Search Results: "schot"

11 January 2022

Russ Allbery: Review: Hench

Review: Hench, by Natalie Zina Walschots
Publisher: William Morrow
Copyright: September 2020
ISBN: 0-06-297859-4
Format: Kindle
Pages: 403
Anna Tromedlov is a hench, which means she does boring things for terrible people for money. Supervillains need a lot of labor to keep their bases and criminal organizations running, and they get that labor the same way everyone else does: through temporary agencies. Anna does spreadsheets, preferably from home on her couch. On-site work was terrifying and she tried to avoid it, but the lure of a long-term contract was too strong. The Electric Eel, despite being a creepy sleazeball, seemed to be a manageable problem. He needed some support at a press conference, which turns out to be code for being a diversity token in front of the camera, but all she should have to do is stand there. That's how Anna ends up holding the mind control device to the head of the mayor's kid when the superheroes attack, followed shortly by being thrown across the room by Supercollider. Left with a complex fracture of her leg that will take months to heal, a layoff notice and a fruit basket from Electric Eel's company, and a vaguely menacing hospital conversation with the police (including Supercollider in a transparent disguise) in which it's made clear to her that she is mistaken about Supercollider's hand-print on her thigh, Anna starts wondering just how much damage superheroes have done. The answer, when analyzed using the framework for natural disasters, is astonishingly high. Anna's resulting obsession with adding up the numbers leads to her starting a blog, the Injury Report, with a growing cult following. That, in turn, leads to a new job and a sponsor: the mysterious supervillain Leviathan. To review this book properly, I need to talk about Watchmen. One of the things that makes superheroes interesting culturally is the straightforwardness of their foundational appeal. The archetypal superhero story is an id story: an almost pure power fantasy aimed at teenage boys. Like other pulp mass media, they reflect the prevailing cultural myths of the era in which they're told. World War II superheroes are mostly all-American boy scouts who punch Nazis. 1960s superheroes are a more complex mix of outsider misfits with a moral code and sarcastic but earnestly ethical do-gooders. The superhero genre is vast, with numerous reinterpretations, deconstructions, and alternate perspectives, but its ur-story is a good versus evil struggle of individual action, in which exceptional people use their powers for good to defeat nefarious villains. Watchmen was not the first internal critique of the genre, but it was the one that everyone read in the 1980s and 1990s. It takes direct aim at that moral binary. The superheroes in Watchmen are not paragons of virtue (some of them are truly horrible people), and they have just as much messy entanglement with the world as the rest of us. It was superheroes re-imagined for the post-Vietnam, post-Watergate era, for the end of the Cold War when we were realizing how many lies about morality we had been told. But it still put superheroes and their struggles with morality at the center of the story. Hench is a superhero story for the modern neoliberal world of reality TV and power inequality in the way that Watchmen was a superhero story for the Iran-Contra era and the end of the Cold War. Whether our heroes have feet of clay is no longer a question. Today, a better question is whether the official heroes, the ones that are celebrated as triumphs of individual achievement, are anything but clay. Hench doesn't bother asking whether superheroes have fallen short of their ideal; that answer is obvious. What Hench asks instead is a question familiar to those living in a world full of televangelists, climate denialism, manipulative advertising, and Facebook: are superheroes anything more than a self-perpetuating scam? Has the good superheroes supposedly do ever outweighed the collateral damage? Do they care in the slightest about the people they're supposedly protecting? Or is the whole system of superheroes and supervillains a performance for an audience, one that chews up bystanders and spits them out mangled while delivering simplistic and unquestioned official morality? This sounds like a deeply cynical premise, but Hench is not a cynical book. It is cynical about superheroes, which is not the same thing. The brilliance of Walschots's approach is that Anna has a foot in both worlds. She works for a supervillain and, over the course of the book, gains access to real power within the world of superheroic battles. But she's also an ordinary person with ordinary problems: not enough money, rocky friendships, deep anger at the injustices of the world and the way people like her are discarded, and now a disability and PTSD. Walschots perfectly balances the tension between those worlds and maintains that tension straight to the end of the book. From the supervillain world, Anna draws support, resources, and a mission, but all of the hope, true morality, and heart of this book comes from the ordinary side. If you had the infrastructure of a supervillain at your disposal, what would you do with it? Anna's answer is to treat superheroes as a destructive force like climate change, and to do whatever she can to drive them out of the business and thus reduce their impact on the world. The tool she uses for that is psychological warfare: make them so miserable that they'll snap and do something too catastrophic to be covered up. And the raw material for that psychological warfare is data. That's the foot in the supervillain world. In descriptions of this book, her skills with data are often called her superpower. That's not exactly wrong, but the reason why she gains power and respect is only partly because of her data skills. Anna lives by the morality of the ordinary people world: you look out for your friends, you treat your co-workers with respect as long as they're not assholes, and you try to make life a bit better for the people around you. When Leviathan gives her the opportunity to put together a team, she finds people with skills she admires, funnels work to people who are good at it, and worries about the team dynamics. She treats the other ordinary employees of a supervillain as people, with lives and personalities and emotions and worth. She wins their respect. Then she uses their combined skills to destroy superhero lives. I was fascinated by the moral complexity in this book. Anna and her team do villainous things by the morality of the superheroic world (and, honestly, by the morality of most readers), including some things that result in people's deaths. By the end of the book, one could argue that Anna has been driven by revenge into becoming an unusual sort of supervillain. And yet, she treats the people around her so much better than either the heroes or the villains do. Anna is fiercely moral in all the ordinary person ways, and that leads directly to her becoming a villain in the superhero frame. Hench doesn't resolve that conflict; it just leaves it on the page for the reader to ponder. The best part about this book is that it's absurdly grabby, unpredictable, and full of narrative momentum. Walschots's pacing kept me up past midnight a couple of times and derailed other weekend plans so that I could keep reading. I had no idea where the plot was going even at the 80% mark. The ending is ambiguous and a bit uncomfortable, just like the morality throughout the book, but I liked it the more I thought about it. One caveat, unfortunately: Hench has some very graphic descriptions of violence and medical procedures, and there's an extended torture sequence with some incredibly gruesome body horror that I thought went on far too long and was unnecessary to the plot. If you're a bit squeamish like I am, there are some places where you'll want to skim, including one sequence that's annoyingly intermixed with important story developments. Otherwise, though, this is a truly excellent book. It has a memorable protagonist with a great first-person voice, an epic character arc of empowerment and revenge, a timely take on the superhero genre that uses it for sharp critique of neoliberal governance and reality TV morality, a fascinatingly ambiguous and unsettled moral stance, a gripping and unpredictable plot, and some thoroughly enjoyable competence porn. I had put off reading it because I was worried that it would be too cynical or dark, but apart from the unnecessary torture scene, it's not at all. Highly recommended. Rating: 9 out of 10

