I was pretty excited to find out on August 20 that some criminals apparently skipped the long line of people waiting to hack Uber and instead just decided to work there. I'm talking about Joe Sullivan, Uber's former Chief Security Officer, who we found out was "charged with obstruction of justice and concealment of a felony for his role in the attempted coverup of a 2016 hack that exposed the data of 57 million Uber customers and drivers."
Use of the word "attempted" here is pretty generous. A year after Sullivan was hired at Uber, the company got hacked hard: the October 2016 intrusion exposed personal information of 57 million users and leaked the license numbers of 600,000 drivers. "Uber didn't report the breach to anyone, especially not victims or regulators," I wrote when I summed it up for Engadget. "The company paid $100K to the hackers in hush money (as if that actually works) and concealed the payment in an expense column called bug bounty."
That's right: Sullivan and his team -- with the full knowledge and blessing of Travis Kalanick -- had the bright idea bribing the hackers with Bitcoin and NDAs, pretending it was a bug bounty, and then when Uber's new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi took over, Sullivan and his cohorts repeated the "bug bounty" lie to Khosrowshahi. [...]
What's also fun to think about is that Sullivan use to work with Mat Henley running their previous employer's security ops: Facebook, where Sullivan worked from 2009-2015. I mean, what are a couple (dozen) felonies between friends? [...]
Look, we know that Silicon Valley is an engine powered by white collar crime (emphasis on the white). But it gets even more awkward when we find out that after Sullivan's absolute poo-flinging shitshow at Uber, he was hired by... Cloudflare.
Twitter soft-launches its new application programming interface, and in the process demonstrates conclusively that advertising on the platform absolutely does not work. The "Hacker" "News" hall monitors point out that the resulting discussion is so large that the forum software used by "Hacker" "News," written by celebrated programming genius Paul Graham, cannot display more than a couple hundred plaintext comments at once. Hackernews thinks that any attack on Twitter must be part of a grand multinational conspiracy designed to subvert the course of human history, instead of the natural outcome of an absentee CEO hiring a few thousand webshits and disappearing back into a yacht club.
Honorable mention: "OpenAI's GPT-3 may be the biggest thing since Bitcoin"
Only halfway through the year, we are treated to the Hackernewsest headline of 2020. An absolute asshole uses an overgrown Eliza implementation to write a barely-coherent puff piece about itself. This, decides Hackernews, is the beginning of a new era, in which nothing really has changed over previous AI text generators aside from a moderate improvement in the use of punctuation. The only question, debates Hackernews, is whether this new era is destined to have absolutely no effect in any measurable way, or the slightest inching toward a possible future in which OpenAI produces something of use to people who do not run affiliate spamblogs for a living. What a time to be alive!
The team comprises a mix of contractors and full-time Amazon employees who work in outposts from Boston to Costa Rica, India and Romania, according to the people, who signed nondisclosure agreements barring them from speaking publicly about the program. They work nine hours a day, with each reviewer parsing as many as 1,000 audio clips per shift, according to two workers based at Amazon's Bucharest office. [...]
Occasionally the listeners pick up things Echo owners likely would rather stay private: a woman singing badly off key in the shower, say, or a child screaming for help. The teams use internal chat rooms to share files when they need help parsing a muddled word -- or come across an amusing recording.
Sometimes they hear recordings they find upsetting, or possibly criminal. Two of the workers said they picked up what they believe was a sexual assault. When something like that happens, they may share the experience in the internal chat room as a way of relieving stress. Amazon says it has procedures in place for workers to follow when they hear something distressing, but two Romania-based employees said that, after requesting guidance for such cases, they were told it wasn't Amazon's job to interfere. [...]
The Crow: Upon a recent re-watch, I have a few observations:
- This movie is about Ellis Act evictions. That's the entire plot.
- Candyman is also a movie about a Vengeful Spirit fighting Gentrification. Therefore they are set in the same universe.
- I always forget that Tintin is Lord Nikon. In my headcanon, following the events of Hackers, after all of his white friends went away to college, Nikon's life took an unfortunate, more explicitly criminal turn. RIP Nikon.
