Real-Time Hacks with Kevin Mitnick

Since I’ve talked about the History of Hacking, let me introduce you to a hacking legend. Kevin Mitnick is a computer security consultant and convicted hacker. As a youngster, Mitnick utilized social engineering and dumpster diving to hack the LA bus system. As an adult, he engaged in a number of high profile hacks, sending him to prison for several years.

Now, Mitnick is a paid security consultant, public speaker and author. He still retains his hacking chops. Watch him describe the process to scan, steal, and clone a security ID badge in a matter of minutes. It helps you understand why hacking and information security are a top priority in the 21st Century:

Now a word to the wise – while it’s okay to understand what hacking is and how it works, it is not okay to break in and steal anything, no matter how you do it. Kevin Mitnick is famous, but he’s also a convicted felon. The government will probably watch him for potential criminal activity for the rest of his life.

The moral of these real-time hacks with Kevin Mitnick is this: if you use your technical and hacking skills for good, you can help make the world a better place. If you hack for bad reasons, turn yourself into a black hat hacker, then you’re spitting in the face of all the techno-gods who built those systems. Make the right choice.

Why the ‘Jeans Guy’ on The Mandalorian Doesn’t Matter

Why the 'Jeans Guy' on The Mandalorian Doesn't MatterThis week, the Mandalorian news exploded – people freaked out about the ‘Jeans Guy’ gaffe, jokes and Tweets aplenty about what would otherwise be a trivial production issue. Here’s the thing: the Jeans Guy’ on The Mandalorian doesn’t matter, full stop. Production gaffes happen all the time. In fact, an editor on Reddit provides a simple answer to why the Jeans Guy was in there at all:

Editor here! The editor wouldn’t be fired, people love to blame the editor when there’s a mistake and praise the director when things are amazing, but in reality it’s all a mix.

Jeans Guy is also fine, there’s usually 4-10 times the amount of people behind the scenes than there are in front of the camera, jeans guy couldn’t see the camera, he thought he was out of frame, the script supervisor, the director, the producer, or the director of photography (just the few that pop to mind could have caught this as it was happening).

As far as post production, the editor saw this. Most likely showed the cut to the director/producer to wait and see if they noticed and then would bring jeans Guy to their attention.

Usually mistakes like this are in every big production, however, on a first watch, most people won’t notice because they’re distracted by the main plot that’s grabbing your attention. So professionals will sometimes knowingly let it slide.

The editor probably found takes where jeans guy wasn’t there but the director most likely said, no this take is the best and to add some airbrushing or cropping to get rid of jeans guy. However, on tv shows, time crunches, this either fell through the cracks and was forgot about or they just didn’t have the time to get it done, knowing that most people wouldn’t notice on one watch.

See? It really wasn’t a big deal at all. Relax, and go back to shopping for things you don’t need on Amazon. The next episode of The Mandalorian comes out on Friday, you’ll need to be ready.

Glass House Life: Survival Guide for Creative People – Part III

Glass House Life: Survival Guide for Creative People – Part IIIClick Here to Go Back to Part Two – Picking up from where we left off, I want to mention that I got some great feedback from the previous post. Twitter loved the idea of a Survival Guide for Creative People, and related to many of the challenges I’ve talked about. I’m not sure what this means overall, but I’m flattered and honored that something I did can be helpful to others.

I wrestled with a lot of ideas while creating this part of the Survival Guide. You need feedback on your writing, but how do you get it? How do you welcome feedback and (gently) reject negative feedback?

Feedback: Best Friend and Worst Nightmare

This is a difficult area for me to navigate, and perhaps it is for you, too. Too often, writers think that negative feedback is the key to better writing and yet, too much directive feedback can make you lose confidence in your own vision. How do you reconcile the feedback part of a writer’s life?

Happily, other authors have wrestled with these ideas, resulting in some great insight. Take a look at this blog post on Lithub: The Case Against Critical Feedback. In it, Lauren D. Woods shares some empathetic, actionable advice when it comes to the feedback game: Continue reading

Grinding Short Stories

If you visit the Story Story Production Board, you’ll see a number of new submissions going out – that’s a sign I’m keeping busy by re-writing and re-subbing short stories that didn’t get published elsewhere. If I want to get into the SFWA, I need one (but preferably three) stories to be purchased for my membership to be considered. So, that’s me trying. Hope your weekend is busy, too!

Sci-Friday #90 – Russian Cyberpunk Farm – Fun Science Fiction Stuff

For today’s Sci-Friday, enjoy ‘Russian Cyberpunk Farm,’ a tongue-in-cheek scifi short about life in a Russian village enabled by technology. If you love the work of Simon Stalenhag, this is your jam. Watch it all the way to the end, it’s got a wicked twist:

Want to work on the Russian Cyberpunk Farm? Act now, applications are running out fast! Have a great weekend and keep on dreaming!

RetroFuturism: Our Ancient Scifi Future

RetroFuturism: Our Ancient Scifi FutureWhat did people think our time was going to be like? Studying concept art, architecture, and history we get something totally cool: retrofuturism – our ancient scifi future.

