The Babadook: Ghost Story or Psychological Thriller?

Media

the-babadook-book

I watched an exceptionally good horror film on Netflix, called The Babadook. One thing I like to do after seeing a good movie is try to reverse engineer the screenplay. What was the spark that inspired the screenwriter?

In this case the spark was likely a familiar domestic scenario in fiction: what tvtropes.org calls “Maternal Death, Blame the Child” — i.e., the mother dies in childbirth, and the father resents the child.

In this breakout Australian film, the genders are reversed. It’s the father who dies in a horrific auto accident while rushing his pregnant wife to the hospital. Fast-forward seven years, and you have single mother Amelia, struggling to raise her stormy, high-strung son, Sam. The lines on Amelia’s face hint at the toll Sam has taken on her with his eccentric hyperactivity. At just seven years old, Sam has developed a spastic repertoire of magician’s tricks, while fashioning homespun mechanical weapons that shatter windows and break dishes.

 

the babadook - sam in car

 

The film makes clear Sam’s motive in demanding all of his mother’s attention. He’s afraid she doesn’t love him. It’s his greatest fear. And in a horror film, your greatest fear can turn murderous.

Amelia begins to fear this about herself, as well. Has she stopped loving her son? Though her affection for Sam is obvious, her sanity is wearing thin. She puts out Sam’s fires left and right: Sam ejected from school for bad behavior, Sam shoving his cousin out of her tree fort and breaking her nose.

Amelia is also horribly sleep deprived. With Sam’s birthday–also the anniversary of her husband’s death–fast approaching, she’s plagued by nightmares of the car crash that decapitated her husband seven years before.

Sam has nightmares, too. Amelia must soothe him long into the night. The best way is to let him sleep in her bed. But she’s robbed of her own sleep, as he clings to her. In two memorable close-ups, Sam’s hand grips her throat or he grinds his teeth right next to her ear.

As the sleep deprivation wears on her, Amelia begins to lose her temper. She snaps at Sam, curses, even. “If you’re so hungry, why don’t you eat shit!” She apologizes, horrified at herself.

But we’re not surprised. We see she’s on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

 

Tellingly, that’s when the Babadook–a supernatural creature from a super-creepy children’s book–begins to terrorize them in their shadowy house.

 

the babadook gif

Amelia reading the pop-up book “The Babadook” to her son, Sam

(Spoiler alert:  if you haven’t seen the film yet, stop reading here.)
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From that point on, the film plays as a supernatural slasher flick. The Babadook possesses Amelia’s body and targets Sam. It/she stalks him with a butcher knife.
Or, is it the case that Amelia has simply lost her mind? If so, the story shifts from supernatural thriller to psychological thriller and becomes much more disturbing.
But the camera storytelling keeps us on the fence. It’s a classic presentation of Freud’s the uncanny:  we don’t know how to take Amelia’s violence–is she possessed or is she insane?
.
Rather than run away, Sam fights back. With his arsenal of homemade weapons, he pelts Amelia/Babadook with darts and bocce balls.
 the-babadook-Sam weapons

He slows her attack long enough to wrest her attention: “I know you don’t love me,” he shouts. “The Babadook won’t let you!”

It’s at that moment the film so movingly reveals the central metaphor: that Amelia’s grief at the loss of her husband poisons her relationship to her child. The Babadook represents her resentment. Resentment kills relationships.

At the risk of revealing too much, let’s just say Sam battles the Babadook to the end.

Love Your Bike? Secure It Well

Health

Cronus locked up

How to Choose a Great (And Not so Great) Bike Lock

When I bought a fancy bike last year, I felt I needed to upgrade my security for it. Holy cow, is there ever a swamp of options to wade through when choosing a bike lock. Cable locks. U-locks. Chains. Kryptonite. Onguard. Blackburn. Abus. And they’re all so different.

After many hours of research, I picked a very secure lock. Then immediately had buyer’s remorse. I wish someone had told me to consider weight and convenience. My purchase, a Kryptonite U-lock, model “New York Lock M-18WL,” for $120.  While very secure, at 6.5 lbs it’s a total pain to carry around. After a few months, I got tired of schlepping that monster everywhere and had to find another, lighter-weight lock.

Back to the drawing board!

