Apr. 23rd, 2014 11:41 am
pseudomonas: Dragon from BL manuscript of C14 French Ḥumash (Default)
[personal profile] pseudomonas
It has been pointed out that today is not ecclesiastically speaking St George's day. The dragon breathes easier.

dragon safely in mug of tea

Attempting a return

Apr. 23rd, 2014 01:10 am
sci_starborne: Sign of the Fox (Default)
[personal profile] sci_starborne
I should start using these journals again.

Social media digests no longer repost here, as the plugins I used are now broken. And resetting them currently tries to repost my entire 35k Twitter history in one go. More importantly though, when I made the paranoid choice years ago to stop using my journals for personal things I removed the driving force for using them at all. I lost my primary outlet, and the friends I had were not using the other channels I had somehow expected they would. I cut myself off.

Things have not been going so well. The last few months in particular. I hit a sort of breaking-point regarding my personal identity and business stuff.

Firstly, "the business" isn't earning me anything. At best, it pays for itself. And I've gotten into the harmful mindset that if something isn't working, it means I haven't been sacrificing enough.
The business is broken, and it's taken me breaking too to realise it.

That I've mentioned it first is also a symptom of the other problem. I am utterly conflated with it. I am no longer a person, but an amblatory state of self-employment. It's all people ask me about, and all I am able to talk about. I have in a very fundemental way lost myself.

Since this realisation, I've thankfully had support from a few people who've previously been distant enough not to be pushed away by my change into this, but been close enough to remind me of who I used to be.

I have a little money in the bank right now. Only a couple of hundred, but no debts. It's enough to float along and take advantage of a few cheap train fares. Get myself social again.

I've closed to new orders while I work out how to handle the business stuff. Closing up entirely is an option, but I'd rather not let all the skills, equipment and good-will I've accumulated go to waste.

Primarily though I'm trying to clear-decks. Clear everything off my to-do lists. I've accumulated far too many things that are weighing me down in a swamp of incompletion, sapping any momments of free time into a state of "I should do that rather than waste time relaxing".

And relaxing is what I'm trying to do. I'm letting myself play games, go out, see people, just chat. I hope I might even find the will to read, write and draw again too. Reminding myself of my prior strengths has helped me lay a mental path of where I want to find my way back to, if back is really the word.

When I said I was lost, this is what I meant. I'm trying to remember the person I was, and get back to that sort of person. Maybe stronger, better, if I can.

I'm exhausted a lot right now. I can currently manage 3-4 tasks a day before I'm spent. Things are improving a little though.

I'll try to update with my current plans soon.
silentq: (post via email)
[personal profile] silentq
Last week I got a bit blind sided by the Boston marathon bombing anniversary stuff - I was expecting to ostrich away from it on Patriot's Day but lots of places were doing memorials on the calendar date.

I went to see a 2 bedroom apartment in Watertown on Saturday, Read more... )

Grocery and supper making then over to [ profile] photiq's to join in on a viewing of the first Captain America film, and then got talked into going out with the group for dinner despite not planning to join them for the second movie. [ profile] thelittlebeasts and I lingered over our huge margaritas and then walked over to Church to grab dessert. By the time I biked home, it ended up being a 19+ mile day.

Sunday morning I did a Tough Mudder training run, [ profile] couplingchaos and [ profile] cris were able to join me. I'm very very very happy that I'm seeing progress on the monkey bars, by the time Spartan rolls around I may be able to do them. :-) The route was about 4.5 miles, we took 1.5 hours with lots of playground stops.

Then home to do my obstacle course training specific workout so that I didn't skip it (the day's prescription was the strengthy workout plus a three mile run with burpees - I did the burpees during the morning run). I did it while simmering some chicken and rice, scarfed that down and then rode out to Arlington to watch some Doctor Who with [ profile] dali_muse. On Demand had taken out the new ones I was missing, so we watched "The Pyramids of Mars" episodes with the 4th Doctor and Sara Jane Smith. No idea how I never watched Doctor Who as a kid, I was always watching British comedies on the Ontario public tv station but have no memory of being interested in Doctor Who. It was neat finally watching the iconic Tom Baker.

