Dungeons & Dragons despite the moral outrage, we danced to Prince and Madonna despite the moral outrage, we permed our hair and wore mullets despite the moral outrage.

We are, were, still will be, a generation rather schizophrenic to the core: both jaded and optimistic, sarcastic and sincere, conspiracy-minded and complacent.  We were the generation doomed to barely survive as the Boomers sucked all the oxygen out of the room as they came of age of political and economic power in the Nineties (when they all turned 40 and became CEOs and Presidents).

And we had our heroes and icons, the ones who spoke to us, spoke for us, on the national media stage.

1991 was a major turning point in our culture.  The Cold War of the last 25 years was ending as the Soviet Union literally withered on the vine.  The Berlin Wall had already fallen and the political threats were no longer coming from Asia but from the Middle East.  Movies were about to turn into special-effects behemoths as CGI effects in Terminator II showed that anything was visually possible.

Music was also changing as the decades changed.  The video-driven 80s pop and hair metal bands that dominated MTV and radio were getting stale.  Rap was still having a problem getting outside of the ghettos of L.A. and New York.  Michael Jackson was making a major media campaign to prove himself relevant in the 90s as he had been the previous decade, but was doing so in a heavy-handed, self-defeating way.

But it was a little-heralded band out of Washington state - part of the Seattle music scene that soon became known as "grunge" - called Nirvana that blew the speakers out of every teenager and college student's sound systems that year.  A song - "Smells Like Teen Spirit" - that was part Ramones up-tempo rock, part metal, part protest - just hit the right damn notes with the Gen X age group.  From epic opening riff to the fading scream of singer Kurt Cobain shouting "A denial...", it spoke to a generational apathy of teens and college students who wanted to unplug from a crazy world, couldn't, and just had to cope.

Nirvana went from a garage band that traveled to shows in beat-up vans to a headlining act filling packed arenas and stadiums.  Cobain became the iconic grunge rocker: dressing in hand-me-down flannels, with shaggy hair and three-day beard growth, walking about with a dazed look in the eyes and a knowing grin.  Everyone thought it was cool.

Except for Cobain.  He never asked to be a hero or a rock star.  He wanted to be a rocker, sure, but someone who plugged in, played a few chords, moved on.  He had his own heroes - other post-punk and college radio bands that he eagerly talked up in interviews, which gave them brief bumps in popularity - but he also had his own demons.

Like a good number of other Gen Xers, Cobain grew up in a broken home in an economically-depressed town.  He grew up as an artist (his family had a history of musical talent and his grandmother encouraged his drawing), which made him a target for a good amount of school bullying by the jock clique (it didn't help that Cobain's father tried to get him to play sports).  It got worse when Cobain befriended a gay student which made those jocks think Cobain was gay as well (Cobain eventually made many pro-gay gestures around town in order to piss off the homophobes, and later opined he was bisexual despite all the girlfriends he lived with).

After getting thrown out of his mother's home - having dropped out of high school, having problems finding work - Cobain lived the struggling artist life, finding part-time work where he could, going to music shows across the Northwest, starting up his own attempts at music, hooking up with girls in the scene, and making his way onto the stage with one band line-up after another.  Teaming up with Krist Novoselic to form Nirvana in 1987, they went through a series of drummers until they tabbed Dave Grohl for the job in 1990.  Then they went in to a major studio to record the album Nevermind...

Cobain's work as a musician and lyricist focused on dynamic contrasts: the lyrics themselves would have a stanza of meaningful incoherence followed by a repetitive chorus back to another stanza before closing out with a repetitive chorus that underscored a melancholic dread or a resigned fate.  "Smells Like Teen Spirit" worked that way, as did "Come As You Are", "Lithium", "Polly", later songs like "Heart-Shaped Box" and "Rape Me"...  The songs were tinged with political rage and social despair, but sung in a light-hearted disconnected tone.

Cobain didn't expect so many people to get into what he was doing, and was dismayed a lot of his work was getting overplayed... or worse played out of context.  One of the things that haunted him was finding out his song "Polly" - a disturbing tale of an unconcerned man raping a girl, based on a real-life serial rapist who haunted the Pacific Northwest - was being sung by two rapists assaulting their own victim.  Cobain got disgusted finding out that as Nirvana got more popular they were attracting the same jerk jocks and frat-boy bullies that made his teen years a living hell, many of them not even getting the fact that a lot of Cobain's own songs were raging against them.

