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Monday, September 08, 2008

FAR Future, Episode 50: Tightening Up

I seem to have hit my stride, at least for a while. The episode after this one is done, and the next one was done but I realized I needed something in between, so I’m rewriting those two. And from there, I see my way clear to The End.

Thursday, November 26, 2015
Tightening Up

Another Thanksgiving, another year under the boot of the junta. And another birthday on Thanksgiving Day for me. Woo-hoo!

Daughter Dearest finally made it home at the end of September. Travel is a burden, not a convenience, these days — at least here in Wingnutistan. The legitimate government and the illegitimate one, as a matter of expediency, have made Reno the official port of entry between the two… countries? regions? It’s not a bad move, security-wise — with electric power curtailed, much of the city has mostly been abandoned. They keep power mostly going to the train station, a hotel around the corner, and a few restaurants. DD said the Harrah’s, just a couple blocks from the train station, is also still going… mostly for blackjack and poker because card games don’t need any extra electricity. I guess they pour most of the power they get into keeping the temperature tolerable.

So coming from what the junta insists on calling Pacifica, you get grilled about why you’re coming in and they comb through all your luggage. I’m not sure whether her father being a known dissident had anything to do with that or not, but they eventually said “welcome home” and gave her back her tickets. She said it was a lot worse for people going the other way… they rake you over the coals and confiscate anything of value out of your luggage. But once they let her through, it was a long slog: Salt Lake City, Denver, Omaha, Kansas City. Then the southbound stretch through St. Louis, Memphis, Birmingham, and Atlanta. MARTA to North Springs, RoadTrain to the wheezing retail district, and finally the ride home (we used a car for this special occasion). It took her over a week longer than it should have to get here, but the junta likes to keep people waiting around until there’s enough people to mostly fill the trains, and there were several unscheduled layovers.

She brought a really nice present for me, something I’d heard about from Sammy but never thought I’d ever see: an Apple Gadget (“It’s your life, take it with you. Everywhere.”). It’s more or less an evolution of the iPhone, sporting the nifty screen/solar panel, voice recognition, and a portable office application. It looked battered; I asked her if the TSA goons played badminton with it. “No,” she said, “it’s made to look that way.” Then she gave me a list of screen gestures and pokes that, had it been any more involved, would have had me turning widdershins and typing gibberish under a full moon. But when I finished, the display said “Special Wingnutistan Edition,” and offered up a page of icons with a nice collection of encryption, communication, and (ahem) wardriving and cracking tools. Not a moment too soon, really… we’ve gotten notice that general Internet access is being shut down at the end of the year. “This measure is intended to conserve energy,” they assure us, “but caf├ęs and local libraries will continue to offer both their own Internet-enabled computers and wifi if you desire the privacy of your own laptop.” Sammy, of course, has a different take: the junta is trying to clamp down on the free flow of information, and it’s lots easier to monitor who’s doing what at a few chokepoints. They’ve probably been doing a lot of traffic sniffing at the phone companies all along, but with anonymizers and multicasting, it’s been fairly easy to cover one’s tracks up to now. Sammy had an accurate description of what was coming a couple of weeks before it rolled out: you use your library card to register your Internet access, so they know when you’re on and any funny business is easier to track. I’m trying to figure out how this will affect people who telework… I certainly can’t afford (let alone find) enough gas to commute again. Maybe there will be some kind of VPN-only arrangements.

Of course, there will always be certain parties who “need” access for their connections with the junta… and that’s where the Gadget’s “special features” help out. Sitting in front of someone’s house with a laptop looks suspicious, but sitting at a curb with a bicycle and yakking at a phone (especially with a handsfree device) is pretty routine these days. In Wingnutistan mode, the headset cable doubles as a wifi antenna, which extends its reach and is very handy for the “WarScanner” application — you take a leisurely bike ride down how many ever streets you want, with the Gadget in your pocket, and it populates a map with the devices it finds. It has a pretty extensive database of “vulns” (vulnerabilities) for a lot of the equipment here on the wrong side of the divide, which makes getting access a little easier. That turned out to not be such a big deal… at least one wingnut never set up a password on his hub. He might have set a trap, but there’s one place where a) there’s wifi; b) you can sit for hours without being particularly noticed, long enough to run the passive cracking tools. Yep, the library. I know they’re using a Dozebox for the server, and wifi access to the card catalog doesn’t require registration… chances are there’s a security hole I could run a RoadTrain through.

One of the other apps, “Life’s a Batch,” lets you specify in advance what you want to do online — with blogging getting email-based nowadays, that works really well for me — so if the library server can be cracked, I could write up a post and replies to other people beforehand, and let the whole thing run with the Gadget in my pocket while I’m reading something junta-approved or even checking out a book. I’m actually surprised that the local library continues to be a summer activity magnet in the face of junta indifference (at best) toward any kind of public space, so picking one person out of a crowd could be difficult even if they realize something’s amiss. So I just might survive The End Of The Internet As We Knew It.

We’ll be having the community Thanksgiving dinner shortly. It gets better every year, in some ways. We all pitch in all year to make sure everyone has food, and then we have a good old-fashioned food orgy to celebrate it. Nobody gives Guillermo or his family the stink-eye, and Maria makes the best chili… almost makes me look forward to winter. Kim and Christina will come out as a couple this year, and I hope everyone embarrasses the living foo out of them. Just because.



  1. Hey Far! I'm gonna just bawl if you end, "FAR Future"!!

    For one, I'd be scared shitless to travel under such a scenario, unless it was so bad where I was at to make it necessary... I'm glad DD made it home! Time for her to put on her work gloves! The vaction is over...I'll bet you're happy to get an extra field hand...

    I'm wondering now how you're going to conclude the story, it's getting very gloomy..As of now, you're questioning how you'll go about doing your job (with the internet going down and not being able to afford gas to commute to work...

    I'm not sure if I'll be that broken up by "The end of the internet, as we knew it." It takes up so much of my time.. Like it or not, it does supplement my income...

    Think this might be the last Community Thanksgiving? (even though, you're suggesting it's getting better every year, while making sure everyone has enough to eat throughout the year.)
    I suppose, by this time, making sure everyone has enough to eat only makes sense, as farming is pretty labor intensive....... Maybe nobody gives Guillermo and his family the "stink eye" anymore when they must toil side by side in the fields, eh?

    As for Kim and Christina, good thing they don't have a long distance relationship! Although, it could get that way soon, if you have a mind to it, eh, Far?

  2. Hey Yooper, no worries about the end; I've got a good 30 episodes to go, I think. Life goes on, and so does the story!

  3. Yooper:

    Remember, we're talking about gas becoming rarer and more expensive. Also, since we're talking about a dictatorship taking over here, I'm sure they'd prefer tightening things up to letting a "dodgy character (the main character here, according to the Junta) be able to tellecommute (never mind doing so unmolested).

  4. 30 episodes to go?!!

    You're going to put this all together in a book I hope. It would be great to have it all in one place.

  5. Hi godozo, welcome to the free-range insane asylum! The junta isn't really all that interested in me per se; I'm a pretty small fish in the grand order of things. If they wanted to put me away they could do it easily enough… but for all the bad things they are, they also have enough honor to cut me some slack because I inadvertently gave them a big boost at the Battle of Nickajack (ep's 26-31).

    Boran, yeah, when I get a little farther along I'm going to start rewriting it as a more traditional novel and pitch it. I'm also thinking about taking a trip back into Old Guy's (much darker) world.


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