Y’all wanna hear a story about the time I accidentally transported a brick of heroin from Los Angeles to Seattle?

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…We decided to sell our bikes, and buy a 1979 Dodge Ram van. I want to say we paid like $600 each for it — $1200 all in. It needed a little work, but the important part was it was all easy stuff. We named the van Cassandra, and wrote our names on the door.

The plan was easy: We’ll drive up the Pacific Coast highway, and camp all along the way. We took the middle seats out of the van, so we could sleep in it at night in case it was raining. Then we went to REI to get hammocks for hammock camping.

Dropgangs, or the future of darknet markets

This article is a repost promoting content originally published elsewhere. See more things Dan's reposted.

The Internet is full of commercial activity and it should come at no surprise that even illegal commercial activity is widespread as well. In this article we would like to describe the current developments – from where we came, where we are now, and where it might be going – when it comes to technologies used for digital black market activity.

The other major change is the use of “dead drops” instead of the postal system which has proven vulnerable to tracking and interception. Now, goods are hidden in publicly accessible places like parks and the location is given to the customer on purchase. The customer then goes to the location and picks up the goods. This means that delivery becomes asynchronous for the merchant, he can hide a lot of product in different locations for future, not yet known, purchases. For the client the time to delivery is significantly shorter than waiting for a letter or parcel shipped by traditional means – he has the product in his hands in a matter of hours instead of days. Furthermore this method does not require for the customer to give any personally identifiable information to the merchant, which in turn doesn’t have to safeguard it anymore. Less data means less risk for everyone.

The use of dead drops also significantly reduces the risk of the merchant to be discovered by tracking within the postal system. He does not have to visit any easily to surveil post office or letter box, instead the whole public space becomes his hiding territory.

From when I first learned about the existence of The Silk Road and its successors – places on the dark web where it’s possible to pseudo-anonymously make illicit purchases of e.g. drugs, weapons, fake ID and the like in exchange for cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin – it always seemed to me that the weak point was that the “buyer” had to provide their postal address to the “seller”. While there have, as this article describes, been a number of arrested made following postal inspections (especially as packages cross administrative boundaries), the bigger risk I’d assume that this poses to the buyer is that they must trust the seller (who is, naturally, a bigger and more-interesting target) to appropriately secure and securely-destroy that address information. In the event of a raid on a seller – or, indeed, law enforcement posing as a seller in a sting operation – the buyer is at significant risk.

That risk may not be huge for Johnny Pothead who wants to buy an ounce of weed, but it rapidly scales up for “middleman” distributors who buy drugs in bulk, repackage, and resell either on darknet markets or via conventional channels: these are obvious targets for law enforcement because their arrest disrupts the distribution chain and convictions are usually relatively easy (“intent to supply” can be demonstrated in many jurisdictions by the volume of the product in which they’re found to be in possession). A solution to this problem, for drug markets at least, with the fringe benefit of potentially faster-deliveries is pre-established dead drops (the downside, of course, is a more-limited geographical coverage and the risk of discovery by a non-purchaser, but the latter of these can at least be mitigated), and it’s unsurprising to hear that this is the direction in which the ecosystem is moving. And once you, Jenny Drugdealer, are putting that kind of infrastructure in place anyway, you might as well extend it to your regular clients too. So yeah: not surprising to see things moving in this direction.

I recall that some years ago, a friend whom I’m introduced to geocaching accidentally ran across a dead drop (or a stash) while hunting for a ‘cache that was hidden in the same general area. The stash was of clearly-stolen credit cards, and of course she turned it in to the police, but I think it’s interesting that these imaginative digital-era drug dealers, in trying to improve upon a technique popularised by Cold War era spies by adding the capacity for long-time concealment of dead drops, are effectively re-inventing what the geocaching community has been doing for ages.

What will they think of next? I’m betting drones.

Village Of The Bunnies

The other thing (other than building Tiffany2 and a second computer, to be described later) that happened last weekend, of course, is that it was my birthday! I share my birthday with David Bowie and Elvis Presley, so if you were ever looking for evidence about how astrology is bullshit: that’s it right there (I have no musical talent whatsoever, although I’m pretty good at Guitar Hero).

I didn’t organise myself a surprise birthday party this year, but instead had a quiet – but drunken – afternoon in with the Earthlings. Ruth had asked me earlier in the week, though, if “there’s anything special that I’d like to eat?” And, of course, I answered:

“A gingerbread village under assault from enormous gelatinous bunny rabbits!”

This was a convenient request, because we already had a lot of the ingredients to-hand. So Ruth and I spent some time building, decorating, and demolishing exactly such a scene.