Not helping matters were Cobain's history of drug use - some of it psychiatric, some of it to cope with a chronic stomach ailment, some of it recreational with the hardest of them being heroin - and getting into a volatile relationship with Courtney Love.  Due to the couple's drug use, they temporarily lost custody of their daughter Frances Bean and he continued to live under the fear of losing her again.  In this environment, a handful of drug-using moments seem to turn into suicide attempts.

By the end of March 1994, Cobain was confronted with an intervention and convinced to put himself in detox/rehab in Los Angeles.  He only stayed for about a day, then hopped the clinic's six-foot wall and fled.  By April 2nd, he was spotted in a few places around his stomping ground Seattle.  By April 5th, he ended up at his big secluded home.  His body was found April 8th, shotgun to the head, body pumped of heroin, a suicide note nearby.

There's been the conspiracy theories, of course: Generation X grew up with Roswell and the Kennedys and King getting shot and the CIA MK/Ultra stories and the FBI Conintelpro scandals.  The idea that Courtney Love had Kurt killed for some reason or another.  But the sad truth is that everything we know about Kurt Cobain, the pains and the addictions, the fact he fled on his own, that he wandered (wondered) about town his last few days, by himself for the most part, alienated and disconnected... the suicide has all the markings of the bliss of a man who'd decided to unplug for good...

This was all twenty years ago.  I was working as a part-time librarian in Clearwater at the time - St. Pete (then Junior) College - and I came home to my mom telling me the kids in her classroom were talking about Kurt.  I turned on the news, to MTV, and watched.  It was a kick in the gut.

Cobain was 27 when we died.  Same age as my older brother.  He was three years ahead of me.  He could have been my brother, or someone I knew at school.  Like him, I had to deal with bullies and not fitting in, and coping with a world that seemed so painful.  Still I got some of the lyrics he sang, not all of them, but I got them.  I felt the tempo of the music, understood the mood.  Like Cobain and millions of other Gen Xers I had depression, but I coped.

And I hated Cobain for what he did.  He chickened out.  He had more going for him, more to live for (a daughter for God's sake), than I would ever know.  Not just the money or the fame.  He had friends despite the disconnect that seemed to be there.  He had the ability to enjoy the world on his terms - with wry bemusement - that I can only barely do on my own.  And still he couldn't cope.

Cobain fell.

It's 2014.  On Facebook recently I saw a shared photo of famous dead artists with the poster asking which of these artists would you like to see perform one more time?  For me, that poster isn't asking about whether we'd want to see them perform, it's if we want to see them... meet them, before the moment those talented souls fell to their fate, to drugs or illness or madness or worse.  Warn them, save them somehow, so that they'd still be here in the real world rather than in our fading memories.

Generation X are now in our 40s, mostly.  We're well within the age of being parents, raising our own kids, coping as always only now we're on the older side of things bearing witness to this new generation - the Millennials - learning to cope on their own with their hopes and fears and cultural touchstones ("Call Me Maybe"?  Sigh...).  We're about the age of becoming CEOs and Presidents ourselves, although the Boomer generation hasn't ungripped the reins of power just yet and we're suffering - much like our own kids among the Millenial crowd - from the short-sighted Boomer self-indulgences...

Except for Cobain, who fell behind, stuck at 27 forever.  Stuck as a reminder that not all of us got out of the Nineties alive.  Stuck on the same last repeating lyric.

A denial... 
A denial... 
A denial... 
(bemused grin that quickly disappears as the video ends)

