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13 Nov 15:01

Anorexia Mirabilis: Fasting in Victorian England and modern India

by Lisa Wade, PhD

Flashback Friday.

Joan Jacob Brumberg’s fantastic book, Fasting Girls: The History of Anorexia Nervosa, is an excellent example of the benefits of sociologically-inspired history.  Brumberg begins by explaining that girls who starved themselves have been recorded in many historical epochs, but the way in which societies have made sense of that starvation has varied.

Today we medicalize self-starvation; we call it a mental illness and we name it “anorexia nervosa.”

In Medieval Europe, fasting girls were labeled with the term “anorexia mirabilis”; these girls were seen as miracles, able to survive on spiritual devotion alone. During the Victorian Era, people would pilgrimage to these fasting girls and leave offerings.  A famous fasting girl could be a financial boon to a struggling family.

Fasting Girl Mollie Fancher in 1887:


During the nineteenth century, medical doctors and psychiatrists (who generally saw religion as a threat to their nascent authority) argued that the fasting girls were impossibilities, that no one could survive without food. The competition between medicine and religion became so intense that doctors became intent on proving that these fasting girls were not surviving on holiness, but were sneaking food. In several cases, doctors staked out fasting girls, watching her to make sure that she did not eat, and these girls, relentless in the illusion, sometimes died.

In any case, I thought of Brumberg’s book when I came across a story about Prahlad Jani, an Indian man who claims that he has not had any food or drink for 70 years, surviving on “spiritual life force” instead.

In 2003 and 2010, Jani’s claims were tested by physicians. In the latest round, Indian military scientists held him in a hospital, watching him to ensure he did not eat or drink.  Unlike the doctors in the Victorian era, however, who wanted the girls to fail, these doctors think Jani might hold a secret that will be useful for the military and they’re hoping that, by watching, they will be able to discover it.

They released him after 15 days. As they did in 2003, they said that his tests came back normal despite complete abstinence from food and water.

Originally posted in 2010.

Lisa Wade is a professor at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. Find her on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.

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10 Nov 18:41

In Which We Were A Credit To The Human Race

by Durga

Praise Him


Master of None is Aziz Ansari's new Netflix series about his life in New York City. The big takeaways from his life as an actor and comedian are the following:

There is a lot of racism directed at Southeast Asian people.

Aziz Ansari is one hell of a guy. 

Women aren't always nice to him. 

He spends a lot of time texting, perhaps more than is healthy. 

Isn't he wonderful?

There is hagiography, which is what they did to Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs was the most implausible movie in recent memory, and could not even be salvaged by Michael Fassbender's penis, which never made so much as a floppy appearance. Steve Jobs made an asshole seem not so bad, but Master of None makes a normal guy into the world's biggest martyr. 

Ansari ostensibly plays up-and-coming actor Dev on Master of None, but it is basically himself, except he never says so much as one word wrong. Dev is generous to his friends and kind to his family. He even sets up his dad's iPad, and is so sweet to his co-stars on a movie called The Sickening. We have moved beyond hagiography into simple worship of Mr. Ansari. 

Women are the only creatures placed on a higher pedestal. Dev worships them, in turn, like princesses. He wants to know all about their jobs and lives, in hopes of generating some kind of magic that will lead him into the type of relationship his parents enjoyed. When he rediscovers the pleasures of a Jewish girl with whom he had sloppy sex a few months back, he's elated until she confirms she is trying to work things out with an ex-boyfriend. Even though he did not call her after the sex, he is crushed by her rejection. 

Dev's friend Denise (Dear White People's Lena Waithe) is a lesbian who hangs out with Dev and his male friends. They have many similar interests, including their passion for sharing strategies about getting laid. Dev's other buddies are Brian (Kelvin Yu), a handsome Taiwanese-American, and Arnold (Eric Wareheim dressed as a post-prison Jared Fogle). He talks to them about what he should do to make these women like and respect him. While his friends genuinely care for him, Ansari's paramours seem about as concerned with him as a chef is with the feelings of an egg. 

His hopeless travails finding love represent the only flaw Aziz has. Ansari dedicates one whole episode to letting us know how much he appreciates everything his parents did for him. A lengthy flashback reviews the struggles his parents endured to make a better life for him in the United States. He is enriched by their sacrifice. 

In another episode, Ansari takes a waitress named Alice to a secret Father John Misty concert. She ends up stealing someone's jacket and getting kicked out of the venue. This is what he gets for doing something nice, and he is enriched by her sacrifice. 

It is a credit to Aziz that he never accuses women of harboring any racism towards him. Amazingly this never comes up in his massive, wikipedia-level book about love, Modern Romance. As much as the book was a terrible chore interspersed with the funniest parts of his stand-up act, Master of None is completely charming. 

The reason for the disparity in quality is that Ansari is not much of a prose writer; instead he is a captivating performer. The rest of the cast seems carefully selected not to show him up in any way, and their lessening works — Ansari's charisma makes every scene compelling, no matter how slight. He revisits the boredom and humor of a career in acting in a much more entertaining way than was found during the entire run of Ricky Gervais' Extras

Perhaps most refreshing is that Ansari never relies on sight gags, one-liners, profanity or gross-outs to create his comedy, even though some of those things were obviously a part of the fun in his stand-up act. Every single laugh here is because of an extensed investment in who Dev is, a magnificent creature who should be celebrated by humanity, possibly with a statue?

Ansari's adopted hometown of New York does not come across nearly as well. (The comedian was born and raised in South Carolina.) In the most accurate depiction of the place to date, New York is a city in decline. Indoor scenes are depressing and dark, the daytime jaunts are overexposed and painfully bright. Not one single place is suitable for hiding. There is no counter-culture left in the entirety of New York City, a situation analogous to Rome before the fall. There is only a bourgeois way of living that Aziz correctly analyzes as neither masculine or feminine, progressive or regressive. It is just slow-motion.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

"Writing's On The Wall" - Sam Smith (mp3)


09 Nov 13:55

Fine Italian Bakery Voglia Di Pane, Woodpark

by Helen (Grab Your Fork)
Fergus Noodle

They have bee sting cake! Let's go!