Two basic design principles had originally led me to buy the New York Lock M-18: a narrow shackle and 16mm thickness (or greater). These two design features neuter the two most common attacks against U-locks.

1) Bottle jacks: Bike thieves can bust open nearly any U-lock using a twenty-dollar tool available at any hardware store called a bottle jack, as demonstrated in this video . . . (Darn, YouTube has taken down all videos of bottle jacks defeating U-locks.) That is, unless the shackle is too narrow to fit a bottle jack inside the “U”.  If the jack won’t fit, it’s useless against the lock. Here’s a photo of a bottle jack beginning to warp a U-lock shackle: (photo credit needed)

bottle jack attack

2) Bolt cutters: A shackle with a thickness of 16mm is too thick for the jaws of even the largest bolt cutters. Less than 16 mm can easily be cut by bolt cutters, like this:

The little brother of my New York Lock M-18, called the New York Fahgettaboudit Mini ($90), has both a narrow shackle and an 18mm thickness. And it’s lighter and smaller; its shackle is only 4 inches long, instead of 8 inches, making the NYF Mini only 4.55 pounds. I could have saved myself more research by just going with it. http://www.kryptonitelock.com/Pages/ProductInformation.aspx?PNumber=997986     

But that’s still heavy. Worse, an even bigger problem is its shackle is actually too small to be practical. It’s so small, people ride around with the NYF Mini stuffed in their back pockets. For portability, that’s a pretty great feature. However, the shackle is so narrow, it severely limits the ways in which one can lock up a bike. It can lock a bike frame to a bike rack, but without room for either of the wheels. Plus, if your frame tubing is oversized, as mine is, good luck using the NYF Mini on a thicker street pole (like a parking meter). It just won’t work. And the lock is too small to lock up just the rear wheel, as shown below with a larger lock: (photo credit needed)

bike lock proper

The Sweet Spot

I eventually found a U-lock by OnGuard, the Brute Mini ($70), which hits the sweet spot between strength and weight. At 16.8mm thickness, the Brute Mini is impervious to bolt cutter attack. Yet the lock weighs in at a svelte 3 lbs. The shackle is also about 15% larger than the NYF Mini. With just that much additional size, I rarely have difficulty locking up my bike. Yet the shackle is still too small to fit a bottle jack.  (See my photo at the top of this post. There’s no way to fit a bottle jack inside the shackle.)  http://onguardlock.com/products/u-locks/brute-mini-u-lock/

Bike Locks I Ruled Out

Lots of people use cable locks because they’re cheap and convenient. They’re lightweight and easy to stow. But against bolt cutters, they get snipped like ribbons.  “Steel-jacketed” cable locks are a little better because they’re fatter. But they’re better only to the extent that a thief would need a second tool to get through it: one tool to flatten or saw through the (very thin) outer steel jacket, and bolt cutters for the inner cable. See the outer jacket separated from its inner cable, below. (Photo credit:  http://lettershometoyou.wordpress.com/ )

sliced-cable-lock-stolen-bike-lettershometoyou

Case-hardened hex link chain might seem like a solid option, especially since it is marketed to motorcycle owners. But the thickest hex chain is only 14mm. Thus, a pair of 42-in. bolt cutters can quickly dispense with even a $150 chain, as seen here:

Plus, a three-foot length of 14mm hex chain will run about 10 pounds. And that’s not including the lock! There is a security chain manufacturer in the UK called Almax, which produces thicker, non-hex links. But, again, the weight. Such beasts were never meant to be carried on a bicycle. Maybe for locking up at home, but certainly not to carry on one’s daily commute.

In my research I came across the very cool TiGr Lock. Sadly, I found it just after its Kickstarter campaign had expired. Doh! Missed my chance to get one for $100. Now that they’re on the market, the 0.75-in. version is $165, and the 1.25-in. version is $220. http://tigrlock.com/ Wired Magazine reviewed the TiGr Lock as “deliver[ing] the holy grail of locks–strength and lightness…” The 1.25-in version is immune to bolt cutters, and weighs a mere 1.5 lbs. Be still my heart.

But I’m just not able to plunk down $220 for a bike lock. Maybe if I hadn’t already squandered so much on that $120 albatross, the New York Lock M-18.  Sigh.