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

The Game Is Rigged

If Citizens United weakened campaign laws into a mass lump of jelly, the current McCutcheon decision from the Supreme Court pretty much kills off the rules altogether.
The remarkable story of how we have come to privatize political corruption in this country reached another milestone today as the Supreme Court, John Roberts presiding, handed down its decision in McCutcheon v. FEC, effectively demolishing the aggregate, two-year limit on contributions by individuals, and taking a big chunk out of Buckley v. Valeo, the misbegotten 1976 decision that got the ball rolling in the first place. It was a 5-4 vote, with the court split exactly as it had in the Citizens United case...
...Roberts writes: Significant First Amendment interests are implicated here. Contributing money to a candidate is an exercise of an individual's right to participate in the electoral process through both political expression and political association... The Government may no more restrict how many candidates or causes a donor may support than it may tell a newspaper how many candidates it may endorse... The aggregate limits do not further the permissible governmental interest in preventing Quid Pro Quo corruption or its appearance...
The thinking from Roberts and his fellow conservative Justices (the vote split 5-4 between Republican-chosen Justices and Democratic ones) seems to be that since they don't see any specific instances of Quid Pro Quo (Latin for I Scratch Your Back If You Scratch Mine) then there's no corruption at play here, ergo campaign money is not bribery.  They WANT to think money (which isn't free) is equal to free speech (which you shouldn't pay for).

But here's what happens in the real world now: a billionaire can cough up a sizable amount of money - say, $10 million, which is freaking pocket change to a billionaire - and put a lot of that into a SuperPAC... and now a good amount of those millions towards direct contributions that the political candidate for office needs to run an election campaign.  That billionaire is coughing up that $10 million with the expectation that the person(s) the billionaire is(are) backing will win... and will represent that billionaire's interests when the time comes to vote on key legislation.  The politicians know who it was that brought 'em to the dance floor, so they'll play ball and make their vote count for that billionaire... despite the possibility that vote goes against the interests of the 150,000 people from their district or the 18 million people from their own state.

It's one of the reasons why West Virginia is so f-cked up with its waters getting polluted by the coal industry owners: the politicians (both Republican and Democrat) are so beholden to those company owners that they've deregulated every safety guideline in the books... and ended up with polluted drinking water that's STILL making thousands of residents sick.  With long-term effects - cancer especially - still a huge factor.

As Pierce notes in his Esquire article: Four days after almost every Republican candidate danced the hootchie-koo in Vegas to try and gain the support of a single, skeevy casino gazillionnaire, the (SCOTUS) majority tells us that there is no "appearance of corruption" in this unless somebody gets caught putting a slot machine in the Lincoln Bedroom on behalf of Sheldon Adelson.

Sheldon Adelson has about a hundred politicians knocking at his door and sucking up to his political wants.  He's got billions of dollars.  Me?  There is no one knocking at my door and listening to my political wants (a jobs stimulus bill and fair wages, plus cheaper and faster Internet), because I'm making under $35,000.00 a year.  The most I get is the constant emails from Obama's OFA begging for another round of $50.00 I try to pass on every other year (and something that I can't even afford to donate right now).  See the difference, Justice Roberts?  I may have the free-speech ability to say what I want here on this blog and elsewhere on Facebook and on Ta-Nehisi Coates' open threads, but nobody in Congress even knows I'm here because I'm not waving a $20,000.00 check at their campaign handler.  This isn't fair or equal.  What's my $50 compared to Adelson's $10 million?

Molly Ivins kept warning us "It's not what's illegal that's the problem, it's what legal that should scare you."  She quoted that line once discussing how it was common in her Texas legislature (it might STILL BE) for businessmen to walk on the floor during a vote handing out blank checks to legislators voting on something those businessmen wanted.  What the Supreme Court has done has been to make it legal for the rich - the billionaire trust-funders, the megacorporations - to pay for easier access to the elected officials on the floor of the US House and Senate who will be indebted to the ones who paid their way.  And that easy access dictates how the government addresses its issues.  If a billionaire wants the politicians he gave money to promoting the cutting of taxes on the uber-rich, we're gonna see those politicians promoting the cutting of taxes on the uber-rich despite the majority of voters from those politicians' districts screaming "hey, we NEED you to tax the rich.  They're the only ones who can afford it anymore."

The Supreme Court is not seeing any corruptive Quid Pro Quo because they're not using goddamn common sense to see it.  Roberts and his Right-leaning cohorts are sticking to a narrow definition of corruption that doesn't apply to what's really going on. They can't see that Congress isn't focusing on the issues that the voters want - JOBS AND MORE JOBS AT BETTER WAGES - and they can't see that Congress is focusing on what the uber-rich want - TAX CUTS AND DEREGULATIONS that we've seen over the last 20 years don't effing work.

Elections are not a non-partisan, democratic process anymore in the United States.  Elections now are a billion-dollar industry, lacking any regulation or protection from corruption.  It's become legalized bribery all because the Supreme Court majority doesn't want to see it.

