She's a Flight Risk

"She's a Flight Risk" is a blog that was active between March 2003 and March 2006. It's a diary of a woman on the run from her family: "memoirs of a post-adolescent, international fugitive."

I discovered it in early 2004 and was immediately hooked. I mentioned it to a friend recently, leading me to discover that nearly all traces of it have disappeared from the web, including from archive.org.*

Fortunately, I saved a copy. So I've put it back up. Enjoy!

* This happens all the time, and it is the Wayback Machine's Achilles Heel: even if they have a copy of a web site, the moment the domain expires and is redirected to a "parking" site with a stupid robots.txt file, you can no longer get the bits back out. It's horrible. Paging the Archivists: you guys need to fix this.
Tags: , , ,

38 Responses:

  1. Christian says:

    Holy shit, just this morning I was thinking about this website and lamenting that it was no longer available. Thanks!

  2. db48x says:

    I agree that the robots.txt thing is annoying, but the good news is that they don't actually delete anything when it happens. Nothing gets lost, just hard to access.

    Good job keeping a copy though, now they'll have two copies :)

    • jwz says:

      By "hard to access" you mean "impossible to access unless you work there."

      • phuzz says:

        I hear that if you say Jason Scott's name three times in front of a mirror he swoops in and archives all your stuff.
        Or something.
        Anyway, he works at the Archive, and tends to respond to desperate pleas.

      • Jeremy Leader says:

        The best news I've heard on this front is that archive.org aren't going to crawl domains whose whois nameservers point to a parking company, which means they'll no longer see the restrictive robots.txt files some parking companies have, so the archived content will continue to be available.

        The whole idea that the current owner's robots.txt should control access to content archived from the previous owner is silly, but I don't think anyone's suggested a better alternative.

        • jwz says:

          They should not retroactively obey robots.txt at all. It should specify restrictions on crawling, but not on presentation of already-legitimately-crawled files. If archive.org grabbed a copy of a site in 2003, then they obeyed the 2003 version of robots.txt when crawling it. If the 2009 version of the site was changed to have a different robots.txt, great, obey that when crawling the new files. The 2009 version of robots.txt should not influence the accessibility of 2003-vintage files at all.

          Even aside from fuckuppery like that currently under discussion, it just doesn't make any damned sense.

          For but one example: the file names might have changed. Say the 2003 version wanted to restrict access to "foo.asp" but in 2009 the hot new flavor is "foo.php". Well now the 2009 robots.txt is just wrong for the 2003 version of the files. Only the 2003 version of robots.txt makes sense when played against 2003 files.

          • Bengt says:

            Blah blah blah, they shouldn't do anything at all! Stop archiving stuff!

            Stop doing things!

            • antabakayt says:

              Rarely has a point been missed so thoroughly.

              What's the point of archiving something if you make it unaccessible as soon as the website is under new management?

          • LionsPhil says:

            Yeah, there is basically no way to spin the current behaviour that isn't Dumb and Wrong.

            (Which probably means at some point they were told that they risk legal trouble if they don't do it this way.</cynic>)

  3. Sean B says:

    Thanks, I was just looking for this a couple months ago.

    Man, it's been seven years, you'd think if it was a hoax the author would have 'fessed up by now, or sold the book. (That was what I was really looking for a couple months ago.) But no.

    But, I mean, it's got to be a hoax, right?

  4. Owen says:

    This Esquire article was one of the more interesting things written about the blog during its run. In the end, the author paints himself as more or less convinced, apparently because her "security guard" gave him a bullet that you can buy at Wal-Mart.

    • Glen Raphael says:

      What primarily convinced him was seeing an actual thin stylish young woman who could answer most of his questions competently and appeared to have security and was willing to pay for an expensive room. That really ups the ante if it's a hoax. Either the blog author is that young woman or the blog author hired actors, but trained them - especially her - really well and paid them enough that they've never since broken silence and admitted to it. Probably the blog author is that young woman. So she's not lying about her age and appearance. So if it's a hoax, the guard is either a boyfriend or an actor. My read is that it's the bodyguard's general confidence in response to questioning that won the author over.

      But of course, the simplest explanation of all would be that the Esquire author is also part of the hoax.

    • Boxcat says:

      The fact that you can buy a bullet like that at a supermarket is the most terrifying thing about this whole story.

  5. Marcus G says:

    "excluded from the wayback machine"

    Is that a policy for hoaxes, or...?

    • gwern says:

      No, it's not any policy I ever heard of.

      And really, it's still there if you know your way around the Wayback Machine... I dug out some of the links, but it doesn't look too interesting to me - mostly just humdrum prose like

      > After several abortive efforts and at least two sudden subject changes I finally managed to pry from Susan at least a fractional telling of the tale of her break with the "normal world" and her introduction to the smugglers. Having always been around planes in her youth by virtue of her father's military profession, Susan's string of dating leaned heavily towards pilots and the like. My somewhat skeptical smirks aside during our dialogue, she insisted that this was not a product of any particular attraction to pilots and their profession but rather a product of the prospects available in the environment she had chosen. Of course, knowing herself how to fly could not but make her a more attractive prospect for the many men who made airborne antics their way of life.