Monday I worked from home, since I still live and work on opposite sides of the marathon route. PJs all day, and a good sleep in the morning, it was great. I got a delivery in the afternoon from REI, they'd mixed up the orders from me and a guy who wanted a mini leatherman. I called and they said to keep it if I'd appreciate and use it (yes!) and they'd send me my Grand Teton hiking guide ASAP. After wrapping up work, I just had time to re-mohawk myself, using an instructable that showed how to use a strip of tape as a template - it worked fairly well! I completely spaced and thought I had a meet up that night instead of tonight and biked into Harvard Sq. Since I was there already once I figured out my error, I gave into a cheese craving and had the plate at Harvest (expensive but good, need to plot out another wine and cheese crawl). And then since I was out and had my comfy stompy boots on, I headed over to Ceremony for THUD and bounced around for a while to some good industrial music (had to ask at the bar for ear plugs though). I'm already seeing results from doing more running, I can dance longer without getting winded. It's tempting to make this pre-Convergence week all about local clubbing, Allure is Wednesday, but I do have to pack at some point... plus I did *not* sleep well last night. I woke up to something falling over at 2am (the bathroom window hasn't been sealed correctly since they repainted it, I think the wind blew over something that often falls on it's own), then again at 5:45am when my neighbour's radio woke me up (I suspect they had their window open). I moved to the living room and finally fell asleep again on my big bean bag chair. Woke up feeling like crap when my alarm finally went off, but did a workout this morning anyway, since I have another one on the calendar for tonight (two short ones today). I also just realised that I have a DVD due back while I'll be in Chicago this weekend (can't renew it, and the library also seems to have lost my most recent reading history after yesterday's service interruption).

Got the long awaited notice that Porter Airlines is having a seat sale for when I need to go in August for the Toronto Tough Mudder, grabbed it today and will pay for it out of my travel fund if necessary since the Convergence hotel will also be on this month's bill (the Porter flight was at least $150 cheaper than the last one I bought). And now my flights are locked in until I need to sort out Halloween in NOLA, so that's a relief. Kind of jealous of a friend who's looking at a last minute trip to NZ, but keeping hold of the fact that I should get to go next year.

Oh, and I also grabbed tickets to see Eddie Izzard here in Boston, as well as for a Tom Waits burlesque night (to Rain Dogs), and yet another showing of Speakeasy Circus. I'm also looking at two or three concerts, tickets are < $20 so probably worth going. Er, though I should double check the VNV Nation prices and if I can get them at the venue, TicketMaster fees are, as usual, nuts. And there's a Boston Pops live music score of Wizard of Oz that's super tempting as well... Though first I need to fill in my calendar with details for this weekend, and decide if I need a CTA pass or not (the Thursday pre party isn't in walking distance of the hotel, so I'm waffling on it). Will definitely get a fun shuttle pass though, and look at taxi sharing for alternate venues. Hopefully I can make the group run on Saturday too, I'll be bringing workout gear to use the hotel gym if nothing else.

nancylebov: (green leaves)
[personal profile] nancylebov
Any recommendations for a detailed hand-holding set of information?

I've got putty, but it times out in about 30 seconds.
nancylebov: (green leaves)
[personal profile] nancylebov
The Singing-Woman From The Wood's Edge

What should I be but a prophet and a liar,
Whose mother was a leprechaun, whose father was a friar?
Teethed on a crucifix and cradled under water,
What should I be but the fiend's god-daughter?
Read more... )
With him for a sire and her for a dam,
What should I be but just what I am?

--Edna St. Vincent Millay

Poem quoted by [ profile] browngirl

And a few posts later, [ profile] graydon quoted:

Thinking about the vices has, indeed, the effect of showing precisely to what extent ours is a culture of many subcultures, of layer upon layer of ancient religious and class rituals, ethnic inheritances of sensibility and manners, and ideological residues whose original purpose has by now been utterly forgotten. With this in view, liberal democracy becomes more of a recipe for survival than a project for the perfectibility of mankind.