Gummy-bear citizens gather around a candle lamp-post in the gingerbread village. Little do they know of the horror that approaches…
The village, under construction. The first bunny came out a little wet, so we decided that it was dead already, recently slain by the villagers.
Armed villagers spear the red bunny.
The green bunny, its maw dripping with gummy blood, advances through the ruins of the damaged North side of the village.
The first casualty; his gummy friends stand shocked around him. But with the orange bunny about to reach the South flank, there’s nowhere to retreat: they must stand and fight!
The orange bunny proves to be a challenge to deploy. More warm water is needed.
The village is lit as the battle against the bunnies continues throughout the night.

This, you see, is what happens when I’m given cocktail-making equipment and supplies for my birthday. Nothing makes this kind of activity make sense so much as spending the whole day drinking champagne cocktails.

I’m not sure if it’s better or worse that as the scene came together I began developing a ruleset for a  tabletop wargame playable using gummy sweets.

In any case, it was a fantastic way to see in the beginning of my thirty-second year.

My Very Excellent Liz Just Brought Us Sixteen Pizzas

I hadn’t really talked about it yet, because I’ve been too busy… I don’t know… blogging about Marmite and beds and computers or something… but I had the most fabulous time at a New Year’s party hosted by Liz and Simon at their house in Macclesfield. There was drinking, and board games, and truly awful Troma films, and then at midnight we all counted down from 7, or 12, or something, and spontaneously broke out into a chorus of Auld Lang Syne. See: there’s a video and everything –


(can’t see the video? click here to watch on YouTube)

It seems that my mnemonic (as used in the title of this post) is broken, unless we reinstate Pluto as a planet and rename the fourth and eighth planets in the solar system to Lars and Septune, respectively. Which I think are better names, anyway.

It was a fantastic opportunity to catch up with folks I don’t see enough of, to talk about what had gone right (and wrong) about the year gone by, and what we were looking forward to in the year to come. Liz suggested that perhaps this should become a regular thing, a little like “fake Christmas” has begun to, and that seems like a good idea (and I’m pretty sure I heard Bryn volunteer to host it next year…).

By the way: do you remember how last year Paul, Ruth, JTA and I invented Argh! It Burns Night? We’re doing it again this year, and because so many of you expressed an interest in joining us, we’d like you to come too. It’ll be on the evening of Saturday 4th February (yes, we know this is a little late for a Burns Night, but the second part of Ruth & JTA’s honeymoon is going to get in the way otherwise): drop me an email if you want to come along for a night of haggis, whisky, and fanfiction.

Beware: Necrophiliac Paramedics!

A conversation I had this morning with JTA, via text message:

I sent:

Boiler update: this is getting silly. The probability-weighted Markov-chain based predictive text system I’m using this morning saw me type “boi” and suggested “Boiler update:”? /sighs/
On the upside, I’ve successfully arranged for the new distributor valve to be installed on Friday, when I’ll be around.

To give a little background, we’re having trouble with the boiler on Earth. You may have observed that it broke last year, and then again this year: well – it’s still broken, really. Nowadays it’ll only produce a little hot water at a time, and makes a noise like that scene in Titanic where the ship begins to tear in two. You know – a bad noise for a boiler to make. Over the last two or three weeks we’ve repeatedly fought to get it repaired, but it’s been challenging: more on that in a different blog post, if JTA doesn’t get there first.

JTA replied:

On the plus side, at least this saga is overriding your phone’s memory of your previous life as a male prostitute. :-)

I was once mistaken for a gay prostitute, actually – by a gay prostitute – but that’s another story, I guess. In any case, I responded:

Until now! you’ve just mentioned that again, which means it’ll be the “last message received” when the paramedics go through my phone if I’m killed on the way to work this morning. And they’ll say, “yeah; I’d pay to have sex with him.”

Quickly followed by:

And his mate will say:
“Now he’s dead, you don’t HAVE to pay.”
If my corpse is raped by a paramedic, I’m blaming you.

To which JTA said:

You’re talking about people who drive blacked out vans full of drugs. I’m pretty sure they never pay.

From prostitution to necrophilia to date rape over the course of only a handful of text messages. What a great start to a Wednesday morning. I do like the image of an ambulance as “a blacked out van full of drugs,” though…

The Doctor That DOESN’T Just Tell You What You Want To Hear

[this post has been partially damaged during a server failure on Sunday 11th July 2004, and it has been possible to recover only a part of it]

[this post was recovered on Friday 24 November 2017]

I went to the doctor this morning to discuss the side-effects of the lariam tablets. I’d made the appointment just a week ago, when I was still having wierd mood swings and not being able to sleep, like, at all. Since my last tablet, though, last Tuesday, I’ve been pretty much fine: nothing worse than the wierd dreams, which I can cope with. I kept the appointment anyway.

“What I really want to know is,” I told the doctor, “Are the bad side effects – the ones I had in the first week – likely to come back? Is lariam one of those things that, if you get your body attuned to it, it’ll be fine from then on… or is it somewhat more random and unpredictable?”