Remember the old skool bakery? We're talking giant vanilla slices, sugar-crusted long john donuts and fruit tarts glazed with apricot jam. Fine Italian Bakery (Voglia Di Pane) goes one better, churning out all of the above plus a bonanza of Italian sweets and pastries - everything from crisp cannoli filled with custard to panzerotto donuts stuffed with ricotta to sfogliatelle puffed up into
25 Oct 19:42

SocImages’ annual “Sexy What!?” Halloween post

by Lisa Wade, PhD
Fergus Noodle

sexy infant

Sometimes the sexy goes too far. These are some of those times.

Sexy pizza rat (Yandy):


Sexy Cecil the Lion (Yandy):


Sexy Donald Trump (Yandy):


Sexy Rosie the Riveter (Party City):


Sexy Frankenstein (Yandy):


Sexy infant (Yandy):

Sexy Charlie Brown (Yandy):


For more Sexy What!?, see our past posts featuring Sexy Chinese Take-OutSexy Yoda, and Sexy Chuckie.

Lisa Wade is a professor at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. Find her on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.

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25 Oct 10:52

Blaq Piq, Sydney [18]

by Susan Thye
Fergus Noodle

I want to eat the things

You know when you see something delicious on Instagram that you just can’t stop thinking about and your mind is just consumed with the very thought of eating it? That’s what happened when I saw the Nutella donut ($4.50) from Blaq Piq, the new cafe that’s next door to Creasion Cafe. And it was just as amazing as it looks, a fluffy sugar coasted donut so stuffed with Nutella that it threatens to ooze out.

And then there’s the pretty as a picture Pandan buttermilk pancakes ($16). All heads turned when this came out towards us, the pancakes are light and fluffy and have a good amount of pandan flavour in them. There’s a perfect scoop of coconut ice cream, fresh berries, nata de coco (super juicy chewy jelly made from coconut water), pecan crumble and salted coconut sugar syrup.

Aaaand pouring shot ooh baby HEAVEN IS A PLACE ON EARTH ♫

Noods ordered the Breakfast plate ($17) because he saw that it had ‘soldiers’ and is immediately convinced he wants it but then always gets surprised that it’s just cut up toast. Every. Single. Time. I always warn him but nope he wants those damn soldiers. I liked the idea that the breakfast plate was filled with things that are lighter in case you don’t want a super oily fry up; there was silky curls of smoked salmon, half an avo, marinated goats cheese, 63° eggs, horseradish cream and lol rye soldiers.

The Rangers Valley Wagyu corned beef ($18) is tender but it’s a tad salty though this is tempered with the pan fried 63° eggs and smothering of hollandaise sauce. I liked the fluffy lotus bun but with the generous amount of sauce there was no way I was picking that bad boy up so cutlery is the way to go.

The Twice cooked pork belly ($17) might not look as purdy as the pancakes but WOAH DAMN IT’S SO DELICIOUS IT’S WORTH THESE CAPS! The strips of pork belly are so meltingly tender that I question how they managed to put the slice on the plate without breaking. The edges are golden and crispy and oh man whatever you do, do not share this! Oh and there’s a schmear of pumpkin puree hiding underneath with perfectly gooey 63° eggs, crunchy pickled vegetables, rocket and cherry tomatoes.

Mmm baked goods! All the desserts are baked in house and they source their bread from the awesome Bread and Butter Project. Oh and for the coffee peeps, they use Single O beans.

Loved how open the space is with plenty of light and a nice chillaxed feel. Will definitely be back to eat that pork belly again and ALL the donuts!

Blaq Piq
11 Alberta St,

Trading Hours:
Mon – Fri: 7am – 4pm
Sat: 8am – 2pm
Sunday: Closed

Blaq Piq Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

25 Oct 23:00


by mugumogu

I think that Maru is on the other side of the window shade.


Maru:[That's correct!]

27 Oct 15:30

One-woman counter-protest breaks up anti-choice vigil by chanting “yeast infections!”

by Maya Dusenbery

Showing that sometimes it doesn’t take much to be an activist, a Planned Parenthood supporter in Portland successfully broke up an anti-choice protest with nothing more than a hand-made sign featuring a cartoon vulva and a grating chant of “yeast infections!” 

When Mary Numair noticed protestors gathering at the Planned Parenthood clinic down the block from where she was working, she decided to show her gratitude for the organization that treated her chronic yeast infections when she was uninsured. Slate reports:

Numair’s best friend and co-worker clocked in early so she could head out to the protest, where she planted herself between two families with children. “In my first 30 seconds of walking out there, I did get called a whore,” Numair said. “One woman was shaking her head. I knelt down to her kid and said, ‘Do you know about yeast infections?’ ”

Onlookers gave Numair the thumbs-up, and some passing cars honked in support, but she was the only counter-protester on the scene. Still, with a spontaneous chant, she managed to break up the protest in under a half-hour. “I don’t know why I started chanting ‘Yeast infections!’ but it just came out. I have this cold, so it was just this obnoxious squeak, cheerleader-like. And I started doing high kicks, which I don’t normally do, in my skinny jeans.” A religious leader was guiding a circle of protestors in prayers for Numair—but as her chants got louder and more grating, they stopped.

I’m on board with pretty much anything — including being straight-up obnoxious — that makes it as hard as possible for anti-choicers to gather in front of clincs. A recent British study found that patients found the presence of anti-choice protestors outside clinics distressing, regardless of the protestors’ behavior; a silent prayer vigil by so-called “sidewalk counselors” was just as much of an unwanted intrusion as a more aggressive protest with graphic signs.

Unfortunately, our legal system apparently thinks anti-choicers’ right to free speech takes precedence over patients’ right to access a legal medical procedure without harassment and intimidation. As long as that’s the case, the only (imperfect) solution is countering their speech with our speech — and if it’s shouting about yeast infections that makes anti-choicers as uncomfortable as they make those seeking abortions, so be it.