(UPDATE: I spoke too soon in praising the TiGr Lock. Have a look at this video:

Granted, the TiGr Lock being cut in the video is the 0.75-in. model. But the bolt cutters snip that lock so easily, it’s hard to believe the wider version would make much difference. (The 1.25-in. model is wider, not thicker.)

Two Attacks NOT to Worry About

Ever heard of the liquid nitrogen attack? In bike thievery lore, a lock can be shattered if frozen with liquid nitrogen, then hit with a hammer. In the wild, liquid nitrogen is simply not a common threat. Here’s a discussion of it: http://www.creekcats.com/pnprice/bikelock.html

Also rare is the angle grinder attack. The first time I saw an angle grinder in action, my heart sank. An angle grinder can dispense with any lock listed here in 90 seconds, quicker with any lesser lock. Much quicker. The good news is they cause a scene. They throw a shower of sparks and shriek like a banshee:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bphyY1pnjg8  To guard against an angle grinder attack, one simply needs to park one’s bike where 90 seconds of sparks and screeching noise would be unwise for the thief. (Photo credit needed.)

angle grinder

Final Notes

No matter what type of lock you use, there’s one security principle that undergirds all scenarios:  how long you leave your bike unattended. The longer a bike sits in one spot, the higher the chances it will catch the eye of a bike thief. Also, knowledge that the owner won’t return anytime soon puts the bike thief at ease. That’s the worst kind of bike thief: the brazen thief, the confident thief. Even if your bike is secured well, given unlimited time, bike thieves will take what they can. (Photo:  Luca Masters)

stripped bikes

Surviving Wisconsin Winters, Part 2: Dry, Cracked Skin on Hands

Health

 

Ever get that dry cracked skin on your knuckles or at the side-edges of a fingertip? I can’t tell you how many different hand creams I’ve tried to prevent it in these Wisconsin winters. It’s a real problem. It’s not only the physical discomfort. It’s the anxiety of being out and about in the world with what are essentially open wounds. (Entrepreneurs shake a lot of hands!)

I’ve had to pull out the big guns. I’ve tried a couple of expensive, specialty products and some not so specialty home remedies. Turns out the best of the lot is also the cheapest. Namely, lip balm.

Lip_Balm_Beeswax_nocap (1).jpg

Chapstick, Burt’s Bees, Kiehl’s Facial Fuel, etc. — give any of them 36 hours with your cracked-skin convalescence, and they’ll put you on the road to epidermal ease. (Make sure you wash your hands before applying, or risk an infection.)

Also important, put away the liquid hand soaps ’til Springtime, especially the antibacterial ones. Get yourself a gentle bar soap with a lower pH.

Ethical Wool?

Health

wool-305684_640

I’ve recently blogged about my newfound love of woolen activewear (the flipside of which is my move away from synthetic fabrics). Here’s an update to that post.

As a winter cyclist I’m amazed at the high-performance qualities of wool. But my attention has been drawn to the question of wool as an ethical product. Can one choose wool ethically?

Yes. Or at least wool can be relatively ethical, compared with the wool fiber industry of only a few years ago. Back then it was impossible for apparel manufacturers to fully trace the supply chain of raw wool. In other words, even if manufacturers wanted to offer garments made of ethical wool, the info did not exist for them to avoid “mulesed” wool. Mulesing is the horribly inhumane animal farming practice defined here.

Nowadays an industry initiative called Zque guarantees the supply of certified, non-mulesed wool. Patagonia, Ibex, and Smartwool now use Zque suppliers, exclusively. The manufacturer Icebreaker Merino has mounted a similar effort called BaaCode.

None of this completely resolves the question of wool as an ethical choice. There’s still the issue of animal cruelty in shearing operations, not to mention the bigger question mark of humane animal treatment in mass production, in general. But it is progress.

[Image credit: Pixabay]

Password Managers, or Doing Passwords Right

Entrepreneurship, Media

Part II in a three-part series on personal online security. Parts I and III can be found here and here.

please don't steal this

Still Using Scraps of Paper?

Back when I was “storing” passwords via pen and paper, I had, what, twelve pages worth? Fifteen? Of course it’s impossible to memorize more than just a few passwords, which is why people duplicate, or reuse, passwords on multiple sites. Reusing passwords is the primary no-no of personal Internet security. Yet we all do it, we who keep passwords on paper.