“All I can say,” replied the doctor, and here’s the best line in the entire dialogue, “Is that if it were me, I wouldn’t be taking lariam.”

Lovely. Thanks, doc.

In any case, he’s agreed to write a prescription for a more expensive but less-contraversial drug, which I can collect later in the week if my third pill (tomorrow) makes me go wierd again. He seemed quite keen to switch me to it immediately, but I’ve opted to give lariam a go for a little longer yet.

Calling In Sick

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Feel rotten. And I’m supposed to be back at work, today. Called in sick, especially apologetically.

Had another lariam-induced mood swing yesterday, and became especially grotty to people, so went and excluded myself from them for awhile. I’ve made an appointment to see the doctor next Monday, pre-emptively: if these side-effects don’t get any better by then (I’ll be taking more of the drug today) I’ll ask about switching to one of the alternative meds. After all, as margi said, if I’m becoming intolerable in quiet company with friends, what am I likely to be like under the African sun with strangers.

And if today’s pill brings everything into line, I can cancel my appointment. Winner.

In other news, as promised, below is a picture of my beard in it’s new “Ming The Merciless” (Flash Gordon, for those of you with no film culture) configuration. And yes, I mean the 1936 one:

[picture removed]

It’s really quite scary to look at the original Flash Gordon and realise that…

Mood Swings

[this post has been partially damaged during a server failure on Sunday 11th July 2004, and it has been possible to recover only a part of it]

Fucking hell; this stuff is wierd.

For those who might think to the contrary; no, it’s not usual for me to snap at something which wouldn’t usually have bothered me, and march myself out of Aber. Several miles (and two hills) later, came to a halt and wondered what had set me off.

Later, I completely broke down into tears and collapsed into a blubbering mess, for no reason at all.

Last night, I slept for the best part of two hours. Just couldn’t get settled. Which is insane, because after my little marching exercise earlier, I was completely exhausted and could have quite happily just lay on the grass on the banks of the Ystwyth and fallen asleep.

Still got a killer headache and occasional nausea. It’s hard to comprehend that, despite the fact that all I did was eat a tiny (well, actually – quite chunky, but you know what I mean) tablet, two days ago, and I’m still feeling the effects. Wierd shit.

Can anybody else out there who’s taken Lariam tell me: does it get better than this? If not, I think I ought to speak to my doctor before I start really …

My Final Exam… Like… Ever

[this post has been partially damaged during a server failure on Sunday 11th July 2004, and it has been possible to recover only a part of it]

I feel kind of odd. And no, I’m not just referring to my (still kind-of burny) Lariam headache:

I’ve just had my final exam. And I mean ever.

I know I’m not a graduate yet (assuming I even pass these buggers), but… there’s something kind-of final feeling about leaving that exam room. It took me a good few minutes walking down the hill before it really hit me that this is the end of it.

Five years.

I’ve been a student here at Aberystwyth for almost five years. That’s over a fifth of my life. That’s pretty much all of my adult life (going by the legal definition of ’18’).

I’ve been in apprehensive anticipation of this moment all year. Perhaps longer. I’m not trying to cling on to it – I know when it’s time to let go and get on with other things – but I still feel a certain… sadness… at something having passed by. It’s not unlike… the death of a pet. Or a loved-one moving away. It’s just a hole in me that waits – not fearful… but: presentiment at what is to fill it.

Five years.

When I was in my first year, I talked with folks like Rory

Lariam Dream The First

[this post has been partially damaged during a server failure on Sunday 11th July 2004, and it has been possible to recover only a part of it]

[this post was fully recovered on 13 October 2018]

I’d been warned that this stuff could give you wierd dreams. Last night I dreamt entirely in anime. Which is pretty impressive, I thought. I was a character in a Studio Ghibli-esque anime flick (it was dubbed, so I was moving my mouth in Japanese and somebody elses voice came out in English – the same was true of everybody else). Somebody had built two tall golden skyscrapers and was offering free rides up and down them in the lifts. I joined a lift packed full of people (oh yeh; I was a little boy again – forgot to mention that). It was an old-fashioned operator-controlled lift, with a big blue lever of unusual shape at either end to control the ascent/descent and doors (yes, just one lever: no; that wasn’t explained). When everybody got off I played with the lever and took the lift up and down and up and down and up and down… pretty much all night.

Lariam

This stuff is seriously trippy. Since mid-afternoon I’ve felt nauseous. Now I have a killer headache (paracetemol seems to be kicking in, now, though), and I can hear a whistling in my right ear. I’m still in the list of side-effects I don’t need to tell my doctor about, so all’s well.

Wierd stuff, though. I did a search online for things that provided relief for the side-effects, and came accross this rather depressing article.

Time for bed. Exam in the morning. Hope I feel bouncier then.