Header image credit: Mary Numair/Slate

29 Oct 04:42

Culinary Carnivale, Fairfield 2015

by Helen (Grab Your Fork)
Fergus Noodle


First it was the smell of charcoal. Then it was the heart-stopping sound of drumming. There was no doubt we'd found Culinary Carnivale, the annual Fairfield festival celebrating Spanish and Latin American cuisine. We stopped by last Saturday for the event, lured by the promise of an 8.2m-long parilla or South American barbecue complete with asado beef ribs. The air was thick with the smoky
28 Oct 22:48


by mugumogu

Because I heard a rustling sound, I looked for the figure of the sound.

Maru:[It's me!]

Maru:[Help me.]

I took off his bag.
Then this time――

Hana:[This bag comes without my permission. Why???]

Hana:[I know that this is right how to play bags.]

When they had finished playing with bags, I put them away.

21 Oct 00:50

Junee, New South Wales [4]

by Susan Thye
Fergus Noodle

It's got a prison too

So after our visit to Leeton, we headed to Junee which is about a 30mins drive north of Wagga Wagga and stopped for lunch at the beautiful Cottontail Wines (562 Pattersons Road, Wagga Wagga)

I ordered the Baked Camembert ($16) to share with Noods since my lactose hating gut would have rebelled and caused me much pain the whole day if I had eaten the whole thing by myself. And it was amazing because hey, baking cheese so that its innards are gloriously melty and gooey? Winner. Oh and there was also candied macadamias which were buttery and sweet and house made pita bread which I gleefully dunked into the cheese.

For mains I couldn’t resist the Rack of Junee Lamb ($39) which had a perfect baby pink centre and a thin ribbon of caramelised fat along the edges. There was a minted pea puree and blanched beans in a berry and red wine reduction underneath but honestly I just wanted a pile o mash. So I ordered fries because it’s almost the same…

Noods’ Twice Cooked Pork Belly with Seared Scallops ($39) was just perfect. Like honestly that pork belly was the bomb, super juicy and tender and not overly fatty and with a tile of golden crackling that shattered into a zillion pieces because yes, I’m that kind of messy eater.

Scenery. Side note: Noods totally thought that water fountain was a chocolate fountain and was questioning why it was outside…

We didn’t get dessert because we were in Junee, home to the Junee Licorice and Chocolate Factory!

The Junee Licorice and Chocolate Factory is operated by Green Grove Organics, a family run company that has been practicing organic farming since 1962 and is located in the restored Junee Flour Mill.

Hellooo giant slab of licorice! We made it in time for their tours which are $5 per person ($4 for kids, $3 for seniors) which was entertaining and pretty informative but best of all, there’s free samples!

Organic Belgian styled coverture chocolate is used to coat all their products and the smell of the chocolate melting was so freaking intoxicating!

We were lucky enough to meet the lovely Neil Druce, owner of Junee Licorice and Chocolate Factory and scored a lil tasting of some of his favourite products. I’ve never been a fan of licorice, I’d even go so far as to say I loathe licorice. But THIS licorice changed me! Forget about those neon hued cubes of licorice you get at the shops, the licorice here is amazing! The flavour is more subtle, smooth and more aniseed-y and I was quite taken with the dark chocolate coated raspberry licorice and absolutely loved the milk chocolate coated cherries.

But then Neil brought out his own personal bottle of Bruichladdich’s Octomore Futures and urged us to try a dark chocolate coated almond and a sip of the whisky and my world exploded into fireworks. How do I even begin to explain how freaking amazing that combination was??? That smokiness, the smooth, warm caramel sweetness. All other whiskies are now dead to me. Anyone know where I can get my hands on a bottle???

I tried making every drop of that whiskey last but then it was time for us to try our hand at making a chocolate freckle! Hand a fiver over at the front counter and don a hair net before entering the promised land (the kitchen). Melted chocolate is ladled into a plate and then you’re set loose with a shaker filled with 100’s & 1000’s. (Tangent, how do you make fairy bread? Noods is arguing that you should fill a bowl/plate with 100s & 1000s and then dip your buttered bread into it and I’m saying yes that’s clever but generally people will shake the sprinkles onto buttered bread otherwise wastage of sprinkles which will get coated in butter…)

To make your own Rocky Road it’s $8 and there’s a whole bunch of toppings you can choose from like chocolate coated pretzels, hazelnuts, licorice, almonds, coconut and of course, marshmallows. A ladle of melted chocolate goes on top and then mix away until everything’s combined and leave to set!

We amble out of the factory through Graze restaurant- which apparently does a smashing high tea and see Neil on a tractor taking kids (and the young at heart) on a barrel train ride hehe

Dinner was at The Crossing Motel (39 Seignior Street, Junee) for Riverina on a Plate, a 9 course degustation menu featuring produce from the Riverina area. The dinner is $95pp and will run again on Sat 24 Oct and 31 Oct.

We start with warm olives from Wollundry Grove Olives with Pimms fetta served with toasted artesian sourdough.

The Tumut trout timbales were so creamy and rich and deceptively filling!

Next was a pork terrine from Bush Goddess Paddock Pork served on soft polenta and beetroot relish. Apparently Pennie names each and every pig she raises and the pork we were dining on was called Morris. I’m not too sure how I feel about eating an animal that’s been named but he was deeelicious especially with that crackling :P

I loved the Junee lamb with parsley and a Harefield pistachio crust, the meat was juicy and tender and perfect with the sweet potato puree.

I would’ve liked the tea smoked Dutton Park duck to be heavier on the smoky flavour but that’s just me because I love that flavour profile but the duck was beautifully cooked and the roasted fennel and apple salad refreshed the palate.

And then there was this beautiful eye fillet poached in Poker Face Shiraz spiced mulled wine on a bacon and mushroom ragout. Man, meat out here just tastes incredible!

A sorbet made from Batlow apples was amazing, it was sour but just sweet enough to have us digging for more.

The pannacotta was made with lavender sourced from Kaybunda Lavender Farm, I’m not the biggest fan of lavender but I liked the creaminess of the pannacotta.

Last but not least, a white chocolate cheesecake with a layer of Junee licorice that was pretty intriguing, the licorice in the cheesecake balanced out the sweetness and I loved the vanilla ice cream dusted with a licorice root powder.

Clutching our stomaches we roll home to Gryphon Lodge (130 Waterworks Rd, Junee), a b&b run by the lovely Fran & Keith and yes I know you can’t seem them but there’s super fluffy alpacas out there!