The trouble is, when a reused password gets stolen, the thief has access to any site associated with it. This is the principal danger for most when caught up when a big company gets hacked.

Then there’s the problem of using easily remembered passwords for our most frequented sites. Your dog’s name, your child’s birthday. Now that’s secure! Use it for online banking or your most-used email account!

Our third most common failing is not changing passwords regularly. Really? All fifteen pages worth?

If your password-tracking system is stack of dog-eared, greasy pages in disintegrating manila folder, you’re essentially dangling your business checking account in front of cyber criminals and taunting them to take its contents.

The Best of the Best:  LastPass vs. 1Password

Enter: the password manager.

Here are the two password managers I have direct experience with: 1Password and LastPass. These two, along with KeePass, represent the best of the best.

Ten years ago I started out with 1Password. 1Password is one of the few top password managers that does not store your data in the cloud. 1Password is essentially an encryption program, but one dedicated to password management. It generates and organizes strong, unique passwords, all encrypted and stored locally on your hard drive.

What soured me on 1Password is its lack of cloud-sync. It’s greatest strength was also it’s biggest weakness.

Like a lot of entrepreneurs, I have a raft of devices float through my life every few years. Without cloud syncing, 1Password  limited my password “vault” to my main laptop, only. After a few months I bit the bullet and manually re-created a second password vault on my second laptop. That chore took hours.

1Password did offer syncing via Dropbox. Convenient, yes. But then you have to rely on Dropbox’s security, as well.

At that point I switched to LastPass. Yes, this switch was guided, admittedly, by convenience. How great it was to have all my passwords on all my devices! But LastPass also offers topflight security.

I was queasy at first about LastPass storing my data in the cloud. It took some time to get comfortable with their basic concept: LastPass servers don’t actually store passwords. They only store encryptions of passwords. That’s how they thwart any potential inside job (a.k.a., a LastPass employee stealing customer data).

How Long Is a Billion Billion Years?

The encryption also discourages cyber attacks from outsiders. With AES 256 bit technology, a hacker who cracks the LastPass servers would need at least a billion billion years to decrypt even a single password. That’s not a typo. A billion billion. (Here’s a discussion of these numbers.) Hear that? That’s the sound of hackers crossing LastPass off their hit list. (1Password also uses AES 256.)

Finally, decryption of the LastPass ciphers happens locally, on your device. In other words, your naked passwords never travel outside of your device. Plus, you are the only one who holds the key to the decryption. That key is what LastPass calls your Master Password. Hence, the name–your Master Password is the last password you ever have to memorize.

So, I remember one, and LastPass handles the other 179.

No matter which program you choose, you should make your Master Password long and strong. And change it three to five times each year. Rather than a pass-word, I use a pass-phrase.

Two Factor Authentication

We should also all be using 2 Factor Authentication (2FA) with our password manager. Even if my Master Password were stolen, say, by keylogger malware, the thief still couldn’t access my LastPass vault without my 2FA security key. I love having my USB security key on my keychain, which I can use to access LastPass on any laptop or desktop. For my Android needs, I use the Google Authenticator app (always on a separate device).

It’s heartening to learn that LastPass is popular at MIT.

Next Post: Data Breaches in the News

Gore-Tex vs. eVent: Two Waterproof/Breathable Cycling Jackets Go Head-to-Head

Health, Writing

showers pass Elite 2-0

What I’m interested for this post is the waterproof/breathable (WP/BR) fabrics of two different jackets I own: Gore-Tex vs. eVent.

I’m actually not going to review the jackets, per se.  What I will do is save you all from the fatal mistake I’ve made, an honest mistake that has ruined one of these two jackets.

Pictured above is my Showers Pass Elite 2.0 jacket, $250 retail.  At the bottom you’ll find my Patagonia Super Alpine mountaineering jacket, $600 retail.  Very different market segments, I know.  The WP/BR laminate in the Patagonia is the high-end Gore-Tex Pro Shell, while that of the red, Showers Pass jacket is an unspecified, entry-level product from eVent.  So, not apples and apples.  I can’t offer up the definitive Gore-Tex vs. eVent head-to-head competition.

Or can I?

