In the Darkest Hour There is Always a Way Out

In this particular blog I won’t be talking about technology. I will be writing about topics that may be sensitive for some people (school shootings and suicide). If you don’t like reading about that, please click out right now.

My mother has a blog of her own (it’s in Spanish) and today she published a fantastic post concerning a recent event that happened in my home country, Mexico. There she talks about the Monterrey’s American School shooting and of an experience I lived during high school. I thought it was important talking about these kinds of things without taboos to help those that have lived something similar and don’t know how to deal with it. So here it goes. I’ll first describe what happened in Monterrey for some context.

A couple of days ago, in a school in Monterrey, a 15 year old shot some of his classmates and his teacher before shooting and killing himself. Many discussions have raised throughout the country from this event and people have been quick to blame the parents and the school for not having done anything to prevent the event. To those people I say, it’s easy to start finding culprits without knowing a damn thing about the ones involved and the situations behind the act.

My experience in this field was due to a rather close friend of mine who shot himself during recess. We all heard the gunshot and thought it was something else (most of us had never heard a gunshot before). Police, ambulance and his parents arrived. I saw them getting him out of the classroom and I couldn’t think straight. I remember trying to find other alternatives to what had happened, I thought “oh, definitely a burglar broke into the school and he was there so he got shot”, or “he probably just fell and accidentally hurt himself”.

Facing reality in those movie-like scenarios is tough. I wasn’t coping with the facts and I didn’t want to either. I can distinctly remember the smell of blood that flooded the entire school (or at least it seemed to) and I couldn’t believe that only hours prior we were talking and making plans of going to the movies or something. It took me hours waiting in the hospital, watching people come and go, not knowing anything and my mother quite literally dragging me out to get some sleep to accept what had happened.

The next couple of days were just torture. Newspapers quickly started writing articles about it and each had their own version of the facts. None were true. A fake Facebook profile of him was created and started liking pages like “Suicide”, “Guns” and “School Shootings”. I was mad at everyone and everything. I couldn’t believe “reliable” sources like the news were lying to everyone and twisting what had happened to get more rating. I was shocked that some idiot had actually taken the time to create a fake profile to make fun of someone who had just shot himself and was in a very delicate state. But most of all, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t done anything to prevent this situation.

Looking back, he showed every sign of being troubled in some way but no one noticed until it was too late. Rumors started coming in. More bullets and syringes were found in his locker. A philosophy essay he had written weeks prior started making sense. His photography blog made sense too. His sudden social retraction. Everything. My brain was rushing, thinking about every single detail of our entire friendship trying to find a detonator, a cause. But, as far as my deep research went, there was none.

People are quick to blame everyone and everything to justify a horrible event. It isn’t always as simple and most times parents aren’t responsible for these tragedies. I knew this guy’s parents, and I know they aren’t to blame. No one is, really. It took me years of therapy to understand that and, to this day, I am prone to blaming myself about every bad thing that happens to me or the people I love.

If you have been in a similar situation, I have a super cliche phrase to help you out: “this too shall pass”. It seems impossible at first, and you’ll be drowning in your own thoughts, dealing only in the what if’s. First of all, this was not your fault. Stop even thinking about the possibility of you being the one to blame, you are not. Secondly, it might take you years to be able to talk about it without tearing up, without getting scared. No, you’ll never forget it, you’ll never be the same, but you’ll be fine. I had PTSD for a good 3 years and there are still some movie scenes that will get me to bawl my eyes out and go back to what happened (the scene in the movie “3 idiots” is the biggest trigger ever). I got better, you will too.

If you haven’t lived anything like this. You are very lucky and I wish you never do. However, you can always detect if someone is having a rough time and help them before they do something reckless. Talk to people, let them know you’re there for them in any situation they find themselves in. Keep your friends and family close, talk to your brothers, sisters and cousins, let them know you’re their ally. Never underestimate a “Hey, wanna talk?”.

Finally, I leave you with this fantastic video that shows how most people often leave clues before doing something bad or do things to seek help. Be part of those who help. If you need someone to talk to, I’m always here for you no matter the reason.

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Nothing is true. Everything is permitted.