The only thing that can save us now is voting out the politicians most likely in the pocket of the uber-rich (hint: they tend to have an R bracketed between their name and their district/state).  But with gerrymandering and voter restriction attempts, that's not likely.  And with dismal Democratic voter turnouts in midterms... well...

This is why I keep screaming at you Dems to GET THE DAMN VOTE OUT.  And I'm not the only one screaming, I know.  So will you, Democrats?  WILL YOU FOR THE LOVE OF GOD GET THE DAMN VOTE OUT?  It is the only way to defeat the Roberts Court's intent to make this nation a kleptocracy.


Tuesday, April 01, 2014

You Were Warned This Was Coming

With all due respect to my seven readers, you knew this day would come.  Just not this day.

In order to counter the growing talk of having Jeb "Yet Another" Bush being the prospective Republican nominee for 2016, I have decided to jump ahead of schedule and make my candidacy for President of the United States official.

Yes, I may be starting too early.  Yes, this goes against my constant argument for keeping all electioneering within the actual year of the election itself.  But if my throwing of the tinfoil hat into the ring has the effect of convincing Jeb Bush that Florida is MINE, it should stop this insidious crazy talk about his nomination once and for all.

Now, the process itself still requires a few things... such as filing paperwork in all 50 states I need the vote (plus DC), getting petitions signed and notarized, and oh about maybe $2.4 billion in loose change to pay for the whole damn thing.

I expect to raise most of that through merchandising, such as getting t-shirts and postcards printed out via CafePress.  A lot of money should be rolling in via my upcoming political biography Always Sober Never Sane. (due on the thirteenth day of the thirteenth month)

As the excerpt from my epic memoir makes clear:

These are the thymes that dry men's underwear. The summer hammock and the sunshine parrot will, in this crisis, shrink from too much drying on High heat; but he that strands by it know, deserves the love and thanks of that guy over there and a couple other hangers-on. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily tropified although the editing process on that site is easy; yet we have this constellation with us, that the harder the armpit, the more glorious the deodorant. What we obscure too cheap, we esteem too brightly: it is doe a dearness a female dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods, usually at a fair market rate depending on the Dow; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated by Moody or Standards & Poor.

I figure on getting a seven-figure deal from a major publisher for it. Hell, I'm hoping for the FILM RIGHTS. (with George Clooney as the beleaguered campaign manager, Alexandra Daddario as the Secret Service agent assigned to protect me, and myself played by a CGI-created Yog-Soggoth)

And so, to the easy part: getting 50 million Americans to vote for me.

Right?

Why is everyone pointing at the date stamp on this blog entry and laughing their asses off?

Friday, March 28, 2014

A Victory, But the Fight For Voting Rights Is NOT Over

In other news of Florida schadenfreude directed at Rick "MEDICARE FRAUD" Scott, his latest effort to purge the voter rolls yet again has been cancelled:
Once again, Ken Dentzer, Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s (R) handpicked Secretary of State, has unsuccessfully attempted to mount a massive purge of Florida’s voter rolls. And once again, he has been forced to abandon this effort due to his lack of an accurate list of who is and is not eligible to vote.
In a memo, Dentzer told the state’s local election supervisors that the purge would be postponed until 2015. He plans to utilize a new federal database which he believes will be up and running by then and will provide more accurate data on who is and is not a U.S. citizen...
It's terrifying how constant the Republicans have been the last 20 years or so chasing after "voter fraud" by doing their damnedest to go after legitimate voters (who mostly tend to be minority, young, and/or Democrat).  This is me commenting in 2013... this is me in 2012, openly figuring Scott and his ilk were breaking the law doing what they did... And this push against "voter fraud" was something I argued could be solved by making voting more universal (easier to obtain) as far back as 2008.

I didn't blog about it then (didn't start until 2006), but Jeb Bush's tenure as governor was replete with voter purges: the 2000 election suffered it, and by 2002 the effort was documented and debunked.  While then-Republican Charlie Crist reformed the electoral process during his governorship (making it easier to vote) and improved efforts to let ex-felons re-apply for voting rights, he still took a hard stance on voter IDs matching to photo IDs or Social Security numbers that still put a crimp on state residents trying to vote.