- Judith N. Shklar, Ordinary Vices

2014 - #36 ,"", Holly Black

Apr. 22nd, 2014 05:49 pm
vatine: books-related stuff (books)
[personal profile] vatine
Previously unread

YA urban fantasy, I think. I can't say much about it without giving it all away, but there are things happening, consequences and assorted stuff like that. On the whole, I approve.

"It would not be logical"

Apr. 22nd, 2014 12:13 pm
rosefox: A Victorian woman glares and says "Fuck's sake, what a cock"; someone out of the frame says "mm". (angry)
[personal profile] rosefox
Recently I read yet another book where the character I most identify with ended up sad and alone after the death of her beloved partner. Reader, I am fucking done with these books. DONE. Done done done.

If you nodded along to Ferrett's post about how the "logic" underpinning all-white and all-male award nomination lists is suspect, then nod along to this. Every time a lesbian dies, every time a wife is widowed, every time a mother grieves the death of her child, every time rape is used to define a woman's character, it serves the story that the author wanted to tell--the story the author chose to tell. And I am no longer content with "it makes sense in the context of the story" as an explanation or an excuse. That "logic" is just as suspect.


Tell stories where it doesn't make sense for her husband or wife to die. Tell stories where her child dying is unfathomable. Tell stories where women live happy fulfilling lives. Tell stories where women find love and don't lose it again. Tell stories where women and their bodies aren't treated like objects.

Tell stories where women are happy, where a woman's happiness makes sense in the context of the story, where a woman's happiness serves the story, where a woman's happiness is integral to the plot. Tell stories where women's hearts and minds and bodies and families and vocations are healthy, and treated with respect by other people.

Tell stories where women are happy.

This should not be such an outrageous suggestion. But take a look at recent SF/F, at the books that get awards, at the books that get talked about, and it is entirely and utterly radical.

Tell stories where women are happy. I dare you. And I'm begging you, please. I can't handle any more unhappy women. I can't. It's why I read romance more than SF/F these days. I don't identify as a woman anymore, but that doesn't stop me from identifying with women, and they are all so sad and I can't do it. Stop showing me how tough and realistic your grimdark is by making the women as miserable as the men. Stop showing me how exciting and dangerous your space adventure is by putting the women through as many trials as the men. I believe you, okay? It's tough and realistic, it's exciting and dangerous, I believe you, you can stop now.

It will be hard the first few times, because it's so alien, this notion of women's happiness. But you'll get used to it, once you can adjust your ideas of what's "logical".

Tell stories where women are happy. Go on. Give it a try.

One swallow does not...

Apr. 22nd, 2014 04:20 pm
flick: (Default)
[personal profile] flick

We're less sure on the meaning of this little chap, though. Best guess is that he's had to stop and have a rest, as walking with only one leg is tricky!

As we were about to go for our walk, Mike reported that GB was lying down in the field, which he very rarely does. He was still lying down, watching the world go by, when we started up the hill. "He probably didn't like the idea of lying in a wet bed overnight and is just having a nap. As long as he's not flat out on the floor, I'm not worried," I said, as he flopped over and lay flat on the floor....

(He was up and wandering around again by the time we got back, though!)


Apr. 22nd, 2014 12:09 pm
flick: (Default)
[personal profile] flick
We have Eastercon'd, and now we are home.

There was a deal on Business Parking at Heathrow, so we got to use the Pods. Very cool, if deadly:

We had a nice time at the con, though, even with the frequent outbreaks of smoffing, and there was barely *any* drama at all, which was just peculiar.

Glasgow was bizarrely warm and sunny all weekend. It was terribly disconcerting, especially in the period of time before we'd figure out how to work the Newsletter Office AC. It was only as we came home that this started to happen:

and it was raining by the time we got off the plane. Still, good for the grass....