31 May 2021

Russ Allbery: Mostly preorder haul

Some books that I had preordered, plus various other things that I failed to resist. There was a whole wave of new book releases this spring, most of which I have not yet read (in part because of the detour to re-read and review the Chronicles of Narnia). Becky Chambers The Galaxy, and the Ground Within (sff)
Richard Ben Cramer What It Takes (nonfiction)
J.S. Dewes The Last Watch (sff)
Anand Giridharadas Winners Take All (nonfiction)
Lauren Hough Leaving Isn't the Hardest Thing (nonfiction)
S.L. Huang Burning Roses (sff)
Jane McAlevey A Collective Bargain (nonfiction)
K.B. Spangler Stoneskin (sff)
K.B. Spangler The Blackwing War (sff)
Natalie Zina Walschots Hench (sff)
Martha Wells Fugitive Telemetry (sff)

31 May 2016

Chris Lamb: Free software activities in May 2016

Here is my monthly update covering a large part of what I have been doing in the free software world (previously):
Debian My work in the Reproducible Builds project was covered in our weekly reports. (#53, #54, #55, #56 & #57)
Debian LTS

This month I have been paid to work 18 hours on Debian Long Term Support (LTS). In that time I did the following:
  • A week of "frontdesk" duties, triaging CVEs, assigning tasks, etc.
  • Issued DLA 464-1 for libav, a multimedia player, server, encoder and transcoder library that fixed a use-after free vulnerability.
  • Issued DLA 469-1 for libgwenhywfar (an OS abstraction layer that allows porting of software to different operating systems like Linux, *BSD, Windows, etc.) correcting the use of an outdated CA certificate bundle.
  • Issued DLA 470-1 for libksba, a X.509 and CMS certificate support library. patching a buffer vulnerability.
  • Issued DLA 474-1 for dosfstools, a collection of utilities for making and checking MS-DOS FAT filesystems, fixing an invalid memory and heap overflow vulnerability.
  • Issued DLA 482-1 for libgd2 graphics library, rectifying a stack consumption vulnerability.