Throughout my soon-ending school experience, I always thought that getting good grades was the only way to learn. I hadn’t had trouble with that until 2012, the year I became a University student. My grades dropped, I started failing subjects, my scholarship was reduced and, consequently, I had a personal crisis. It seemed obvious to me that I was becoming a failure and my life would suck forever because I just couldn’t get my average to what I wanted. My brain was going into shock and I couldn’t soak in any knowledge. I can summarize said experience with this song:

Many students believe that their grades define who they are and who they will become. If you have good grades you’ll be successful and get a good job, if they aren’t you suck. Thus, “I Must Impress My Professor” becomes a hymn.

It wasn’t until less than a year ago that I started seeing things differently. I started loving my degree and my subjects, I began feeling happy about myself and what I had accomplished. Who cares about grades when I have so much more to offer? I clearly remember a few months ago when I called my mum and told her “I think I’m finally getting the hang of school”. She laughed and said “Well, better late than never!”. It literally took me 19 years to understand what school was all about, or at least what it should be about.

A huge part of this change of mind I had, I owe to Ken Bauer and every other teacher that focused on helping students learn instead of showing off and acting as a deity. It’s because of you that I understood that everyone has their own learning process and it’s OK to take longer to understand something and it’s OK not to be as fast or as optimal as someone else. You are your own standard and your own competition. To all of you, thank you.

mvp

To all of the teachers and educators that read me, I believe it’s time to change things. It’s unfair to have the exact same expectations from every person, the situation worsens even more when we talk about children. Do we really want robots who are able to shout at the top of their lungs the right answer for every math and logic problem? Or do we want conscious citizens that change things and innovate towards building a better world? We need to help them discover what they’re passionate about and let them evolve in whatever area they want to.

To parents out there, your little girl can use tools and play in the mud, your little boy can learn how to cook and play with dolls; none of those things will take their femininity or masculinity away. They’re kids, that doesn’t matter to them and it shouldn’t matter to you either. The worst thing you can do as a parent is limit your child’s hopes and dreams. Pink is not just for girls, blue is not just for boys.

gems

The Crystal Gems don’t follow gender roles (they’re technically gender-less) and rock big time. 

And finally, to all students and regular people out there, dare yourself to learn. Try new methods, do new things, learn from every single breath you take; I promise it’s worth it.

Sorry, I’m dead

Today, October the 21st, the world has gone mad due to many sites being “down” or “not loading”. This isn’t quite what happened. The internet doesn’t just stop working and hackers don’t just turn a service down. There is method in madness and I’m here to explain it to you.

What happened today was a DDoS attack to a DNS. Sounds like I’m speaking in another language, right? It’s actually rather simple. A DDoS attack is a Distributed Denial of Service attack. This can be explained with a simple analogy. (The analogy was provided by Rubiology, so special thanks to him).

Imagine you are in a taco stand, there is only one person making the tacos and there are many others surrounding the stand to make their order. A DDoS attack is when there are a lot of people yelling “I want 3 tacos!” at the same time and the taco-maker gets stressed out, says “I’m not giving any tacos to any of you!” and storms out.

taco

These is how real tacos look like, by the way. Gif obtained here

Much like a taco-maker, an internet server has a limited capacity and when that capacity is reached, it crashes.

Now, a DNS is a Domain Name System. This is like a phone directory (sorry, Digital Natives, you’re gonna have to ask your parents what that is) for the web pages. It assigns their IP address. So, when you shut down a DNS and a web page has no other way of giving clients the IP address, it simply won’t display anything and your browser will say something like this:

dns_probe_finished_nxdomain-error-message

Image obtained here

What happened today is that hackers combined the two and attacked the DNS provider via a DDoS. This is why none of us were able to access the affected pages. The company’s name is Dyn and some of the pages and services that suffered this attack were Twitter, Spotify, Netflix, Paypal, Airbnb, Reddit and many more. I almost collapsed when I wanted to tweet about what was going on but couldn’t due to it.

This type of attacks are very common and incredibly easy to create. However you need a lot of computers and processing power to kill a DNS as big as that one. As a hacker, I can say the attack was brilliant and very impressive. As a user, I can only say, HOW DARE YOU?!. Below you can see how the attack looked like.

ddos

Gif obtained here

So now you know what happened and you can go ahead and brag about it using my fancy terms. You’re welcome.