Jodie was very pleased to see us, which was nice. The sitters seem to have had a lovely time with her and the boys, and were very pleased that we'd marked the good wildflower patches on their map. On the down side, GB's (and, to a lesser extent, Baby's) feet were full of bloody rocks gravel (they're obviously not used to barefoot horses, which wasn't an issue last time as they didn't take them hacking), and GB's bed was nasty where he'd kicked dry stuff over his wet patches and they'd not seen them. We'll have to have a couple of little demonstrations next time they come, in August. Plus, with both written and verbal instructions about which rugs to use, they had them both wrapped up too warm overnight. And who knows what possible reason they had for using GB's warm raincoat....

"Dona nobis pacem"

Apr. 22nd, 2014 03:54 am
rosefox: A needle drawing thread that forms the word "Love". (family)
[personal profile] rosefox
Today was a lot better than yesterday. X fought off gluten-poisoning to meet me after work and brave the perfumed chaos of BB&B, and we got curtains and curtain rods and various other useful things. We took a cab over to the new apartment and installed curtains and were happy.

I got some hooks that hang off of cabinet doors (super useful!) and while I was figuring out which doors to put them on, I realized that I hadn't yet had a chance to ask X the all-important question of "which drawer do you assume the silverware is in?".

R: Hey, I have a question for you that I asked Josh already.
X: Yes, I will marry you.
R: *stammers and blushes and grins like a fool for several minutes*

We held each other in our new kitchen and it felt like home, our home, our family home.

And then I asked about the silverware drawer and we both felt (as J had) that it should be one of the middle ones because towels go nearest the sink and cooking utensils go nearest the stove. We all tend to be very in tune around things like that. It makes things so lovely and easy.

Later on, as we were walking back to the old place from the subway:

X: Huh, there was something I was going to ask you...
R: Yes, I will marry you.
X: Well, FINALLY. I've been waiting for ages!

And there you have the difference between the two of us. :) But it's just a different kind of in tune, really. Sappiness and silliness, melody and harmony.

Just five more days.

"Fezzik, you did something right."

Apr. 22nd, 2014 01:06 am
rosefox: A giant X and the word "IRRITANT". (annoyed)
[personal profile] rosefox
Fun things, Apr 17: idea, that was a million years ago
Apr 18: went by the new place after therping and immediately felt less stressed
Apr 19: packing party! and then dinner with J, and another trip to the new place, and watching The Princess Bride with X
Apr 20: another nice dinner out with J, and companionable packing with X
Apr 21: X and I got curtains and other things at BB&B and installed them (except the shower curtain rings, which are too big for the grommets on our shower curtain)

Yes, all the joy in my life right now comes from packing and interior decorating. This will be true for another few weeks at least.

Media log:

33) The Princess Bride. (Movie.) Rewatch, of course. It remains brilliant, but I kept thinking "This scene is better in the book!" and now I want to reread the book. Cary Elwes is so young. I continue to ship Humperdink/Rugen like whoa.

I mean, what is there to say about it, really? We've all seen it a billion times. It's one of the wittiest and most quotable scripts ever written, Wesley castigating Buttercup for marrying someone else after she thought he was dead is kind of tiresome (especially given all his later assertions about true love--if it's Meant to Be and all that, why did he ever doubt her?) but over quickly, the acting is phenomenal even if Mandy Patinkin's broad Spanish accent is cringeworthy these days, and I will always love the fencing scene to tiny little itty bitty pieces. I appreciate Andre the Giant more than ever--his Fezzik is such a wonderful portrayal of a man who's not nearly as short on brains as everyone else thinks he is, and is more bighearted and noble than anyone else imagines, a perfect paladin minus the armor--and Wallace Shawn is incomparable. Carol Kane and Billy Crystal are so splendid that you barely stop to wonder how a couple of Brooklyn Jews ended up working miracles and eating MLTs in Florin. They're all marvelous.

Except, oddly, Robin Wright, who is wooden and one-note throughout. But she's given far less to work with than anyone else in the film; Buttercup really is the dolt that Fezzik is supposed to be, with no redeeming qualities except for her perfect breasts. Note that literally none of the famous quotable lines are hers. She's the straight man for Wesley's wisecracks, and then she sets him up to die away from her because she can't bear him dying in front of her. Inigo immediately knows that the cry of ultimate suffering is Wesley's; Buttercup is baffled by it. Her one shining moment is "You never sent those ships", and that realization is so completely belated that all I could do was roll my eyes. I'm surprised Fezzik remembered to steal a horse for her, given that she's more of a quest object than a person.