We woke to piping hot pots of tea, freshly baked sourdough, brioche and rye bread with home made jams and a plate of butter curls! Argh so cute I die. Butter just won’t taste the same if they’re not in curls now. It’s been great Junee! I can’t wait to come back!

ChocolateSuze travelled to Wagga Wagga, Leeton and Junee as a guest of Destination NSW.

18 Oct 23:00


by mugumogu
Fergus Noodle

Secret anus checking

Maru licks the oil to make a fur ball discharge.
And Hana checks the smell of his anus secretly.

Maru:[I love this oil!]

13 Oct 22:11

Hacker Who Sent Me Heroin Faces Charges in U.S.

by BrianKrebs

A Ukrainian hacker who once hatched a plot to have heroin sent to my Virginia home and then alert police when the drugs arrived had his first appearance in a U.S. court today, after being extradited to the United States to face multiple cybercrime charges.

Sergey Vovnenko, a.k.a. “Fly,” “Flycracker” and “MUXACC1” (muxa is transliterated Russian for “муха” which means “fly”), was set to appear in a Newark courtroom today on charges of stealing and selling credit card and banking data, emptying bank accounts, and running a botnet of more than 12,000 hacked computers and servers, among other alleged crimes.

Fly replies to my direct messages telling him I know his real name and where he lives.

Fly replies to my direct messages telling him I know his real name and where he lives.

I first became acquainted with Fly in 2013, when his Twitter persona (warning: images here may not be safe for work) began sending me taunting tweets laced with epithets and occasional attempts to get me to click dodgy-looking Web links. Fly also took to his Livejournal blog to post copies of my credit report, directions to my home and pictures of my front door.

After consulting with cybercrime researchers at Russian security firm Group-IB, I learned that Fly was the administrator of a closely-guarded but now-defunct cybercrime forum dedicated to financial fraud called thecc[dot]bz (“cc” is a reference to credit cards).

Not long after that, I secretly gained access to his forum. And none too soon: In one lengthy discussion thread on the forum, I found that Fly had solicited donations from fellow fraudsters on the forum to donate Bitcoin currency for a slush fund Fly created for the express purpose of purchasing heroin off of the Silk Road — which was at the time the leading source of illicit drugs on the Dark Web.

Flycracker discussing the purchase of a gram of heroin from Silk Road seller "10toes."

Flycracker discussing the purchase of a gram of heroin from Silk Road seller “10toes.”

Fly’s plan was simple: Have the drugs delivered to my home in my name, and then spoof a call from one of my neighbors to the local police informing them that I was a druggie, that I had druggie friends coming in and out of my house all day long, and that I was even having drugs delivered to my home.

The forum members took care to find the most reputable sellers of heroin on the Silk Road. After purchasing a gram of the stuff from the Silk Road’s top smack seller — a drug dealer who used the nickname “Maestro” — Fly posted the USPS tracking link for the package into the discussion thread on his forum.

An ad for heroin on the Silk Road.

An ad for heroin on the Silk Road.

At that point, I called the local police and had a cop come out to take an official police report. The officer asked me to contact him again if the drugs actually arrived. Three days later, our local Postal Service carrier hand delivered a thin USPS Express Mail envelope that was postmarked from Chicago. Inside was another blank envelope containing a May 2013 copy of Chicago Confidential, a weekly glossy magazine from the Chicago Tribune.

On the back of the magazine, taped to a full-page ad for jewelry from LesterLampert, were a baker’s dozen individually wrapped packets emblazoned with the same black and gold skull motif that was on Maestro’s Silk Road ad. I immediately contacted the police, who came and dutifully retrieved the drugs, which turned out to be almost pure heroin.

12 packets of what appears to be heroin arrived at my home via the Silk Road on July 29, 2013.

12 packets of what appears to be heroin arrived at my home via the Silk Road on July 29, 2013.

I wrote about the experience of foiling Fly’s plan in a story titled Mail From the (Velvet) Cybercrime Underground. This did not sit well with Fly, who was made to look bad in front of his forum members who’d contributed roughly two Bitcoins to the scheme.

Angry that I’d foiled his plan to have me arrested for drug possession, Fly had a local florist send a gaudy floral arrangement in the shape of a giant cross to my home, complete with a menacing message that addressed my wife and was signed, “Velvet Crabs.”

The floral arrangement that Fly had delivered to my home in Virginia.

The floral arrangement that Fly had delivered to my home in Virginia.

After this incident, I became intensely curious about the identity of this Fly individual, so I began looking through databases of hacked carding and cybercrime forums. My first real break came when Group-IB provided a key piece of the puzzle: Group-IB researchers found that on the now-defunct vulnes[dot]com, Fly maintained an account under the nickname Flycracker, and signed up with the email address is the country code for Italy).

According to a trusted source in the security community, that email account was somehow compromised in 2013. The source said the account was full of emailed reports from a keylogging device that was tied to another email address — (according to Google, is the recovery email address for

Those keylog reports contained some valuable information, and indicated that Fly had planted a keylogger on his then-fiancee Irina’s computer. On several occasions, those emails show Fly’s wife typed in her Gmail address, which included her real first and last name — Irina Gumenyuk.

Sergey "Fly" Vovnenko, in an undated photo.

Sergey “Fly” Vovnenko, in an undated photo.

Later, Gumenyuk would change the surname on her various social networking profiles online to Vovnenko. She even mentioned her husband by name several times in emails to friends, identifying him as 28-year-old “Sergei Vovnenko”. Payment information contained in those emails — including shipping and other account information — put the happy couple and their young son in Naples, Italy.

This information later was shared with federal authorities in Italy. In June of last year, I received a call from a U.S. law enforcement source who said plainly that “the Fly has been swatted.” Vovnenko had been arrested and was awaiting extradition proceedings that would send him to face charges in the United States.

In July 2014, I received the first of several letters from Vovnenko, who was at the time sitting in Poggioreale Jail, a place of confinement in Naples that Fly described as “the worst prison in Italy.” I didn’t open the letter immediately; I notified my contacts in U.S. federal law enforcement who had an open case on Vovnenko, and they offered to retrieve the letter and test it for any dangerous substances (hey, the previous time he sent me mail it had heroin inside!).