They say flowers can open new paths

As long as I can remember, I’ve been a girl. I was fortunate enough to have an amazing and very supportive family that has always believed in me and in my dreams. When I wanted to be a scientist, they bought me a “scientist kit” (which consisted of a cheap microscope and several things to observe such as a leaf, grass, blood, and even a small piece of human brain); when I wanted to be a mathematician, they bought me children’s math books (“El Diablo de los Números” was a huge influence in my life and I learned binary since I was 10. Not two, ten); when I wanted to be a chemist, my grandfather sat with me and taught me how to “make” polyurethane and taught me how to create safe chemical reactions, he was also the one that taught me how to use a computer. I’ve always been an empowered woman, to be quite honest.

Despite my family’s best efforts, I was never exempt from sexism. When I was a kid, I was often teased for “not being pretty enough” or for having a “weird nose” while my male classmates got none of that. I heard mock-comments like “you run like a girl” or “don’t be a girl” (this is a common saying in my country that means not being a coward ) and I always questioned it “Why is being a girl a bad thing? Am I wrong? Am I weak?”. When I started developing as a woman is when it started to get real. To this day, every time I walk by myself or ride my bike I get catcalled at least once (I wish this meant people thinking I’m an actual cat and being freaked out about it, it’d be waaaay better). I have been groped in public transport several times and at first I was too shocked to be able to say or do anything, the first time this happened I was eleven years old. I’ve been called a tease for not wanting to date someone. I’ve been called a whore for talking openly about my sexuality. I’ve also been called a tomboy and have heard people complaining about me not being feminine enough for not wearing makeup everyday and not liking dresses (“You’d look so beautiful if you cared a bit more about yourself” What does that even mean?). I’ve been diminished and not taken into account just because “I’m a girl”. And of course, if I’m in a bad mood it must be because I’m on my period. All of this along with the things people have said behind my back and I haven’t noticed and the things I’m not comfortable discussing here.

harassment

Gif obtained here

It sounds like a lot, I know. But this is not even a fraction of what other girls go through on a daily basis. In Mexico 1 in every 5 girls has been sexually assaulted by a family member or a family friend. According to the UNICEF, 31 million girls don’t attend to school because their purpose is supposed to just be becoming a wife and a mother. There are girls kidnapped every day and sold to be raped, mutilated and/or killed. In over 30 countries female genital mutilation is still a common thing, many girls don’t survive this process because it’s often done without anesthesia and with shards of glass, oxidized metal or stones. In some countries girls are not allowed to leave their house while on their period because it’s considered to be disgraceful. Girls are still forced to be married as young as eight years old and those girls start having babies at thirteen. Girls aren’t educated about sexuality because they are to remain pure until marriage and when they get pregnant they become the official family let down. In some cultures having a baby girl is still considered a failure and some are even left to die. Considering all of this, I’ve been very lucky.

I want to take this opportunity to empower girls and women to follow their dreams and not depend on anyone other than themselves. Below is one of my favourite feminists quotes said by none other than my role model and personal hero, Wendy Corduroy from Gravity Falls. (I made the gif and I feel so proud of myself).

women

Gif obtained here

Today, as well as being the International Day of the Girl, it’s Ada Lovelace’s Day. She was a wonderful lady who happened to be the first computer programmer. Two other fantastic women that worked in this area are Grace Hopper and Margaret Hamilton. Grace was a navy rear admiral and a computer programmer, she invented the first compiler for a computer programming language and was one of the first high-level programmers. She was better known by her nickname “Amazing Grace”. Margaret, on the other hand, worked for NASA on developing in-flight software for Apolo 11. Here she is standing next to the code she helped create.

hamilton

Picture obtained here

Nowadays, girls are too afraid to enter a “man’s world” and choose other majors due to the fear of being judged or feeling uncomfortable. I can completely understand that. When I switched majors many believed I did so because I wanted to have classes with my boyfriend (who’s also studying computer systems engineering). And as soon as I entered, I found out why many girls dropped out. 90% of the students were men and “men talk” could be heard all the time. By men talk, I mean entering a classroom and watch a bunch of guys in front of a computer stalking a freshman girl and talking about how hot she is. I also mean all sorts of penis jokes and an immeasurable amount of curse words said by the minute. I’m used to this already and can counter everything they try telling me. I know most times it’s a joke, but the fact that some of us know it’s a joke and are able to take it as such, does not mean that other girls will understand this or won’t get offended by it. And you know what? They have a right to be offended. Because they deal with sexist comments and prejudice on a daily basis. Their major should not be another place to feel threatened or annoyed.