Oh well. All the men and Carol Kane are great, anyway.

One intriguing side effect of spending so much time doing literary criticism is that I was totally fascinated by the grandson arguing with the book whenever it diverged from his culturally mediated expectations of a fairy tale. "You got that wrong, grandpa!" He hates "kissing books" but he knows enough about romance conventions to know that Wesley has to get the girl and Humperdink has to die (and he's so mad when his grandfather tells him that Humperdink lives--that's not how it's done!). It's a fascinating little study on how quickly and thoroughly children absorb the tropes we feed them, and it helps to make up for the movie being more of a fawning homage to cliché than a sneaky send-up.

Verdict: The book is better. (Not least because it is much more of a sneaky send-up, including the greatly superior ending.) But the movie is still great.

For FutureKid: share, tolerate, discourage? I expect we'll wear out the DVD. I plan to read them the book, too. Including the descriptions of the boring parts.

34) My Real Children by Jo Walton. (Book.) NOTE: The following contains spoilers, and also a major spoiler for the Small Change books (Farthing/Ha'Penny/Half a Crown). If you don't want those, stop reading now.

Spoilers ahoy )

Verdict: Annoying verging on upsetting.

For FutureKid: share, tolerate, discourage? Tolerate. It's not inherently offensive or objectionable. It's just not in any way my thing.

So I threw myself on the grenade....

Apr. 21st, 2014 01:37 pm
nancylebov: (green leaves)
[personal profile] nancylebov
....and it turned out to be more like a lumpy sofa cushion.

In other words, I read Opera Vita Aeterna by Vox Day. It is bad, but not especially evil. However, it's so bad that it makes me wonder about God. Surely, Someone who's so reliably good at sunsets could do better. He is not living up to His potential. He must like bad fiction even more than he likes beetles.

I would have said that it was not of commercial quality, but it was published by Marcher Lord Hinterlands, and for all I know, they pay royalties. Jeff Gerke, the editor, has some backstory about the publishing of Day's A Throne of Bones, and he seems to be literate. I get the impression that Day is much better than most of what he receives. I don't know how someone who can write normal sentences and paragraphs could stand OVA.

On the other hand, there are literate people who like Dan Brown, so there are types of mental flexibility I don't share.

The most obvious thing about OVA (aside from that it's D&D fic and enthusiastic about Catholicism) is the utter clumsiness of the expository details.
The cold autumn day was slowly drawing to a close. The pallid sun was descending, its ineffective rays no longer sufficient to hold it up in the sky or to penetrate the northern winds that gathered strength with the whispering promise of the incipient dark. The first of the two moons was already visible high above the mountains. Soon Arbhadis, Night’s Mistress, would unveil herself as well.

Aside from the unspeakably bad science about the sun's rays holding it up, how many times does he have to tell me it's cold? Why does he only give the name of the moon that isn't up yet? What does the moon that is up look like?

The amount of repetition and the poor choice of details.... the story could be improved by cutting about a quarter of it, I think, but that wouldn't improve it enough.

Actually, "story" is too strong a word, or at least I couldn't find a point to the end of it. After all that about souls, immortality is achieved through making a wonderful thing? In a world where (there's a long discussion about this) nothing lasts?

And I think there's a simple solution to the problem raised in that discussion, though I may be missing something. Couldn't you have incorruptible things in a corruptible world if the incorruptible things came in from somewhere else?

I count my blessings. I note that Vox Day is an awful person. The world would be a worse place if he were a good writer.

To keep this post from only being about something that sucks, would anyone care to recommend their favorite Catholic sf? Favorite D&D fiction?

I'll start off with The Interior Life by Dorothy Heydt. Past Master by R.A. Lafferty, and Descent into Hell by Charles Williams. I'm not counting LOTR because Catholicism is off-stage and the Catholic ideas are pretty subtle, and I'm not counting A Case of Conscience because I didn't get the impression the author especially liked Catholicism.