Both Gore-Tex and eVent fabrics are laminates, both using an active layer made of PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene). The best known PTFE product is Teflon. The PTFE used in WP/BR fabrics is manufactured by stretching a PTFE solid to be a very thin, microporous membrane. The micropores are what make the membrane at once breathable yet waterproof. The micropores are too small to let in liquid water, such as rain or melted snow, yet large enough to allow moisture vapor to pass through, such as perspiration evaporating from your skin or baselayers.

The PTFE membrane must be protected from contamination. Contaminants such as skin oils and dirt will permanently clog unprotected micropores.  Just how to protect the PTFE layer is where Gore-Tex and eVent part ways.

  • Gore-Tex covers the PTFE membrane with a protective film of polyurethane (PU) on the interior side of the jacket.
  • Rather than covering the whole PTFE membrane, eVent uses a proprietary method to somehow coat the interior of each micropore with an oil/dirt resistant chemical.

Wet System vs.  Dry System

Gore-Tex is the so-called “wet system”: it vents perspiration only after vapor has collected as liquid on the inner surface of the jacket. As liquid, the moisture necessarily seeps through the PU film by basic diffusion, from the area of higher pressure (inside the jacket) to the area of lower pressure (the outside air). This diffusion forces the liquid water through the PTFE layer. So for Gore-Tex, venting is a two-step process: body moisture (vapor) must first condense on the inner surface. Only then can it diffuse through the membrane.

On the other hand, eVent is the “dry system”: sweat vapor vents “directly” through the membrane. It need not collect as liquid, first.  In that sense, eVent is the “more breathable” of the two products.  The two-step process of Gore-Tex venting definitely takes more time.

The problem with eVent—and this is essentially why I’m writing this post—is that its micropores are still vulnerable to contamination by skin oils and dirt. Yes, the micropores are treated with an oil- and dirt-resistant chemical. But get it dirty enough– i.e., clog the pores really badly—and the PTFE loses its breathability. Permanently.

Thus, eVent garments require laundering way more often than you’d think. We’re talking cycling garments, so, “regularly” means laundering after heavy use.  Read: every, or every other, hard ride. If you ride through the winter, this means washing the jacket two or three times a week.

Washing it often isn’t a terrible hassle. But as everyone knows, washing machines are hard on clothes. So we’re caught between a rock and a hard place. Care for this jacket properly, and shorten its lifespan. Or, launder it less, and risk clogging the micropores.

In my ignorance, I managed to do both types of damage. First, I simply didn’t know of the need for regular laundering. I treated my Showers Pass jacket like a jacket. I washed it about once every four weeks. Micropores? Pretty damn, well clogged. Breathability went to near zero. When I learned of my mistake, I began washing the jacket weekly. Just one Wisconsin cold season meant laundering the jacket probably twenty times. Some of the breathability returned (though, mostly not). All the washing totally destroyed the DWR coating on the jacket exterior. Now the jacket no longer sheds water. Rain and snow don’t get through to the inside, blocked by the PTFE layer. But they do saturate the outer fabric of the jacket, sapping warmth.

Conclusion

I love my Patagonia jacket, while my Showers Pass jacket makes me sad. The Showers Pass jacket no longer performs. I’m pretty angry that the care tag didn’t alert me to the need for special care. I only learned of it on the web, after the damage was done. I wonder what percentage of eVent users know they should wash an eVent jacket as if it’s a sweatshirt? I also wonder, if laundered as often as necessary, will an eVent jacket survive even a single season?

On the other hand, I’ll be wearing my Patagonia jacket for years to come. It seems completely unfazed by three winters of serious abuse. And Gore-Tex requires no special care. So I won’t be laundering it to death.

layers vert

Surviving Wisconsin Winters, Part 1: High Performance Business Casual?

Entrepreneurship, Health

Image

High performance work clothing? Does such a thing exist? And I don’t mean flame retardant electrician’s pants or stretchy business-bombshell blazers.

Answer:  Levi’s 511 Corduroys.

Although wool is my new favorite fabric for activewear, there are two applications for which synthetics still rule:  rain gear and winter work/weekend attire. I’ve already written a post on rain gear. As far as business casual goes, Levi’s 511 Cords are a surprising fabric that can double for winter cycling.