  • python-django (1.9.6-1) New upstream bugfix release.
  • redis (3.2.0-1, etc.) New upstream release, correct build on more exotic architectures and minor packaging fixups.
  • gunicorn (19.5.0-1 & 19.6.0-1) New upstream releases and minor packaging fixups.

11 April 2016

Peter Eisentraut: Some git log tweaks

Here are some tweaks to git log that I have found useful. It might depend on the workflow of individual projects how applicable this is. Git stores separate author and committer information for each commit. How these are generated and updated is sometimes mysterious but generally makes sense. For example, if you cherry-pick a commit to a different branch, the author information stays the same but the committer information is updated. git log defaults to showing the author information. But I generally care less about that than the committer information, because I m usually interested in when the commit arrived in my or the public repository, not when it was initially thought about. So let s try to change the default git log format to show the committer information instead. Again, depending on the project and the workflow, there can be other preferences. To create a different default format for git log, first create a new format by setting the Git configuration item pretty.somename. I chose pretty.cmedium because it s almost the same as the default medium but with the author information replaced by the committer information.
cmedium="format:%C(auto,yellow)commit %H%C(auto,reset)%nCommit:     %cn <%ce>%nCommitDate: %cd%n%n%w(0,4,4)%s%n%+b"
Unfortunately, the default git log formats are not defined in terms of these placeholders but are hardcoded in the source, so this is my best reconstruction using the available means. You can use this as git log --pretty=cmedium, and you can set this as the default using
If you find this useful and you re the sort of person who is more interested in their own timeline than the author s history, you might also like two more tweaks. First, add %cr for relative date, so it looks like
cmedium="format:%C(auto,yellow)commit %H%C(auto,reset)%nCommit:     %cn <%ce>%nCommitDate: %cd (%cr)%n%n%w(0,4,4)%s%n%+b"
This adds a relative designation like 2 days ago to the commit date. Second, set
to have all timestamps converted to your local time. When you put all this together, you turn this
commit e2c117a28f767c9756d2d620929b37651dbe43d1
Author: Paul Eggert <>
Date:   Tue Apr 5 08:16:01 2016 -0700
into this
commit e2c117a28f767c9756d2d620929b37651dbe43d1
Commit:     Paul Eggert <>
CommitDate: Tue Apr 5 11:16:01 2016 (3 days ago)
PS: If this is lame, there is always this:

28 January 2012

Bartosz Fe&#324;ski: dibbler 0.8.1

Can t believe its almost 7 years since my first sponsored upload of Dibbler to Debian archive. I did it cause upstream promised to maintain it and fix any bugs submitted by Debian users. Unfortunately after 3-4 years he stopped to do it. Well since I was the sponsor of it, then I should feel responsible for these packages after him. It s quite hard to do it, cause I m not using these packages at all ;) Anyway, I finally found some time and reviewed them. It wasn t easy cause in the meantime whole build process totally changed. To whom it may concern: Dibbler is an IPv6 DHCP client, relay and server. I ve just uploaded the newest upstream version. Changelog follows: dibbler (0.8.1-1) unstable; urgency=low * ACK previous NMUes thanks!
* New upstream version (Closes: #629685)
uses correct example adsress pool in examples (Closes: #544323)
corrects scope of stateless in manpage (Closes: #615165)
* Fix pending l10n issues. Debconf translations:
Danish courtesy of Joe Hansen (Closes: #597767)
Dutch courtesy of Jeroen Schot (Closes: #632628)
* Fixes handling of children processes using resolvconf (Closes: #627317)
* Doesn t conflict with other resolver configuration daemons (Closes: #627786)
* Correctly handles multiselect values from debconf (Closes: #629681)
* Debianized almost from scratch, uses new source format.
* New Standards-Version (no changes needed). Bartosz Fenski <fenio> Fri, 27 Jan 2012 14:37:13 +0100 Yep, it fixes 8 bugs, and brings the newest upstream version with huge number of new features to Debian. Enjoy!

18 January 2012

Christian Perrier: Zou....Italian (and Danish, and Dutch....) take off!

The increasing storm of localization NMUs and uploads, related to debconf translations, has an interesting effect: some teams are now incredibly active at pushing translations for their language towards the magic 100%. So, after Danish (effort lead by Joe Hansen) and Dutch (effort lead by Jeroen Schot) which I already mentioned, it seems that the Italian localization team started engines and is now taking off. It will be interesting to watch these teams competing (in a friendly way) to climb in statistics over next months..:-) So, if you're Italian (or speak it well) and want to help, please join the Italian l10n mailing list (debian-l10n-italian on If you're Danish or Dutch and want to stay ahread the two others, please joind debian-l10n-danish or debian-l10n-dutch. PS: why did I write "Zou" in this post's title? Because this is a common French interjection for "Whoooosh" and because this is part of the nickname of the tireless and incredibly active, in many places, Francesca Ciceri, aka MadameZou, who's is doing so much for Italian localization (and many other areas in Debian such as the publicity and web team). And that really deserves some lights, trumpets, etc.