The envelope was clean. It contained only a hand-written letter. The opening paragraph was a friendly greeting written in English; the rest was penned in Ukrainian script. A professional translation of the letter revealed it to be a deeply personal and — I believe — heartfelt apology from Vovnenko for sending the heroin, for posting my credit report, and for otherwise terrorizing my family. I believe he was perhaps 12-stepping it, because he also used the occasion to say that he forgave me for posting his personal information and photo of him in my blog shortly after his arrest in Italy.

In December 2014, I received another missive from Fly, still awaiting extradition in Poggioreale. It was a postcard with a nice picture of Naples on the front, and simple holiday greetings on the back: “Happy New Year! And Merry Christmas!” the message read. “With Best Regrads [sic], From Fly!”

The postcard Vovnenko sent to me from prison in Naples.

The postcard Vovnenko sent to me from prison in Naples.

Cybercrooks have done some pretty crazy stuff to me in response to my reporting about them. But I don’t normally get this kind of closure. I look forward to meeting with Fly in person one day soon now that he will be just a short train ride away. And he may be here for some time: If convicted on all charges, Fly faces up to 30 years in U.S. federal prison.

Seasons greetings from my pen pal, Flycracker.

Seasons greetings from my pen pal, Flycracker.

The Justice Department’s press release on Vovnenko’s indictment is here (PDF). The actual indictment can be found at this link (PDF).

19 Oct 00:54

Barbeque stopper: NSW government contracting itself out of information access law?

by Peter Timmins
Jacob Saulwick's report in the Sydney Morning Herald on Saturday was a barbeque stopper where I was over the weekend and I don't expect that's just because I move in narrow circles:
The largest transport project in the country could be shielded from public scrutiny after the government transferred control of the $15.4 billion WestConnex motorway to a "private corporation". The transfer means information about the Sydney Motorway Corporation, which is now in charge of building the motorway, cannot be captured by freedom of information requests.......When Fairfax Media requested, using the Government Information (Public Access) Act (GIPA), the salary and bonus details of top WestConnex representatives, Roads and Maritime Services responded, in part: "Sydney Motorway Corporation Pty Ltd is a private corporation and not a Government agency."
Saulwick went on to mention that a spokeswoman for the SMC said a 2014-15 financial report would be submitted to ASIC by the end of October, which would disclose information relating to key management compensation. The spokeswoman also said that because the corporation is delivering and financing the road on behalf of RMS, RMS "will continue to hold information relating to WestConnex and remains subject to GIPA".

But could it be true, friends asked, that the government could in effect contract out to a wholly owned government private company control of a government funded $15 billion project and avoid the standard government transparency and accountability provided by freedom of information?

The answer is yes it could. On the other hand, it doesn't have to be.

More later when I have the time.
19 Oct 15:14

114 years young: Lightbulbs before planned obscolesence

by Lisa Wade, PhD

There is a light bulb in a fire station in Livermore, CA that has been burning since 1901. It was manufactured in the late 1890s. And, yes, there is a BulbCam.


According to Hunter Oatman-Stanford, writing for Collectors Weekly, the first homes that had electricity were serviced entirely by electric companies. He explained:

Generally, customers would purchase entire electrical systems manufactured by a regional supplier who would handle installation and upkeep. If a bulb “burned out,” meaning the filament had deteriorated from repeated heating, someone would come and replace it for you [for free].

Given this business model, it made sense to try to develop bulbs that would burn out as infrequently as possible, and the goal was to make ones that would last forever. The one in Livermore was made by the Shelby Electric Company and, interestingly, no one remembers what they did to make their time-defying bulbs. For now, at least, their secrets are a mystery.

Only later, when electric companies turned over the job of replacing lightbulbs to homeowners, did they decide that it would be more profitable to make cheap bulbs that burned out frequently. As of around 1910, companies were charging the equivalent of $33 for a 1,500 hour lamp (which is about the same life of an incandescent bulb today). Yikes. At least the price has gone down.

We call this planned obsolescence: the practice of designing products with a predetermined expiration date aimed at forcing consumers into repeat purchases. Since the mid-1900s, more and more products have been literally designed to fail. In some cases, we seem to have fully accepted cyclic purchasing (think, for example, of the constant replacing of our electronic devices) or we are embarrassed into doing so (think fashion and the stigma of driving an old car). Other times, like with the lightbulb, we just assume that this is the best engineers can do.

Planned obsolescence is criticized for being wasteful. How many light bulbs sit in landfills today? How many natural resources have we extracted or burned up to make their replacements? How many cargo ships and semis have been filled with lightbulbs and taken around the world?

The little lightbulb in Livermore is a great reminder that just because we live in technologically advanced societies doesn’t mean we always have access to the most advanced technology. Other forces are at work.

Lisa Wade is a professor at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. Find her on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.

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15 Oct 13:45

Why doll make-unders make me uncomfortable

by Verónica Bayetti Flores

In various corners of the internet, a trend has been building: doll make-unders. Have you seen these? 

On the left, before: a doll with large eyes with eye makeup; full, bright pink lips; and stylized eyebrows. To the right, after: the same doll now has smaller, round eyes; thinner, light pink lips, thicker, straighter brows; and lighter hair.

I’m particularly interested in the re-making of a particular kind of doll: the Bratz doll. Back in January, the work of Tasmanian artist Sonia Singh was making the rounds. She takes discarded dolls and redoes their faces and makes them new clothing, making them “ready for outdoor adventures.” The make-unders were met with nearly universal praise; everyone loved these dolls as soon as they were rid of their trashy, heavy-handed makeup. Their lips got thinner. Their eyes got rounder. It all made me pretty uncomfortable.

When I saw that another artist, inspired by Sonia Singh’s work, is re-fashioning Bratz dolls with make-unders so as to resemble feminist heroes, my discomfort crystalized into something more concrete. What kinds of girls get to be feminists?