      'somewhat skeptical smirks'? Not exactly deathless prose.

  6. 205guy says:

    Thank you for this. Unlike everyone else, I wasn't just thinking about it because I didn't even know about it. Trying to remember what I was doing on the internets back then (10 years ago), and why I hadn't come across it--can't come up with a reasonable explanations. What's surprising is how old it is, what with all the links not working now or being s[p|c]ammy. Gives it a certain nostalgia by now, for the day when blogging (or being online) was not so ubiquitous. I will say that every time I try to quit the internet, something like this comes up--at least it was only a day of reading (I only scanned some of the lengthy posts). Two further observations:

    - What do the uber-rich do to go online? Surely their kids all want to be on FB or whatever, yet they can't just hang out there for security and society reasons. They have their own world of schools, shops, and vacation resorts, but what do they do about the internet?

    - Why isn't this story turned into a comic book yet? I'm thinking something that looks a lot like Largo Winch--if only because the topic is vaguely similar. If I were the author, I'd take the entire blog text verbatim and illustrate the whole thing, including wordless pages of imagined stories during the blogless periods. The Esquire article could be an entire chapter/episode of its own.

    - OK a third question: whatever happened with William at the book store?

  7. Adolf Osborne says:

    Wow. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I didn't see it before, and it saddens me that teh Archive has lost it (at least for us commonfolk).

    But let me just say that it's better with the Darken bookmarklet. Just put this (and it might be mangled) into a bookmark's Location field, and click it (Firefox, etc):

    javascript:(function(){var%20newSS,%20styles='*%20{%20background:%20black%20!%20important;%20color:%20grey%20!important%20}%20:link,%20:link%20*%20{%20color:%20#4444EE%20!important%20}%20:visited,%20:visited%20*%20{%20color:%20#551A8B%20!important%20}';%20if(document.createStyleSheet)%20{%20document.createStyleSheet("javascript:'"+styles+"'");%20}%20else%20{%20newSS=document.createElement('link');%20newSS.rel='stylesheet';%20newSS.href='data:text/css,'+escape(styles);%20document.getElementsByTagName("head")[0].appendChild(newSS);%20}%20})();

    (so depending on the mangling, here is a link)

    Put that bookmark(let) on your toolbar. It's especially handy in these dark hours of the day...

    (The Darken folks have a newer thing that I don't fully understand that involves a client-server relationship with them that I don't like. This is the old one.)

  8. Thanks, this is really cool.

    One line from the April 2003 post seems interesting in hindsight, given the title of the blog:

    Also amongst the exiles was a fairly famous software magnate who had elected to leave the United States "not so much for the tax issue, though that played a part, but more for the everyday nonsense of regulation."

    Anyone want to bet that this was John McAfee?

    It seems to add marginally to the credibility of the tale, but I'm not sure how well known his wanderings were back in 2003 - in other words, if you were clever you'd find a person who was well known to be an exile, then drop a coded reference to them that the reader would likely pick up.

    • Andy says:

      "want to bet that this was John McAfee?"

      There are plenty of other rich and "famous" software magnates where that one came from. Our illustrious host, for example.

      • Oh, that's for sure. But the number who'd also left the US back in 2003 and were living in a sunny, tax haven-esque country due to "the tax issue" and "the everyday nonsense of regulation"? There possibly are others, but I'd guess there probably aren't too many others. Plus 2003 was too early to take in Eduardo Saverin.

  9. Daniel says:

    Thanks a lot for posting this - was googling just now to find it again after thinking about it last night. Any change you'd be willing to put the actual HTML-archive online for downloading? Just to make it offline archivable =)

    • jwz says:

      I don't understand the question. The only changes I made were to edit the URLs to make them work again, and clean up the decade-old CSS.

      • Daniel says:

        Sorry, just meant the file-directory as it is, basically just being too lazy to wget them down.

  10. John says:

    http://www.giagia.co.uk/2003/05/14/shes-a-flight-risk-6/

    Oops! What do you think of this, jwz? Has the mystery been outed?

    I've just gotten into April 2003 and I'm already having doubts as to the authenticity of this. Today that woman is at least 30 if she is still alive/ever existed.

    • John says:

      And, umm, it seems very politically loaded indeed. Both in terms of the commentary on internet legislation and also the extensive coverage of the Iraq War. Something is very, very fishy about this.

      Perhaps the editor of 'The Agonist' mentioned in the following article has answers?

      http://www.esquire.com/features/ESQ1003-OCT_ISABELLA

      Unless this is all tomfoolery of course. Probably a load of lies so to spread the word that encryption matters. The views of the author of She's a flight risk on the Iraq war are unclear too as 'she' opposes all types of control, but at the same time, opposes several aspects of American contemporary culture.

      WWJWZT (What Would JWZ Think)?

  11. isagirl says:

    My, oh my.

    How odd. Flight Risk's 10 anniversary is in a few weeks.

    jwz: I emailed you but likely ended up in your spam folder.

    -isa

  12. Rae says:

    Oddly enough, I know where the Internet Archive is. It's on an upper floor of a building that holds a standing set, in a warehouse in the industrial part of LA. I could, like, leave them a post-it for you.

    And when did you install the Herp Derp translation tick box?