D&D: Paksennarion by Elizabeth Moon, Goblin Quest by Jim Hines, Villains by Necessity by Eve Forward.

I wish it were possible to vote for No Award several times so that OVA could be below all of them.
vatine: books-related stuff (books)
[personal profile] vatine
Previously unread.

A short story collection, trying to determine, once and forever, which are the better mythical entities, zombies or unicorns. There are multiple shorts, trying to make the point one way or another. The answer is, of course either "neither" or "both". Personally I am rather over the whole "zombie" thing and think unicorns are sneaky, totalitarian stomp-machines secretly trying to kill us all. So, nah, neither is my preferred mythical entity.

On the other hand, the collection is pretty good reading. So, if you care about the whole debate, one way or another, or if you don't, it may be worth picking this up.

"I don't even give a care"

Apr. 21st, 2014 02:07 am
rosefox: A cheerful sun telling an anxious cartoon figure, "Better hurry up! Now we're LATE." (stress)
[personal profile] rosefox

Tea and Daniel and Stacy C. came over and packed a ton of book boxes, because they are marvelous people, and now the "how will we pack everything?!" stress is gone because we can clearly pack everything that's left with minimal trouble, but instead there's all the stress of being surrounded by boxes and chaos and tiny ants (we have a bonus! infestation thanks to a hole in the baseboard that we don't have time to patch). I hate it all so much.

This apartment was never really home, not like our place in Inwood was. We always knew it would be temporary, so we overlooked or put up with a lot of things, and now all the cumulative impatience and dissatisfaction is crushing. The physical disarray of moving is crushing. The anxiety--what's going to break? what will we lose? how far will we fall behind our schedule? how much is this all costing us?--is crushing. We're all struggling a lot. I suppose later on I'll be able to look back with intellectual curiosity at the different ways our various neuroses manifest under this sort of pressure, but right now we're all at the emotional level of your average underslept five-year-old and it's kind of awful.

I'm just so glad that no matter how defensive or agitated or scared or sullen or cranky we get, we don't get mean. We're never cruel. We gripe but don't snipe. Some days that's all that saves us.

Today X and I got into a stupid verbal spiral and couldn't pull ourselves out of it, and then J knocked to ask about dinner plans, and we were so happy to be interrupted! We were utterly hating the conversation we were having and didn't want to be having it and couldn't figure out how to stop, and being jarred out of it was a huge relief. It was actually very heartening how glad we were to pull him into the room and talk about dinner and hug one another and let all the rest of it go. We were so eager to stop making one another unhappy. Everything was better after that. Not 100% better, but better.

The stress is making me slightly dizzy all the time. It's not vertigo. I know it's not because whenever I go over to the new place I magically feel better. I'm just lightheaded. But of course I keep checking to see whether it's vertigo.

Tonight I burst into tears and sobbed on X's shoulder, wailing, "I'm homesick! I want to go home!" But by this time next week I will be home, or at least in a place that we can make into a home instead of a place that we're dismantling. And then I hope we will stay there for many many many MANY years. Ideally without any ants.

Easter, North Korea, and more

Apr. 21st, 2014 02:17 pm
tcpip: (Default)
[personal profile] tcpip
Every year a common image meme appears declaring that Easter is somehow related to Ishtar. This is demonstrably untrue. Easter is named after the month and the Germanic pagan goddess Ēostre, Easter eggs (a particularly Christian symbol) date from at least the 17th century, and the rabbit the carrier of the eggs. So whilst I grimaced somewhet when the speaker at the Unitarian service started the address by mentioning the Ishtar myth, I was pleased that the reading included a selection from an excellent humanist interpretation of the Christian Easter myth: Good Friday is for every good-hearted person who has ever been tortured or murdered or beaten down by the relentless forces of human oppression.