- So now Hackers and Candyman are set in the same universe.
- To this day, a Graeme Revell score is enough reason for me to go see a movie.
- I saw a very clean 35mm print on a big screen, and even so, this movie is just so, so blurry. The mastering is crap. I truly hope that they never, ever re-make this movie -- it is and should remain a monument to Brandon Lee, and remaking it would just be an insult to him -- but I wish someone would re-master it, by which I mean, digitally generate a better render of every single frame. Throw some of that Fury Road tech at it and make a watchable 4K version.
- A reminder about that TKK performace.
The Matrix: I re-watched all three to get in the mood for our upcoming screening of the first one on the occasion of its 20th anniversary. The first one is still a fantastic piece of filmmaking. That first scene, where we see Trinity performing the most incredible ass-kicking we've ever seen, and then she learns that Agents are inbound and she just turns tail and runs. She's afraid of someone? That's how you set the stakes. Also the dojo scene: "Do you think that's air you're breathing?"
The second two... can confirm: they are still an incoherent, babbling mess, and they make you like the first one less in retrospect. The freeway chase is pretty good. The Merovingian has a nice suit. That's about it.
And it reconfirms something I thought about Sense8: "Did they love that 'Burning Man rave in Zion' scene so much they had to expand it to 12 episodes? Yeah, I think they did."
Repo Man: I still love this movie so much. It's ridiculous. You should go watch it again.
The Magicians: I re-watched it from the beginning and it still holds up. The current season is killing it. And can I say how much I love that the Library Planets are triple mobius toruses? That makes so much sense to me in a Borgean way I can't explain. I am especially liking that the show is now totally "off book", because the show was always so much better than the books, largely by disregarding them.
The Man who Killed Hitler and Also The Bigfoot: This was great, and it was definitely not the movie I thought it would be. I mean, yes, those two things do happen, but mostly it's about how much he regrets them both, and they really make that work. Perfect Skin:
Perfect Skin:It's a "creepy stalker kidnaps and abuses a girl" movie, this time with non-consensual tattooing, so it's fair to ask "Why is this the story they chose to tell, again and again?" But the villain has this calmness to him and lack of mouth-foaming insanity that makes Stockholm Syndrome seem not-entirely out of the question. So, good acting and production. But still, "This story, again?"
Alita was pretty good. It was simple, but much punchy. It's relatively faithful to the manga, which is not necessarily great beause a lot of the manga was pretty stupid, such as her piece-of-shit boyfriend. The parts of it that were ripped off by Altered Carbon just made me angry at Altered Carbon all over again.
Vox Lux: This was really hard to watch. Good acting, but another movie about deeply unpleasant people. And it didn't really have much of an ending: I guess she just carries on being deeply unpleasant, the end?
Happy Death Day 2U: I am, as always, a sucker for Groundhog Day movies. This one is not as good as the first one, but still fun. It didn't waste a lot of time, so to speak. It adds some nice wrinkles in the cosmology, but it suffers from too much dumb slapstick. The "I am a blind French student in a beret and striped shirt" bit was stupid enough to almost overpower the whole rest of the movie. Why. Why would you do that, why. And the Dean doing his best Ed Rooney.... You are no Ed Rooney, Sir. Also, time travel fusion cores are clearly graduate level work, not undergrad, so why is that dude still living in the dorms?
Slaughterhouse Rulez: Well I should have known to veto it base solely on that "Z". Simon Pegg and some kids fight monsters, which sounds promising, but 3/4ths of it is on the theme, "English private schools are full of rich, bullying assholes", which was a daring revelation that I'm pretty sure has never before been committed to film.
The Saudis are being assholes in public again, so some people are starting to wonder if they're willing to be picky about where their money comes from. Hackernews isn't, for the most part, but they seem attracted to the idea that it's probably okay to take money from assholes if you think nobody will notice. Failing that, try to get some other people between you and the assholes. A few Hackernews just declare that there's no such thing as an asshole. I rarely* recommend reading "Hacker" "News" comments, but if you want to see the inner strugglings of people who just aren't sure if they should, through their labor, enrich murderers, this is the place to do it.