So, to my fellow male colleagues, stop being sexist. Not only in the classroom, but in life. Let’s make this major a great major in every way possible. And, to my fellow female colleagues and to any girl interested in computer science, be brave and dare to try! You learn not only about computers and algorithms (which are fascinating), but you also learn about people, there is room to be artistic (I believe every code is a piece of art, unmatched and original) and you can code literally anything you set your mind to. Exploit your intelligence and your ideas. Don’t be afraid of being in a “men’s world”, make it a woman’s world too, make it an everybody’s world.

And finally a small piece of advice to you, dear reader. Be inclusive, be respectful and follow your dreams. Also, thank you for reading my super long feminist rant, I had a lot to say.

feministrant

Gif obtained here

By the Gods, what have I become? (Final part)

Let’s start with a small summary of my morning today. I woke up super late (because I fell asleep very late) and ran to put on my clothes and get ready for today. However, when I was about to open the door and blast out, someone rang the doorbell. I knew no one was arriving this morning, so I decided to go back up and see who was outside through a window. It was a white truck with no company logo on it. I called my house mates to ask if we were expecting anyone and they said no. With all this data, I decided to wait until they left to leave the house. When they finally did, I saw that they left a piece of paper that said “We are your internet provider, we came to install your internet but no one was home, please call this number”. The weird part about this is that, as you probably read in my part 3 & 4 blog postthey did that two days ago. It might have been just a confusion from the company, but either way I decided to not open the door and keep myself safe. Be aware of your surroundings.

rethink son

Today we talked to Rebecca Hogue and Helen DeWaard. The dynamic of this was people asking questions and them answering from their points of views. Helen mentioned that you can share personal information but it can be public, private or a combination of the two. For instance, you can share a picture of your living room, but not tell where in the world you live. This way you share a bit more about yourself but not enough to be exposed to dangerous things. Being vulnerable on the internet is also learning and opening yourself to opportunities and new experiences.

There was a fantastic question about people who commit suicide due to being teased on the internet and their private information, pictures and/or videos being leaked. Rebecca mentioned that Google changed their policies and if you report there’s unauthorized videos of you, they can actually not index them on their browser so it won’t appear to curious people that look for it. She said that if there’s things on the internet that you don’t want people to see, you should create more content! Exposing yourself the way you want to be exposed. However this takes at least 6 months to work. Helen mentioned that you should use your resources wisely, if you see something that you don’t approve, speak up. Being brave is vital these days.

courage

Another topic that was talked about was the power of blogging. People can tear apart any business by writing a bad review on their blog and spreading the word. While it can be great to get feedback from your clients, there might be someone who just doesn’t like you and gives a terrible review. There isn’t much to do about this but understanding that your words have an impact in real life.

“If you don’t create a digital identity, one will be created for you”. This was said by Rebecca and is, in my opinion, the most important thing of this course. Having a digital identity in this day and age should be like having a birth certificate. It shows the world you exist and who you are. The cool thing is that, both IRL and virtually, you can decide who you want to be and the image you give of yourself to others. Many people choose to have alter egos for themselves on the internet (I know a couple of them) and I think it’s brilliant. This allows you to explore a different phase of you and share it with those who like similar things. I have the itch to do something like it, but I haven’t landed a concept I’m comfortable and happy with. If I ever do, I’ll let you know.

This post ends my experience as an intruder in a digital identity course. I want to thank Ken Bauer for allowing me to be here this whole week and also I want to thank you, my readers for not thinking “this is lame content” and not leaving any hate comments on my blog, hahaha. Seriously, though, I appreciate you all for reading me. As for this blog, it will return to its normal information security and hacking content.

thank-you

 

All gifs were obtained from giphy.com.

By the Gods, what have I become? (Parts 3 & 4)

First of all, if you wish to read part one, click here. If you wish to read part two, click here.

So, this was Wednesday’s course and I couldn’t attend 😦 I spent my morning waiting for the internet people to arrive and later on I geeked out on my Wireless Network course <3. I literally had Amy’s look the whole time during said course. And my boyfriend, of course, had Sheldon’s look…

me

Anyway, back to what matters. Day four. This morning was about people commenting on other’s blogs. They had the chance to actually read what their classmates wrote and give themselves a different perspective on certain things.