7 January 2012

Christian Perrier: Towards 100% in wheezy for debconf translations

This article could become one of my recurring "let's make noise about translators work" articles. You've been warned. In Squeeze, a few languages reached full completion of debconf strings, those "questions" that are asked during packages installation or upgrades. This can be followed here (for unstable: we don't have an online status page for testing).. Many of you, particularly those who aren't bored at reading me, know that I like pushing this friendly "competition" as a good way to encourage progress in localization of that part of Debian. As of now, we have really good and active teams that are able to maintain a great completion in this. Several of them are likely to reach full 100% completion for wheezy. Let's look at the current status: I hope this maybe gave you the idea of joining these efforts. Please pop up on one of the i18n mailing lists if you're interested, and if you don't know where to start, then debian-i18n< is what you're looking for. See you soon!

26 September 2011

Benjamin Mako Hill: Science as Dance

The following selected bibliography showcases only a small portion of the academics who have demonstrated that while it may take two to tango, it only takes one to give a scholarly paper a silly cliche title:
Briganti, G. 2006. It Takes Two to Tango-The CH-53K is arguably the first serious US attempt to open the defense cooperation NATO has been seeking. Rotor and Wing 40(7):60 63.
Coehran, J. 2006. It Takes Two to Tango: Problems with Community Property Ownership of Copyrights and Patents in Texas. Baylor L. Rev. 58:407.
Diamond, M.J. 1984. It takes two to tango: Some thoughts on the neglected importance of the hypnotist in an interactive hypnotherapeutic relationship. American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis 27(1):3 13.
Kraack, A. 1999. It takes two to tango: The place of women in the construction of hegemonic masculinity in a student pub. Masculinities in Aotearoa/New Zealand 153 165.
Lackey, J. 2006. It takes two to tango: beyond reductionism and non-reductionism in the epistemology of testimony. The Epistemology of testimony 160 89.
Miller, C.A. 1998. It takes two to tango: understanding and acquiring symmetrical verbs. Journal of psycholinguistic research 27(3):385 411.
Modiano, N. 1984. It Takes Two to Tango, or Transmission is a Two-Way Street. Anthropology & Education Quarterly 15(4):326 330.
Ott, M.A. 2008. It Takes Two to Tango: Ethical Issues Raised by the Study of Topical Microbicides with Adolescent Dyads. The Journal of adolescent health: official publication of the Society for Adolescent Medicine 42(6):541.
Rubenstein, J.H. 2009. It takes two to tango: dance steps for diagnosing Barrett s esophagus. Respiratory Care Clinics of North America 69(6):1011 1013.
Settersten Jr, R.A. 2009. It takes two to tango: the (un) easy dance between life-course sociology and life-span psychology. Advances in Life Course Research 14(1-2):74 81.
Skaerbaek, E. 2004. It takes two to tango on knowledge production and intersubjectivity. NORA: Nordic Journal of Women's Studies 12(2):93 101.
Spencer, M. 2005. It takes two to tango. Journal of Business Strategy 26(5):62 68.
Vanaerschot, G. 2004. It Takes Two to Tango: On Empathy With Fragile Processes. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training 41(2):112.
Viskochil, D.H. 2003. It takes two to tango: mast cell and Schwann cell interactions in neurofibromas. Journal of Clinical Investigation 112(12):1791 1792.
Weiner, A. 2001. It Takes Two to Tango:: Information, Metabolism, and the Origins of Life. Cell 105(3):307 308.
Wittman, M.L. 1990. It Takes Two to Tango: Your Simplistic System for Self-survival. Witmark Pub. Co.
There are also a few hundred groups who have demonstrated that larger groups can so as well.

11 December 2007

Adrian von Bidder: Handbook of Applied Cryptography: Free Download

The Handbook of Applied Cryptography (Menezes, Oorschot, Vanstone; 2001) is now available as a free (as in beer) download. It's from 2001, so it wouldn't include all the latest stuff like MD5 being broken and SHA1 being slowly weakened, also estimates on how long a computer takes to break DES will be seriously outdated, but the fundamentals haven't changed. I haven't had the chance to read it yet, but I guess now's the time to close that gap.