A collage of pictures: on the top left, Frida Kahlo, hair braided, with a scarf; bottom left, a Bratz doll, in characteristically heavy makeup, a silver bodysuit, and pink bomber jacket; and to the right, the re-fashioned doll - lips thinner and light brown, eyes smaller and rounder, hair in braids adorned with flowers and wearing a white shirt and long red flowered skirt.

A Bratz doll re-fashioned as Frida Kahlo by Wendy Tsao. (Image: West-Info)

I understand people’s discomfort with Bratz dolls. Like most fashion-type dolls, Barbie being the most (in)famous of these, they present beauty ideals that are mostly unattainable: impossibly large eyes, perfect makeup, thin bodies. And I concede, even, that the dolls are part of a larger trend of sexualizing ever younger girls. This is certainly worrisome — not because young girls cannot or should not be sexual, but because when young girls are sexualized by adults, priority is always placed on others’ pleasure before their own. And certainly compulsory femininity can be harmful, particularly (though not only) to gender non-conforming kids. But even conceding all these points, I am left with a gnawing concern about the ways society at large, and mainstream feminism by extension, consistently devalues femininity in general — and the femininity of women of color in particular.

You see, Bratz dolls are stylized as “urban” — that is, in the style of Black and Latina women in segregated and low-income neighborhoods across the United States. Bratz dolls have four characters, one of which is white, and all of whom wear the same “trashy” style. And it makes me uncomfortable to see mainstream feminism praise the removal of characteristically Black and Latinx style markers from these mostly brown dolls and call them then more beautiful, particularly when the same styles — nail art, gelled baby hairs, full lips — are praised when they show up on the mostly white runways of Fashion Week or on a Kardashian. All while the dolls retain their thin builds; none of these recent “make-unders” that I have seen have modified the dolls’ thin, presumably able bodies to reflect the variety of bodies in which we exist.

For these reasons, I find the Frida make-under by artist Wendy Tsao particularly ironic, as Frida’s physical presentation — her femininity — was an integral part of her artistic practice. Right now at La Casa Azul a tube of her lipstick, a bottle of her nail polish, and one of her compacts are on display; they are next to her intricately decorated back braces and prosthetic leg, right near some of her many gorgeous items of clothing. But it’s easy to dismiss these more traditionally feminine forms of expression, isn’t it? To see painting on a canvas as art, and painting on a face as frivolous and completley lacking in meaning or value? How easy it was to erase Frida’s red lips and nails, to portray her prior to her leg amputation near the end of her short life, to not bother with the back brace that would have certainly been peeking through a shirt like the one her likeness wears. I find none of these to be coincidences, but rather a simple extension of the marginalization of femininity and disability; as simple as femme-phobia, ableism, and a dose of internalized misogyny.

I don’t mean to say that the work of these artists has no value. Dolls (and “action figures”, for that matter) consistently portray unrealistic ideals of beauty, and young girls are particularly vulnerable to messages that place value on unrealistic expectations; it’s valuable to question that. But neither should we literally erase the faces of femmes and the ’round the way girls from feminism.

We’re in this too: organizing the rally, visiting you in jail, getting childcare hooked up. And we’ve been erased enough.

Header image: Tree Change Dolls

11 Oct 00:55

Wagga Wagga, New South Wales [7]

by Susan Thye
Fergus Noodle

Wagga Wagga is getting trendy

“You’re going to Wagga Wagga? But why, what will you do there?” I heard that a lot from friends and family in the lead up to my long weekend visit to the Garden City of the South. And yes to be honest, at first I had absolutely no idea until I did some research as my trip coincided with the Taste Riverina Festival, a month-long ‘menu of events’ celebrating the year’s harvest, showcasing food, wine, beer and agricultural produce and experiences across the 17 shires in the Riverina. Wagga Wagga is 450km south-west of Sydney, about a 5hr drive or a 1 hour flight away and it’s the perfect getaway for the weekend!

We’ll start off with the Gears and Beers Festival, now in its second year of running (or should I say cycling…) and is dedicated to the bike riding culture in Wagga Wagga.

The event started early in the morning and entrants could choose from a range of cycling routes varying from 15km to 105km allowing riders of all ages and experiences to participate. It’s been several years since I last rode a bike so I opted out of the riding part and headed straight for the beverages :D

There were stalls set up around the Victory Memorial Gardens with everything from pressure checks for your tyres to buying helmets and merchandise.

Our first stop is at Bridge Road Brewers, who are based in Beechworth just south of Albury. The Beechworth Pale Ale has the boys running flat out to keep up with the thirsty crowd. The ale is refreshing, light and totally a winner.

Next stop is Tumut River Brewing Co with the greatest tag line- ‘Because two mates wanted to make great beer.’ And great beer it is! Sadly they didn’t have the Squealing Pig IPA on tap so we chose the J.W. Pilsner which was a perfect mid strength beer with just a hint of bitterness.

And while there was ciders from Pink Lady Ciders, I was super keen to try the Double Decker Apple Cider from the Wagga Wagga Winery and loved how the cider wasn’t too sweet and just perfect in the 31C weather.

There were some food stalls from MG Gourmet Kranskis, burgers from The Blessed Bean, pancakes from Cafe Nest of Tumbarumba and a beer and cheese box from Knights Meats and Deli.

We escaped the heat by heading into the Thirsty Crow Brewing Co (31 Kincaid St, Wagga Wagga), who will be moving to a bigger location shortly.

And of course we had to try a paddle of their very finest beers! Our paddle contained: Sporting Ale, Red Light Ale, Murder Pilsner, Vanilla Milk Stout and Cascade Hop Ale. I’m not the biggest fan of stouts but absolutely loved the Sporting Ale which founder and head brewer Craig Wealands calls the ‘gateway beer’ hahaha

We managed to make it in time for the brewery tour which is $5/person or $15 with the paddle and runs for about 20mins with a head brewer taking us around the brewery and talking through the craft brewing process.

To soak up all the alcohol we ordered some foods, starting with the Pig and Fig Pizza ($23), which had a tangle of caramelised onion, shaved prosciutto, fig jam, blue cheese, mozzarella and rocket.

Noods wanted meat and stared at the generous serving of the Rack of Pork Ribs ($29) which were tender and marinated in a juicy BBQ sauce and came with a basket of shoestring fries.