Today’s talk was with Maha Bali, she’s a professor at the American University in Cairo. As one could expect, her culture is 180° different to ours and I found that incredibly fascinating. Many people asked questions and started creating conversation, Maha talked about how people can take things you said out of context and use it against you. She talked about creating public and private digital presences depending on what you want to say to the world. Creating private connections online is equally important. A recurring topic was the opinion people have on “ignoring” each other due to social media or phones. The thing is that when you’re on social media, WhatsApp, Telegram and all these apps, you actually are socializing.

Older generations tend to bash technology blaming every social problem on them mainly because it’s the “unknown” and that can always be scary. Not understanding something doesn’t mean that it’s bad, it simply means that you don’t get it and aren’t used to it. Be respectful to others thoughts and ideas, please. Which takes me to my next topic: censorship.

unacceptable

Maha talked about censorship and how in the country she lives in she doesn’t like to express her view on politics for safety reasons. She talked about Donald Trump and how he is never censored and thus, everyone that follows him and agrees with him isn’t censored either despite giving a full-on hate speech. So Maha asked: “Is the solution censoring?” and proceeded to talk about freedom of speech, religions and cultures. You can’t just censor someone because then you’d have to censor everyone and create an attack on freedom. The whole thing turns into a complicated dilemma.

I think her talk made people think about how the world is a huuuuge place and everyone lives through different things. At least that’s what I got left from the whole thing.

Be ready for tomorrow’s blog. The last blog.

 

By the Gods, what have I become? (Part 2)

I arrived kind of late and when I came in, everyone was making collages, I felt back in kindergarten and primary school. The activity was taking pictures of words and things that represent who you are, to take fragments of yourself and create an artistic picture with it.

photo_2016-09-27_10-04-12

Wish picture taken at Yoko Ono’s exposition in Mexico City.

Later on, there were four video calls with four different people, I will talk about each one of them below:

Laura & Lee

The first two speakers were Laura Gogia and Lee Skallerup, they’re two amazing ladies very involved in the digital world as a whole. They both talked about their experiences with social media in their own personal lives (at school, work, with their families, etc) and gave tips and tricks on how to become more open on the internet without creating a bad reputation. I loved the way they respected the privacy of others. Interestingly enough the first question popped up pretty quickly.

photo_2016-09-27_11-29-49

This question is interesting to me, because it specifically talks about discrimination in social media, something we (as humans, I mean, not just women) have to deal with daily.

Lee talked about how there have always been people that hate-read her and left nasty comments, and how she got support from other followers and readers, and how she changed her perspective on who reads her and what’s important. The point of blogging is getting what you want. If you’re not, you should reconsider what you’re doing and what you’re writing about. She also talked about how marginalized communities are  moving into closed spaces due to the hate they’ve received. Lee mentioned that it’s great having many different channels through which people can communicate.

Laura, on the other hand, said that for her it was about using the media to communicate different things “we don’t have different personalities in each platform, we just use them in a different way”. I found myself feeling identified when she mentioned this because, for example, I rarely use Facebook to communicate things but I use Twitter literally all the time. What I post on Facebook are more “serious” topics and on Twitter I sometimes even rant about things that are happening in my life.

Another question that caught my attention was “what are the risks of having a popular digital identity”. Part of the answer was “why do you want to be popular?” They mentioned that their Twitter and blog presence have gotten them jobs and life opportunities. There’s a risk on oversharing, of course, but in the end it’s your choice what you share and what you don’t. In the end it’s all about how much of your life and thoughts you want to share, and who you want to share them with.

Alan & Amy

Next were Alan Levine and Amy Burvall. People asked a lot about how to know if what you’re writing is good enough. To that, Alan answered in the most brilliant way, I even tweeted it:

Amy has a really artistic way of expressing herself and I really admire that, her Photo Safari is inspiring and is also a way of communicating online. I think people don’t like daring to do something different or original because they’re afraid of being judged by others. I can’t blame them, the internet is full of haters and judgy people that will leave bad comments about you or your work. Be like Amy, people, dare to be creative and share that with the world. Here’s a link to her YouTube channel where she gives history lessons in a very unusual way.

Alan talked a lot about content and the concept of stealing on the internet. It’s incredibly complex to control what people on the internet do with the information you post. He’s even got a post on said topic. He’s been cat-fished a bunch of times and there’s nothing he can do about it except for talking about it on his blogs. There are ways of reporting people impersonating you or using your pictures claiming they’re someone else, but the problem is, you can’t report them until you actually find them. I hope none of you, my dear readers, go through something like this, but if you do, you can ask Alan about it.

If you wish to read the first part of this blog, click here.