Tag Archives: hacking

The Idea Mill #34

This one is going to be a bit different than other Idea Mill visits. I usually save links and try to get three unique stories to post about. Today I have two, and I’m combining them into one concept.

If you’re new to these, I write speculative fiction and that involves asking “what if.” I think it’s important to base spec fiction in reality wherever you can. These stories help build a bit of foundation that we can use to build our speculative story.

This time, I don’t even have links. This stuff is everywhere and is very current news. This is why I’m constructing the post this way. If I wait, it might not be as current.

You must have all seen the stories involving Cambridge Analytica and the misuse of Facebook data. I know Facebook stockholders are aware of it. In a nutshell, these people pirated the data to make targeted events during the last election cycle. If you believe all the stories.

We live in an age of data. The world is full of massive databases that contain everything from our banking information, our preferences online, where we eat, where we buy groceries, and more. Surf for a new book to read, someone is tracking it. Follow a clickbait article with a titillating story and it’s been logged. I know if my wife looks at anything on her laptop, my Facebook ads change and show me options to her search. Made it kind of hard to surprise me for Christmas.

This is what we already live under. Enter the new database that we’re contributing to. This one is fun… there’s no harm in fun, right? It’s almost taken on a party atmosphere. Here’s how it works:

You take a swab and wipe it around the inside of your mouth. Then you mail it to a company who will analyze it and send you an idea of your genetic heritage. Usually it proves that Mom really did know what she was talking about as far as your ethnicity.

Keep in mind, your results are going into a database somewhere. Keep in mind that one of the largest databases in the world was just accessed inappropriately and misused. Now we have a solid foundation to start speculating. What if…

What if the Nazis had access to such a database. Think how much more efficient their genetic purging could have been. Genocide went on before the Nazis, and it’s still going on today. Don’t tell me it will never happen on such a large scale again.

We can also take this into the speculative realms. What if aliens made a cold clinical decision and used this database to collect whatever they prefer and destroy the rest.

Keep in mind that your heritage is only one thing a DNA test can reveal. How about one of the cancer genes? Maybe the hacker is big insurance, and they start raising the prices on those who have one of these genes. Maybe the general population develops a new prejudice against someone with one of these genes. You no longer have to worry about cancer killing you… your neighbors will do it long before then.

Maybe the database starts influencing reproduction. Insurance refuses to cover children from matings they didn’t pre-approve. Maybe it’s not so deep, what if humans start checking out potential mates on the database before getting involved with someone? We already run background checks and credit checks on potential partners. This isn’t all that far fetched. My own wife and I spend part of date nights on our phones these days. Humans aren’t as connected on a personal level as they were twenty years ago. Nope, not getting involved with her because she’s going to lose her teeth by the time she’s fifty.

Take it up a notch, and have one spouse cave to the pressure of breeding with an approved partner. A mutual agreement would certainly lead to a marital breakdown. A secret affair can also add a mountain of stress.

Maybe there is a trend toward a certain genetic combo that poses a workplace hazard. Could employers start demanding DNA tests as part of the hiring process? Maybe it reveals a reasonable percentage of people with that gene are prone to thefts.

These are big ticket issues that work in some kinds of fiction. They play on the idea of what we are afraid of, which is always a good idea in fiction. There is also a possibility of taking it down to a smaller level and telling a good story too.

What if some family fun revealed a secret nobody was supposed to know? A bigot could make for a good character arc. Pride makes a great thing to toy with in our stories. He or she despises some kind of race or ethnicity. A DNA test reveals the character is of that heritage at least partially. First thing would be to despise his parents and blame them. Maybe he runs away and goes on a journey where he finds himself and discovers some errors he’s made during his life. Maybe he finds family members he never knew he had. Maybe the employees he’s been making work overtime, and denying benefits to, are his nieces and nephews.

Obviously a family member who was the result of an affair could be pretty dramatic too. What if this revelation changed the line of succession to the throne of some country? Or maybe it’s a huge inheritance? You could play this for laughs, or make it dangerous and dark. What do you mean Uncle Bob can’t inherit Grandpa’s company?

I’m not contributing a corny story this time. I wanted to rush out the foundation stories from the news and speculate a bit. What could you create using these two current events? I’d love to hear it.


Filed under The Idea Mill

A day, in which I don’t like things

If you aren’t into tantrums, here’s your opportunity to skip this post. We will still be friends.

I am not a patient guy, but I try. One of the things I do is give things time before making a judgment. I still have to force myself, but I’m improving.

After much deliberation, and a reasonable amount of time, I don’t like the new and improved WordPress.