As we explore the future through science fiction, it’s valuable to see our present through the lens of the past. Retrofuturism is a valuable part of that lens, and I incorporate RF elements in Mesh. Every science fiction fan should be familiar with retrofuturism. Let’s dive down the rabbit hole together. Inside, we find an infinite universe of creativity spanning people, places and things.

RetroFuturism All Over the World

First, the top picture here is something I’ve talked about before: the Wuppertal Suspension Railway. The monorail looks like a steampunk fantasy, but it’s completely real. You can even watch a Youtube video of the journey!

Next in America, you can see examples of retrofuturism browsing back issues of Popular Mechanics. One piece of retrofuturism I’d love to own as a poster is Verticalville – a newspaper concept cartoon of what they thought skyscrapers would look like in the future. Sadly, it only lives on as a jigsaw puzzle. Let me know if you find a poster – I’d love to get one!

After that, we see another example: these Soviet futuristic buildings.  Russia has traditionally been comfortable with wild architecture, expressive public art, and bold urban planning. Even somber places like a crematorium were opportunities to create provocative art.

Some projects never materialized. The Palace of the Soviets was a *massive* project dreamed up by the Congress of the Soviets. Construction was terminated by the German invasion. Nonetheless, the project’s concept art is breathtaking. You can kill a few hours wondering what life would have been like if the Palace was actually built. Other parts of the world have their own retrofuturism to discuss. Check out this RF-inspiring picture of a Japanese hovercraft.

What Did You Learn?

As I said at the outset, studying retrofuturism is valuable for any scifi fan. It allows us to see our present through the lens of the past. What did people think our lives were going to be like? Did they get the details right? Did they get them wrong?

There are deeper questions, too. Where did the dreams take the dreamers? Did those dreams, that imagination, result in a good outcome? If we dream that big, what happens? Do we miss small, important details?

I hope you find this discussion about retrofuturism and our ancient scifi future to be valuable. Dream big, dream small. Whatever you do, know that you’re tapping into a fun, beautiful universe. Go exploring!

 

This is Why We Struggle

This video got me thinking today, and it’s the perfect answer to the question: “Why are you doing this?” Why am I writing a novel? Why am I trying to be a professional storyteller? Why am I trying to grow beyond my personal problems? I know I’m not the only person asking these questions of themselves, so to you who are also struggling I’d like to give you this video. This is why we struggle:

This video makes me appreciate Ewan McGregor far beyond anything he’s done with Star Wars. You can watch the rest of the documentary here. Because he was willing to continue his project, to persevere, he was able to find a little girl that would eventually become his adopted daughter. He had no idea that his struggle would lead him to change her life, but it did. That’s a beautiful lesson for all of us.

We’re all facing the same questions, the same tests of our courage and our commitment. Sometimes we reach those forks in the road and we force ourselves to struggle on. We do that for the same reason McGregor did: we don’t know what’s down there. If we give up, we’ll go to our grave wondering what might have been.

It’s important to remember that those hard choices can open doors we never dreamed of walking through. We struggle because we don’t know what’s out there. We fight to make our dreams come true, because another person may need what you’re dreaming of.

I’m struggling, too. Making MESH a reality is path I trudge forward on every day. To you, out there struggling to make your dream come true: You aren’t alone. Keep going. Someone needs you to succeed, even if it’s only yourself.

Write like a Traveler Without Leaving Your Bedroom

Write like a Traveler Without Leaving Your Bedroom

I saw this tweet a while back and let it simmer. As a person who stays in his house most of the time, writing is my way of getting out and exploring the world. COVID has made most of us homebodies, and so it’s important to remember that you can write like a traveler without leaving your bedroom.

Let’s talk about how that works. Say for example, my next novel will take place in Tokyo. I’ve never been to Japan, so how would I ‘write the location’ in an authentic way? You’ll need the Internet to make this work, or access to your local library.

How It Works

  1. Start by Google’ing everything I can about the place I’m exploring. The history of Tokyo, using Google Maps and Youtube to take virtual tours. You can do all of this for free, but it might be more convenient to have a Gmail account, since it allows you to make custom maps or mark points of interest for later.
  2. Get curious – using Google Maps Streetview, I’ll look at random points and start wandering around. Use that link I showed you and then start moving around. What strikes your interest? What do you want to know more about? Find something cool, and then Google that to see what it is. As you can see from my example, I picked a spot in Tokyo, found an office building and looked it up to see what’s there. So far, it looks like a boring office building …
  3. Now we start using our imagination. Instead of a boring office building, it could be the location of a fight between the bad guys and the good guys. Or maybe the good guy uses the small store at the bottom of the building to buy food for the government witness he’s protecting from the bad guys. Maybe he uses the subway outside to escape danger. The possibilities are literally endless. Weaponize your imagination. It’s fun!
  4. As you explore, remain focused on your story. Repeat steps 1-3 until you have enough information to start writing your scenes. As you write, your brain will ask questions. Go back and repeat steps 1-3 again, to answer those questions. Sometimes you’ll realize that your scenes and imagination don’t match reality. That’s okay! Either you re-write the scene, or maybe your scene takes place in the future where the details you’ve imagined don’t exist yet!

So there you have it, four simple steps to write like a traveler. You don’t have to be rich, or well-traveled, to write like you’ve been there. All you need is your phone, your imagination, and some free time to explore.

I can’t wait to see what you come up with!