It disgusts me that something as sacred as a right to vote could be so eagerly denied by one political party... but I'm not all too surprised considering the Republicans are losing membership strength by sheer demographics, and they've got no other recourse left but to cheat and skew the rules to make it harder for Democratic-likely citizens to vote at all.  Like I said before:

As the demographics turn against them, as their open hostility to women's rights and minorities worsen, as the party is starting to lose more of their base to old age, the Republicans are pretty much stuck with "cheating" as their primary method...
For a Party that's obsessed with the idea that their platform of God, Guns, and Tax Cuts is "beloved by all true Americans", the Republicans do a shitty job of selling that platform to all actual Americans when the time comes and rely more on mudslinging and false advertising to win elections. And now, denying hundreds of thousands if not millions of Americans their civic right to vote.

And while this fight may seem to be over for now here in Florida, I guarantee Scott and his ilk are trying to figure out something else that wouldn't involve outraged county elections officials blocking their efforts.  And Florida's not the only state suffering this: Wisconsin's GOP hardliner governor Walker just signed in laws making it harder to vote in that state as well... and those damned laws are spreading everywhere else where the Republicans fear the future.

Just a reminder, the last sentence from that ThinkProgress article I linked to at the beginning of this blog:

Scott is up for re-election this November. Should he lose, his replacement would likely be able to appoint a new Secretary of State before any 2015 purge.

GET THE DAMN VOTE OUT and VOTE RICK SCOTT OUT!
/rage

Monday, March 24, 2014

Schadenfreude In Florida: Why Yes, It Does Involve Rick "MEDICARE FRAUD" Scott...

While I was lost in the halls of the Orange County Convention Center this weekend, this was taking place:

In a campaign shakeup, Gov. Rick Scott’s top fundraiser — billionaire healthcare CEO Mike Fernandez — abruptly quit his post late Thursday after weeks of behind-the-scenes disagreements.
Fernandez said he was quitting to spend more time with his family (NOTE: RED FLAG) and businesses. And he praised Scott's campaign in a letter to the campaign's leadership team...
Fernandez began expressing his frustrations at least a month ago when he sent an email to top Scott allies and complained about two campaign aides who had joked around in a cartoon-style Mexican accent en route to a Mexican restaurant in Fernandez’s home town of Coral Gables.
Fernandez, who is Cuban, wouldn’t comment about the email...

Leave it to the Republicans - a party having serious issues shaking off the public perception of being run by aging white men who hate gays, ethnics, and women - to find a way to piss off a member of the one voting bloc - billionaire CEOs - they try (consciously) not to piss off.

The official story is that Fernandez is really resigning because he's upset with the campaign's direction and poor messaging.  But the messaging can't be helped with this story about the tactless aides getting out.

When Scott's new Lt. Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera - remember the other one had to resign?  I wonder what the current status of the criminal investigation involving her is at... - tried to go public with a new attack ad campaign today, the questioning got cut short because all the reporters would ask about was Fernandez's quitting over the possibility that the campaign staff was secretly mocking the very ethnic group the Republicans need to win this midterm.

One of the things a political campaign can ill afford is to look disorganized and in disarray.  It doesn't help that Scott's office has been hard-line on immigration reform for most of his tenure and that any attempt to start appealing to Hispanic voters is going to backfire.

This schadenfreude is a bit tasty, but it's an appetizer.  It's a long wait for the main course in November, and part of me wants to see how Scott's people can screw up even worse...

Sunday, March 23, 2014

I Survived MegaCon 2014

And all I got was... was...  oh no.  I forgot to pick up the complimentary "I Survived Orlando MegaCon 2014" t-shirt!  :(

On the bright side, I got pics:


I left home a little later than planned, and regretted it as soon as I got to Exit 72 on I-4, the turnoff to the convention center.  Traffic gets clogged real fast getting into the parking areas for the events (and Orange County Convention Center always schedules other events alongside MegaCon), and so when you get to International Dr. you get this (with the South Concourse right there on the horizon):

For 30 minutes.

Dear Orange County / Orlando Metro: WILL IT KILL YOU TO ADD EXIT RAMPS FROM I-4 DIRECTLY INTO THE CONVENTION CENTER PARKING LOTS?!  This can't be the only event that gets this freaking headache...