Saturday night's Isocracy meeting at Trades Hall could have had a better turnout, punished by both the Comedy Festival and tramworks leading to a parking disaster. Nevertheless Nick Langdon gave one of the most scholarly and nuanced accounts of human rights and international relations in North Korea, noting in particular how the regime exists on a cult-like propaganda machine (which is why sanctions and economic punishment is ineffectual and indeed, counter-productive). Importantly, Nick pointed out that the North Korean system is incapable of reform, only collapse. Which does raise, of course, the question of what comes afterwards. In all probability it would be a South Korean takeover of some sort which would lead to the uncomfortable situation of US troops on the Chinese border. In my opinion any sort of reunification in order to be successful would also require a substantial demilitarisation of the penisula, and, especially in a transition to social and liberal democratic governance, an expansion in the South Korean welfare system - which is difficult given the GDP etc differences between the two countries.

In other activities ran a session of Pendragon on Thursday night which concluded with contacting the Ten Saints of Britain who are now reciting a common prayer for a year to end the Waste Land. Sunday afternoon played Hacker with the usual suspects which, despite its age and some changes in contemporary technology, is actually a surprisingly good simulation of computer hacking. Perhaps a new edition is in order? On Friday afternoon attended a social gathering hosted by Anthony L., with excellent political, cultural, and technical discussions and some great food. Saturday afternoon convened the LUV Beginners Workshop which had Terry Kemp speaking on GNOME3 and particularly the GNOME Tweak Tool (slides available). Yes, that does mean for the entire Easter long-weekend, this is the first day I've had free.
[personal profile] mjg59
I picked up a Panasonic BDT-230 a couple of months ago. Then I discovered that even though it appeared fairly straightforward to make it DVD region free (I have a large pile of PAL region 2 DVDs), the US models refuse to play back PAL content. We live in an era of software-defined functionality. While Panasonic could have designed a separate hardware SKU with a hard block on PAL output, that would seem like unnecessary expense. So, playing with the firmware seemed like a reasonable start.

Panasonic provide a nice download site for firmware updates, so I grabbed the most recent and set to work. Binwalk found a squashfs filesystem, which was a good sign. Less good was the block at the end of the firmware with "RSA" written around it in large letters. The simple approach of hacking the firmware, building a new image and flashing it to the device didn't appear likely to work.

Which left dealing with the installed software. The BDT-230 is based on a Mediatek chipset, and like most (all?) Mediatek systems runs a large binary called "bdpprog" that spawns about eleventy billion threads and does pretty much everything. Runnings strings over that showed, well, rather a lot, but most promisingly included a reference to "/mnt/sda1/vudu/". Other references to /mnt/sda1 made it pretty clear that it was the mount point for USB mass storage. There were a couple of other constraints that had to be satisfied, but soon attempting to run Vudu was actually setting a blank root password and launching telnetd.

/acfg/config_file_global.txt was the next stop. This is a set of tokens and values with useful looking names like "IDX_GB_PTT_COUNTRYCODE". I tried changing the values, but unfortunately made a poor guess - on next reboot, the player had reset itself to DVD region 5, Blu Ray region C and was talking to me in Russian. More inconveniently, the Vudu icon had vanished and I couldn't launch a shell any more.

But where there's one obvious mechanism for running arbitrary code, there's probably another. /usr/local/bin/ contained the wonderful line:
export LD_PRELOAD=/mnt/sda1/bbb/
, so then it was just a matter of building a library that hooked open() and launched inetd and dropping that into the right place, and then opening the browser.

This time I set the country code correctly, rebooted and now I can actually watch Monkey Dust again. Hurrah! But, at the same time, concerning. This software has been written without any concern for security, and it listens on the network by default. If it took me this little time to find two entirely independent ways to run arbitrary code on the device, it doesn't seem like a stretch to believe that there are probably other vulnerabilities that can be exploited with less need for physical access.

The depressing part of this is that there's no reason to believe that Panasonic are especially bad here - especially since a large number of vendors are shipping much the same Mediatek code, and so probably have similar (if not identical) issues. The future is made up of network-connected appliances that are using your electricity to mine somebody else's Dogecoin. Our nightmarish dystopia may be stranger than expected.