I still think it’s the best blogging platform out there, but they’ve certainly made it less user friendly for those who blog. Here are my examples:

  • I can’t stand the new and improved stats display. It looks like bad chibi anime to me. I vote every single time I check stats, but apparently it was to placate serious users with no real value behind it. I’ve been clicking to display the old stats page, but now they forced me to swipe through all the new displays to the bottom before I can see any stats that make sense. It has the feeling of a close out sale. “Once they’re gone, they’re gone.”
  • I am pretty disappointed that I can no longer open a page of my comments, likes, and follows. I am getting a lot of action these days, and the scroll thingie doesn’t work all that well. I would be mortified if I couldn’t acknowledge someone’s comment, and am afraid I might have missed one or two.
  • None of the changes work well with iOS. I’m sure there aren’t many Apple fans out there, so why bother. (Rolls eyes.) When I try to respond to a comment, the display actually jerks around, and I wind up hitting the wrong button half the time. The send button isn’t reliable when I do manage to hit it.
  • I know it’s old now, but I don’t like the new post “beep beep boop” version either. I always click through to the older one, but wonder how long that will remain. Even it doesn’t like iOS very well. I write most of my posts in Pages these days, and paste them into the new post.
  • I want the link option to work every single time. Two thirds of the time, when I highlight a section, the link option greys out. I have to choose a different word to highlight until the link option is available. ( Three or four times, minimum.) Only then can I make the link I originally wanted.
  • I want the ability to include a picture when using my iPhone. I usually write these on my iPad, but sometimes it isn’t available. The entire iPhone version is frustrating.

I feel like a hacker whenever I use WordPress these days. Nearly everything is becoming a work around. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going anywhere, but I feel like WordPress developers ought to actually use the software on various platforms before they release it to the masses.

I loved BlogPad Pro, but they decided not to update it when iOS 8 came out. It has a bug now that allows me to type faster than it can think. I’m not a fast typist.

Do any of you know of a reliable app that does WordPress better than WordPress?


Filed under Blogging

Damned Hackers

The text arrived on my cell phone while I was at work. “I’m scared. Can you come out here tonight?” It was Lisa* out at the writing cabin.

I needed to pick my Asian pears, before they were all full of shot hole. 100% organic is for the birds I tell ya. (Or in this case the bugs.) I still got quite a haul off a baby tree that isn’t much taller than I am.

I headed for the writing cabin and left the little gyro copter on the runway. Lisa was at the front desk with her head down on the surface. Her hair hung in dirty clumps over her face. She sobbed lightly as I walked in, but never looked up.

I pulled up one of her guest chairs. “So what seems to be the problem?”


“They’re everywhere these days. There isn’t a whole lot the average citizen can do about them.”

“It’s those poor women. All their private photos are out there for anyone to see, even kids.” She lifted her head, and her skin was blotchy and red. When she looked at me I flinched. She’d removed her eye covers and only the whites and camera lenses showed.

“You’re taking this pretty hard. What’s with your eye units tonight?”

“My tear reservoir is empty and I don’t feel like filling it again. I’ll do it later when I feel better.”

“You don’t have any pictures out there like that. I’m your author; I’m certain of it. There was that calendar you made, and the anti fur poster, but those could be shown on network TV these days.”

“Those women should be able to do whatever they damned well please in the privacy of their own hotel or house. If it was fun to take pictures, so what? They were private, and nobody’s business but theirs and whoever they personally shared them with.”

“Well, at least they’re still famous. They aren’t going to get fired like a cop or a priest would. For some of them, it might even help their careers.”

“It doesn’t matter. They should only be public if the woman decides to make them public.”

I made her a Cubalibre and sat it in front of her.

“This has no effect on me. You know that.”

“It makes me feel like I’m helping.  What can I do?”

She sipped her drink. “I like the temperature fluctuation and the mixture of tastes. I’m upset, because you don’t see the big picture. I’m not worried about some ass looking up my skirt.” She pointed at herself and asked, “What if they hack me?”

“I don’t think that could happen. They don’t have the right technology.”

“Everyone else thought they were safe too. Jerks find a way. If they took control of me, I could be dangerous. I don’t want to hurt you. I don’t want to try finding a good home for B, Bu, Bunny.” She started sobbing.

I led her to the couch and put an arm around her. I’m kind of useless at times like this. “Maybe you could change your passwords.”

“I already did, seventeen times. I set them to 47 characters using numbers and letters with keyboard symbols mixed in. It isn’t good enough. I could hack it in about fifteen seconds with my random number generator.”

“What if you downloaded some other alphabets? You could use the ones that are Hebrew or have those pretty curly letters.”

“That would help, a little.” She reached for her drink and held the cool glass to her forehead. “I have a battle chassis, and I’m stronger than you are. I also have a big assed gun.”

“So we lock the gun up tonight. You’re smart, you’ll figure something out.”

“If I wanted to, I could tear the desk in half. Think about that when you lock the drawer. I just wanted to be human, but I’m not. Not really.”

“Let’s don’t go back there. We decided you’re just a new kind of human. You’re as good as anyone else, and better than some. Do what you have to do to protect yourself. You can’t let it control your life. A pterodactyl could knock me out of the sky on my way home tonight. It doesn’t mean I’m going to hide in the cabin for the rest of my life.”

“That makes sense.” She sipped her drink once more.

I went upstairs and grabbed Bunny. I grunted as I picked him up, he must weigh close to forty pounds these days. I lugged him downstairs and Lisa’s face brightened up. She held out her arms and I handed off her giant rabbit.

* Lisa is the main character in Wild Concept. She’s a robot who helps me around the writing cabin these days.

Hacking into anyone’s private data is absolutely wrong. It’s an invasion of privacy, and it doesn’t matter what the files are. People were hurt by this, and their lives will change forever. It may be their ability to trust others. It may change the way they go about certain aspects of their lives, but they will change. Celebrities should not be fair game any more than the rest of us. I have the hots for several celebrities myself, but this was a dick move.


Filed under Muse, Uncategorized