I couldn’t resist ordering the Corn Dogs ($2/$10). The chilli and cheese kransky was fried in a Vanilla Stout batter and while the chilli level did kick me in the mouth, I absolutely loved the bursts of cheese!

How could I resist the Deep Fried Oreos ($10)? Resistance is pretty much futile whenever I see any dessert that’s been deep fried! The Oreos were fried to order so the icing within the biscuit are just on the point of melting and are sinfully delicious.

The Doughnuts ($10) were also on the heavy side, the crust was a little golden so it might have spent too much time bathing in oil but thankfully the innards are light and fluffy and my god that rich dulce de leche sauce was amazing.

Needing a snooze after all that food and beer we walked to Wagga Beach on the banks of the Murrumbidgee River. It’s super peaceful out there, I loved how non frenzied it was and just the perfect spot to chillax.

An absolutely must visit in Wagga Wagga is Knights Meats & Deli (187 Fitzmaurice St, Wagga Wagga), a family owned business sourcing the best produce from the Riverina area.

We met up with Deanna McNaughton, owner and CEO of Knights Meats & Deli who had prepared a lil tasting board for us with plump Wollundry Grove Olives, Knights own cheese kransky, a mild Griffith sopressa, a creamy Milawa Brie, bresaola and Knights own Pump House jerky.

And a dessert tasting board of Bertoldo Nougat (Griffith), Knights own Toffee Apples, biscuits, Junee Licorice and Chocolate Factory’s chocolate covered raspberry licorice and a pile of crisp pistachio bread.

Knights has over 30 suppliers from within a 100 mile radius of Wagga Wagga which is pretty impressive. They love supporting the local farmers- the lamb is sourced from the Riverina region sometimes from the weekly Wagga Wagga Lamb Markets, sometimes directly from farmers or abattoirs. Pork is sourced from Yanco to the North West or Wombat to the North East and the beef is sourced primarily from local abattoirs and other well established quality meat brokers in NSW.

Knights only buys Yearling or Young Beef due to its superior quality and age their beef to maximise the tenderness, flavour and eating quality. They have the largest range of whole cryovaced beef cuts in the region and are the sole stockists of Certified Australian Angus Beef (CAAB) a premium quality beef in the region.

I just love how perfectly presented everything is on display!

Mmm antipasto heaven

A lot of the cheeses aren’t local (the nearest commercially made cheese is over the Victorian boarder at Milawa) but Knights is hoping that will change soon with local cheese maker Barry Lillywhite. Barry was the cheese maker at the Charles Sturt University before it closed and has been working with his son in-law Anton and Neil Druce from the Junee Licorice Factory to start a Cheese Factory at Coolamon later this year.

The Deli section has a full time chef to create salads, pies, and pastries on offer in the feature cabinet. Knights has also recently introduced a Gourmet to Go menu with hot meals available to take home with a rotating menu from lasagnes to roast pork, BBQ chicken with coleslaw and Shepherd’s Pie.

The shelves are bursting with a wide range of pantry essentials and gourmet items made locally.

Knights own Pump House jerky is a hit with Noods and although we were warned about the Knights Pump House Explosive Jerky ($84/kg), he can’t resist buying some for the flight back. It’s not super explosively spicy but then, he can handle chilli so sadly there’s no video of him in tears of pain :P

We check into our hotel at Mantra Pavilion Hotel before heading to Mercure Wagga Wagga for the World Whisky Appreciation class with the super knowledgable Ari who explains everything from the origin of the whiskys to the production and styles available.

That’s a pretty sexy lineup of whiskys! Ari wanted to showcase the different types of whiskys and not just the Scottish whisky so there was: the sweet Kavalan from Taiwan, the smooth Hibiki 17 years from Japan, the Australian Starward that’s matured in Shiraz casks, the spicy Amrut from India, the buttery Irish Teeling Single Malt, then American bourbon Eagle Rare, a Rittenhouse Rye and Jack Daniels whisky and lastly the smoky Scottish Whiskys of Glenmorangie, Oban and Lagavulin.

Haha Noods was in his happy place. It was a great class and one I’d love to do again- Ari knew his stuff and was super down to earth and answered all our questions patiently and may have given us top ups at the end of the class… Oh Hibiki, you sweet sweet thing…

I slipped out to see the tail end of the Cork & Fork Fest held on Wagga Beach where it had been transformed with a whole sky of fairy lights across the edges of the river. I couldn’t get over how family friendly all the events had been, everyone was just so perfectly behaved and it felt like such a safe environment with everyone just happy to see each other and share a beer or two.

There were stalls selling sushi, stir frys, pizzas and even a chocolate fountain fruit dip but because the temperature had dropped everyone was lining up waiting for these grilled sticks of tender meats at Al Sultan’s or buying a beverage or two from Borambola Winery.

How cute is this flower stall! There was also live music and acrobatic acts and people had brought their dogs so I spent the night making friends with strangers so I could pat their dogs haha

ChocolateSuze travelled to Wagga Wagga as a guest of Destination NSW.

05 Oct 06:56

Spice Alley on Kensington Street @ Central Park, Chippendale [11]

by Susan Thye
Fergus Noodle

Eat the things

I’m not sure what’s going on with Sydney’s weather this Spring, wet and windy one week and then hot and humid the next! But I much prefer when the sun’s out because Sydney has some great spots for eating outside and the newest place to eat outdoors is at Spice Alley on Kensington St, just next door to Central Park and with an entrance directly opposite Automata.

Spice Alley has that hawker centre vibe but with the bonus of being much cleaner lol. There’s four permanent Spice Alley stalls, rock up to a counter and order your food and then wait for your order ticket number to be called before grabbing a seat in the courtyard. Oh and keep in mind you can only pay using Paywave or you take your cash to the little window to the far left of the stalls and get a Spice Alley credit card.

I’d brought the family and we start off at Alex Lee Kitchen. I’m impressed with the super flaky Roti Canai ($6), it’s light and fluffy and comes with two puddles of chicken curry and dahl sauce plus a fiery red sambal sauce that has me sneakily swiping more than my share. The roti is definitely on par with Mamak and best of all there’s no queues (yet)…

Katong Laksa ($10) is bang on in flavour, rich from the coconut and just the right amount of spice to set the tastebuds a-tingle. Noods opted for the rice vermicelli noodles but you can choose egg noodles or flat rice noodles to fraternise with slices of juicy chicken, ribbons of fish cake, beapsprouts and squishy cubes of tofu.

