Well, this is sad: Neil Armstrong is dead. I have no idea what it would be like to be the first to step onto the moon, but he was one of the bravest people I’ve ever heard of. He and the rest of the astronauts in the Apollo programme knew perfectly well that what they were doing was risky, but they went to the Moon because they thought the risk was worth it. I think it was: they proved that it is possible to get to the Moon, which is pretty much the first step towards further manned voyages anywhere in our local solar system, let alone the rest of the Universe.
The really sad thing, of course, is that the conspiracy theorists are coming out of the woodwork. Of course, the big one is that the landing was faked – here’s a site that debunks that entirely. One of the dumbest I came across, via Ophelia Benson, is that he converted to Islam after landing – a complete urban legend, according to the man himself; he labelled himself as a Deist. Don’t look at the comments on the BBC article or the one from About.com, unless you want to end up destroying your computer keyboard and simultaneously give yourself a headache.
Michael Collins, the pilot of the Apollo 11 command module has a short but sweet obituary for him, posted here on NASA’s obituary page:
“He was the best, and I will miss him terribly.”
I’ll drink to that tonight.
I have one week left in Italy, and due to the shoddy connection and excessive heat lately, I’ve been doing almost nothing. Not to worry, my postgraduate degree starts on the 2nd of September, and I have registered for it. Finally, doing something useful again!
So far, the courses I’m registered for in Semester 1 include:
Algorithms and Logical Methods
Computer Architechture & Operating Systems
I’ve already got a basic idea of C++, which is one of the langauges I’ll be learning, according to a guy I know who’s done this course. I suspect the one on Operating Systems will cover Linux and Windows – got some experience there, although I’ll have to keep reminding myself that I’m not an expert. All in all, it sounds like this is going to be an interesting degree.
Of course, being back in Galway means I get a better Internet connection that doesn’t randomly disconnect just because I go up a flight of stairs into my room – hence the lack of posts. I’ll start actually blogging properly once I get back there.
I’ve stayed out of the whole Thunderf00t affair until now. However, I am simply not going to after what he’s just done: he hacked into a private backchannel on Freethoughtblogs and stole confidential emails, before forwarding them on to other people.
One of the people on FTB who was affected is Natalie Reed. In her post here, she explains why this sort of thing isn’t acceptable:
Natalie Reed is not my “real name”. I use a different name for “real life”… for employment, for housing, for everything I don’t necessarily want connected to my being out as a transsexual, atheist blogger. There is a huge amount of highly personal, highly stigmatized issues I discuss on this blog, or in other venues under the name Natalie Reed. Transsexuality and transgenderism, my heroin addiction, stories from my life and past, my being a survivor of multiple rapes…I’ve even mentioned my being an incest survivor, an issue that’s incredibly, deeply painful for me. Most of these things I never, ever would have felt able to write about without feeling protected by this name.
It also protects my ability to pursue housing and employment without the threat of being outed as trans, a recovering addict, an atheist and so on by a simple five minute google search. It protects the possibility of my someday choosing to go “stealth” if I ever feel the desire or need, in which I could finally live as just a woman instead of always as a trans woman. It keeps me further removed from my birth name and images of my former self, and the life I led before transition. It protects my physical safety from those who feel the need to enforce their beliefs and feelings about gender through violence. It protects me from the countless rad-fems and HBSers who consistently out or dox trans women, often with the deliberate, explicit intent of exposing them to harassment, discrimination and violence.
She is a very brave person to even bring herself to talk of such things. But this is just one reason that email list was confidential, and there are plenty more.
Jason Thibeault has the technical details and evidence. Basically, the server program they were using never expires an invitation ticket, and the original confirmation email still allows you to log back in without informing the admin. I’m not an IT expert, but that seems like a big flaw in the software they were using, and I’ll have to keep a note of that for future reference.
This seems like as good a place as any to reiterate my opinion on pseudonyms. I do this myself on other sites, so I have no problem with people using them, as long as they don’t involve bigotry or unless those people create a second one to support themselves – in short, I tend to apply the Golden Rule. However, even if you use a pseudonym, I believe people should be held accountable for what they say, which is why I ask people for an email address when commenting.
This sort of thing is just not acceptable, and by doing so, Thunderf00t has lost any credibility and support he may have had with me. It’s one thing to publish an email sent to you that contains threats if you explicitly state that you will, but private ones between other people who may be discussing technical issues, or simply be bouncing ideas off each other for an event or even a joke like a massive April Fool’s Day prank earlier this year, are off-limits. What Thunderf00t did here was utterly wrong, and in fact it leads me to suspect he has almost no empathy for other people, given that he was threatened with it himself a while ago. Jen McCreight’s finishing paragraph on her post is right on the money:
How are you that obsessed with taking down a freaking blog network because you disagree with the fucking no-brainer of having sexual harassment policies that you’re willing to cost innocent people their jobs and safety? How is destroying lives of your atheist allies your priority over combating creationism in the classroom, faith healing, the Religious Right, and homophobia?
I don’t generally blaspheme in daily life, simply because I can’t be bothered. However, I do not like the idea of somebody being arrested for insulting one particular god – I don’t see anyone being arrested or threatened for saying Thor doesn’t exist, nor the Greek deities. Blasphemy is an outmoded concept that doesn’t belong in the 21st Century – or other any time, for that matter. To go back to a previous post, why do the followers of any religion that involves the worship of an omnipotent god, that isn’t going to be hurt by a joking remark on the web or in meatspace, get so worked up when somebody makes said joke?
And of course, guess what happens if you give religion privileges like this? For starters, you get the Inquisition, or crusades and other “holy” wars. Or people trying to get society to use backward punishments like stoning for crimes such as adultery, or “exorcisms” that end up being lethal. And then there’s always counter-productive and ineffective policies like abstinence-only sex education – which would only work if the entire world suddenly became asexual. Why should it be a crime to point these out?
The Bamberg Archbishop doesn’t seem to realise that freedom of speech does not mean you can say whatever you like without fear of being criticised, especially if what you say makes no sense to somebody. Even more so if somebody is going to get hurt by what you’ve just said.