Especially good for winter bicycle commuting, their 66%/33% blend of cotton/elastane creates surprisingly efficient wicking of perspiration. Then, when the moisture is drawn up into the corduroy, the corded channels evaporate it to the outside air. Think radiator fins on an air-conditioning unit — the greater surface area vents moisture fast. That makes these pants high-performance street clothes. (Just FYI, the tag says “polyester.” But I verified it to be elastane.)

[UPDATE 10/23/2016:  See bottom for the bad news about more recent specimens of these cords.]

Jeans used to be my mainstay winter-biking pants. It’s only denim, so I didn’t stress out when the cuffs got crusted with salt or blackened with road slush. But getting sweaty in jeans meant the denim staying damp for hours, afterward, a.k.a., cold and clammy. By contrast, Levis cords dry out in minutes.

My ideal setup is to wear a wool base layer beneath the Levis cords. The wool breathes really well, too, moving perspiration to the corduroy, which then evaporates the moisture quickly. The wool also acts as a barrier to odor causing bacteria, allowing me to wear the same pair of cords for three-plus days between washings. How’s that for high performance?

[Image credit: Wikimedia]

[UPDATE 10/23/2016:  Sadly, I’ve just bought a new pair of these cords. Levi’s has changed the fabric, reducing the elastane content to a mere 2%. That’s 98% cotton and 2% elastane. I don’t know how long ago they changed up. Too bad. I predict this new pair won’t vent anywhere near as well as my three old, now threadbare pairs bought back in 2012. Curse you, Levi’s!]

My New favorite TV Writer/Producer: Wendy West (DEXTER)

Media, Writing
Dexter

Dexter showcases the talents of my new favorite writer/producer, Wendy West.

West knows how to push my thematic buttons. My TV tastes favor stories of the human condition. Think of David Milch’s heroes coping with alcoholism as a stand-in for human emptiness and alienation. Think Andy Sipowicz in NYPD Blue, or Calamity Jane in Deadwood.

 

Dexter lends itself a priori to such themes. Serial killers are addicts, after all. Plus, other Dexter writers had worked the addiction angle before West began working for the show in Season Four.

But Wendy West goes for the thematic (ahem) jugular. Her writing strikes the optimal balance between methodical structure and dramatic authenticity. For instance, she returns to a single trope, over and over, giving variations of it in each of her five episodes: in each script, she contrasts Dexter to a second killer, deftly marking out the boundaries of Dexter’s values and aspirations as he kills the other killer.

  • Season 4, Episode 4, “Dex Takes a Holiday
    • the killer:  Zoey Kruger (police officer, killed her husband and daughter)
  • Season 5, Episode 6, “Everything Is Illumenated” [sic]
    •  the victim/killer:  Lumen Pierce
  • Season 6, Episode 7, “Nebraska”
    • the killer:  Brian Moser, “the Ice Truck Killer”
  • Season 7, Episode 4, “Run”
    • the killer:  Ray Speltzer (forces victims to run through his torture maze)
  • Season 8, Episode 8, “Are We There yet?”
    • the killer:  young psychopath-in-training, Zach Hamilton

In the most darkly hilarious episode of Season Six, “Nebraska,” West has Dexter’s addiction talk to him in the form of his dead brother, Brian, a serial killer whom Dexter was forced to kill in Season One.

In this road-story plot, Brian is ravenous for junk food. In each scene he tries to persuade Dexter to kill freely–i.e., to dispense with Dexter’s code of only killing serial killers—all the while scarfing drippy, convenience store nachos and falling-apart, Dairy Queen cheese burgers. The motel side table strewn with the burger’s detritus is not only a sight gag (more than anything, ghosts miss eating), but also a way of reifying the character, and in turn dramatizing the power of Dexter’s addiction.

Later in the episode, rather than rushing to kill Jonah Mitchell, Dexter insists on working to verify Jonah’s guilt. This annoys brother Brian:

“Ugh, your code, again…”

“The code is more than that.  It’s kept me safe.  It’s given me a life–“

 “–A life that’s a big fat lie.”

Remember, this is Dexter’s addiction talking. If Brian can persuade Dexter that his life is “a big fat lie”–that his family relationships are merely a front to hide a serial killer in plain sight–then darkness wins.

But Dexter wants a real life, wants love and to be loved. This is the force of Dexter’s burgeoning humanity struggling against his addiction.  Dexter is a psychopath. Psychopaths are incapable of emotion. For Dexter to be the best serial killer he can be, he needs to be fearless, unattached, uncaring of those individuals he’s manipulating to be his camouflage.