Parking aside, the next big woe is always the Getting In portion of the morning.  This year, rather than hosted within the West Concourse - the longer, spacier hall - MegaCon got moved over to the South Concourse.  As a result, the line formation for getting tickets was a bit off than usual:

 
 
Thanks to my obsessive, hate-to-wait-in-line attitude, I purchased an advance ticket and so got to get in the short Advance line (step to the left!).  Which still meant waiting this year.  Just not as bad as the impulsive, let's-wait-until-the-actual-day-to-buy ticket line that stretched out to Daytona Beach.

Once inside, prepare for the craziness of pedestrian traffic, posing for pictures, chatting with artists, and waiting for celebrity sightings that are SOP for your geek-themed comic-book/sci-fi/fantasy/horror/Lego get-togethers:


Now, the one thing I swore was going to happen at this MegaCon would have been finding a ton of Queen Elsa cosplayers: Frozen being a huge hit with the kids and girls and teens and women.  Sad to say, I saw very few.  Only explanation I can think of is that the Elsa Snow Queen outfit is tricky to make and not that many have been finished in time.  Maybe next year.  At least I saw one before the day was out:
Did see a few more Elizabeths from BioShock Infinite.  It's the corset look.  I met one at the CosplayDeviants booth (site NSFW!  Must be 18 or older and able to tell the difference between DC and Marvel characters!) and got a nice picture of her:
Saturday is usually the day at comic-cons to host costume contests, hence the high number of cosplayers that day (personally, I planned on dressing up as a Jedi this trip, but the Jedi outfit from years ago was in bad shape, and using a trenchcoat as an alternate uniform too hot to wear).




By 12:15 I left the main floor, I wanted to attend a writers' presentation on World-Building (to get inspiration towards that damned first novel I've yet to finish).  Heading out the main doorway, I passed the still-snaking line of the Day Ticket buyers:


While waiting for the presentation, I saw what had to be the tallest female cosplayer I'd ever seen, dressed up as Leeloo.  I asked for a picture:

 I'm 6'2", doing my best to stand as tall as possible.  She's still about an inch taller.  Wow.  Also, regarding this photo JJ Abrams will be impressed with the sun flare over the shoulder...








Also bumped into some Ghostbusters (FOR EGON!):


The writers' event was packed, as the rooms available in the South Concourse were clearly smaller than the ones in the West.  Our presenter, Glenda Finkelstein, kept apologizing for it.  At least the author-wannabes in attendance (myself included) got some good tips out of attending.  Above all, don't trip up over the details!  And when you're naming characters, use the Name Dictionary! (As a fully certified librarian, I know where the 929.4 shelf area is heh)


That's Glenda on the left of my photo. The author taking a photo of us taking a photo of them (it's called meta, get over it) is Bill (William) Hatfield. Next to him is T.S. Robinson, and on the right is Jade Kerrion.

After the presentation I circled back down to Artist Alley where they had tables, and chatted a bit.  Turns out Hatfield was the owner of one of the comic book stores (Novel Ideas) I patronized at U of Florida.  Small world...!

When I got back to the main floor - the vendor booths - after 2 pm it was this packed:


In that kind of environment I would have melted out of my trenchcoat.  Good thing I didn't dress up this weekend.  Still, I'd like to find something fun to wear next year...

Just to note the regular sites along the walkabout:




The Southern R2 Builders with their working astromechs:


Lego City:




As with any cosplay, expect dance-offs.


Ah, Deadpool, my old nemesis.

While I didn't dress up as a Jedi, I still brought my lightsaber.  When I got to the Mandalorian Mercs display area, I asked for a chance to pose for an action shot.


I'm not thrilled with how it turned out.  I should have single-wielded the saber, using the other hand to push the cage door open in a "You cannot contain me, bounty hunter!" way.  Also, I should have used Hugh Jackman as the Jedi this shot: this poor fat unshaven fool is completely unsuited.

Just as I was leaving, found out where the gamer tables were this year:



The nephews expressed an interest in D&D, so I asked after starter kits for them.  I'll check again to see if they're still interested and if I can get Wil Wheaton to DM a game.


As a final note, I leave you with this image:


I'm taking a picture of convention-goers taking a picture.  META!

Okay, peace out.  Next year, I need co-pilots.  Any volunteers?