What makes Dexter a tragic figure is he wants the lie to be real. He wants to be honest with his friends and family. He wants to be worthy of the trust he has falsely cultivated.

This is Dexter wanting his own undoing. Were any family or friend to know the truth, they would not only shrink back in fear. They would turn him in to the authorities. Plus, because Dexter truly cares for his friends and family, he is vulnerable to his enemies using them as leverage against him.

In the end Dexter spares Jonah, and Brian vanishes. West gives Dexter a closing monologue. He wonders “if darkness is defined by light. If so, darkness can’t exist on its own. There must, by definition, be light somewhere, waiting to be found.” Translated:  Dexter’s “Dark Passenger” (the nickname he’s given to his addiction) has a companion of its own–the light. Perhaps Dexter is not simply a monster. Perhaps he can nurture the light in him to overtake the darkness.

This is brilliant thematic writing. We so want Dexter to succeed.

The tragedy is that’s the same as wanting Kryptonite for Superman.

The Heartbleed Bug: How to Keep Your Passwords Safe

Entrepreneurship

lastpass logo

As an entrepreneur, one of your most important tasks is securing your financial information.  In the wake of the Heartbleed Bug, I’ve been fine-tuning my digital security. I’ve especially been fortifying my passwords.  I already use a password manager called LastPass, which I highly recommend.

Though I’ve used LastPass for several years, until Heartbleed, I wasn’t utilizing LastPass to its full potential. The latent Luddite in me was on the fence about fully entrusting my most sensitive accounts to any password manager. But this past couple of weeks has shown me how important it is (and that it truly is safe) to use LastPass for even my bank accounts, PayPal, and other highly sensitive sites.

I’d been using LastPass for dozens of less sensitive sites, while continuing to use easy to remember, “secret” passwords for my bank accounts and Paypal. Not smart. By “easy to remember,” I mean actual words whose significance I believed to be too personal to be deduced by strangers.

How foolish.  Today’s password-cracking software can test out tens or even hundreds of millions of possible passwords per second. Against such brute-force juggernauts, my poor, easy to remember passwords would last mere minutes, if that.

Enter LastPass. LastPass is widely considered the best password manager out there.  You have one master password to log in to the LastPass browser plug-in. Whenever you visit a web service, the plug-in logs you in securely.  As long as your master password is chosen well (i.e., long and complex), LastPass offers excellent security. There’s even a multi-factor authentication feature to make remote hacking virtually impossible.  (Multi-factor authentication is like Google Two-step Authentication, which, if you aren’t using yet, I also highly recommend.)

LastPass generates a different, completely random, character-string password for each of your online logins. Randomness is the key. Randomness actually resists brute-force attacks, unlike actual words. This is how to leverage a single master password while never using the same password for more than one site.

LastPass stores only 256-bit encrypted versions of passwords on its servers. That way, if their servers are ever hacked, the thief would have a monumental task of decrypting just one password, not to mention any others after that one.

Also, LastPass doesn’t store your master password.  Only you know your master password.  That’s how they thwart the potential “inside job” by an unscrupulous Lastpass employee. (Inside jobs are actually the most common form of security breach involving passwords.)

Plus, the LastPass plug-in only decrypts your passwords on your local machine; it never sends an unencrypted password across the Internet. All individual passwords remain encrypted until the moment you use them.

And even then when LastPass decrypts a password to log you in to a site, the password fill-in remains masked (just asterisks), in case a hacker is mirroring your screen. (By the way, your master password is masked when you use it to log into the LastPass plug-in.)

 

My First-ever Beer-industry Publication

Entrepreneurship, Food and Drink, Media, Wisconsin, Writing

screenshot - chocolate chili stouts

Big announcement. Da, da, DAAAAHHH!

I’ve recently published my first-ever piece of actual beer-industry writing. Please go have look!

Totally excited about Mobcraft, a real up-and-coming, two-year Madison brewery, ready to break ground on their $2 million facility.

I’ll be freelance blogging for them. This first post of mine is an article on chocolate chili pepper stouts, in advance of their newly-bottled beer No Stout About It.

My next piece for them will come out in the coming days. Stay tuned . . .