Next stop is Old Jim Kee with a plate of deep fried goodness. The Curry Puff ($3/each) is a nice fat specimen, stuffed with curried chicken and cubes of potato and wrapped in the flakiest pastry that has a gazillion layers. The Salt and Pepper Chicken Wings ($1/each) blew our minds, especially at only one smackerooney each! There was this savoury, umami flavour and the batter was super light and not at all oily and super tender and juicy meat oh man so good! And we also got a Pork Bun (Char Siew Bao) ($4) for good measure which the parentals loved, the bun was absolutely packed with juicy bbq pork and the pastry was ridiculously flaky.

The Penang Char Kway Teoh ($10) has a good amount of smoky wok hei flavour and is studded with slices of lap cheong sausage and my favourite crispy pork fat.

Over at Hong Kong Diner I ordered the Braised Beef Brisket with dry noodles which ($10) was so massive, I barely made a dent in it and had to get the rest packed for takeaway! The beef is meltingly soft with gloriously fatty striations and the mound of leafy green veg was much needed to cut through the fat. Oh and it came with a complimentary peppery soup too.

Dessert time! We headed back to Old Jim Kee for Ice Kacang ($6) which is served in a bowl the same size used for noodles so it’s a pretty generous serve! There’s the usual grass jelly, creamed corn, Atap Chee (palm seeds) and jelly worms on top of a mountain of shaved ice but there’s also crushed peanuts and sultanas which I wasn’t a fan of. But it’s cold and refreshing and the only thing that stops us from melting in the heat.

I of course couldn’t resist trying Alex Lee Kitchen’s Durian Roti ($9) and it was pretty awesome. Someone correct me if I’m wrong but I don’t think anywhere else in Sydney does durian roti? The durian was wrapped inside the buttery and flaky roti and comes with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and seriously if you’re a durian lover, GET THIS!

Aaaand visited Bang Luck for Mango Sticky Rice ($7). It’s a bit steep compared to the rest of the stalls prices on food but eh I really wanted this and it’s tasty. On a previous visit I tried the Crispy Pork Belly ($10) and watch out the spice levels are pretty cray for someone who can’t handle the heat! The pork is awesome though, crispy and deliciously fatty with stir fried veg on a bed of rice.

There’ll be a rotation of popup stalls on the far end of Spice Alley, currently it’s Pok Lol with their salads, tacos and Banh Mi pork rolls. Masterchef 2015 alum Reynold Poernomo will be opening up a dessert bar in the Alley later this year too and Bar Chinois is hoping their liquor license will kick in shortly.

Spice Alley
Kensington Street,
Chippendale (look for the red signage in the alleyways between the restored houses)

Trading Hours:
Open daily: 11am-10pm

Spice Alley Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

10 Oct 17:31

The Bellevue Hotel, Paddington

Fergus Noodle

Lamb looks good

Following a seven month refurbishment, Paddington's Bellevue Hotel has reopened with a stylish dining room and open kitchen. Chef James Metcalfe and his team focus on a Modern European menu served in a contemporary twist on a neighbourhood pub. Their signature dishes include a caramelised pigs head, maple gastrique and peas French style.
07 Oct 15:18

Fat shaming. It’s a thing.

by Jacqueline Clark PhD

According to Nicole Arbout’s youtube video “Dear Fat People,” fat people deserve to be ridiculed and treated poorly. The comedian mocks obese people and accuses them of being lazy, smelly, self-destructive, and a burden to the health care system and those around them.  Fat people, she also suggests, cause heartache and embarrassment to their loved ones and are public nuisances to strangers by taking up too much space on airplanes and getting the closest spaces in shopping mall parking lots. Arbour even compares fat bodies to the Michelin Man and implores those who are overweight to put down the coke and fries, start exercising, and get healthy.

In case Arbour’s point was lost amid her six-minute diatribe, “Fat shaming is not a thing. Fat people made that up.”

But research proves otherwise.

Over a decade ago work supported by Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity showed that fifteen percent of respondents would be willing to give up 10 years of their lives to avoid being fat. Nearly one-half of respondents would give up one year of their lives to do the same. About eight percent of these same survey respondents also indicated they would rather have a learning-disabled child than an obese child (source). Such findings illuminate clearly the stigma associated with being obese as well as the fear that people have of being targets of the prejudice and discrimination stemming from it.

These fears are well founded. Obese people continue to face prejudice and discrimination in a wide variety of ways, according to recent research from the Rudd Report. In the educational system, overweight and obese children report being teased and bullied by peers and teachers alike.

Obesity also has consequences in the workplace. Those who are obese can expect to earn lower wages and be promoted less often than their thinner coworkers, despite positive work evaluations.


Overweight and obese people should not expect to find respite from the health care system either. Survey data consistently show that a significant number of doctors and nurses think obese patients are lazy, awkward, and noncompliant. Many of these same medical professionals also report being repulsed by such patients, attitudes which certainly affect the type and quality of care that obese patients receive.

To be sure, obesity contributes to health conditions like heart disease, some forms of cancer, diabetes, among others. It can also lead to early death, conclusions that Arbour’s video also makes. But obese people do not deserve to be ridiculed or discriminated against.

While Arbour now claims that “Dear Fat People” and the humor in it is satire, she perpetuates longstanding beliefs about overweight and obese people, legitimates the unfair treatment that they face on a daily basis, and proves that, yes, fat shaming is a thing.

Jacqueline Clark, PhD is an associate professor of sociology and chair of the department at Ripon College. Her research focuses on inequalities, the sociology of health and illness, and the sociology of jobs, work, and organizations.

(View original at

06 Oct 18:57

What’s in a Boarding Pass Barcode? A Lot

by BrianKrebs

The next time you’re thinking of throwing away a used boarding pass with a barcode on it, consider tossing the boarding pass into a document shredder instead. Two-dimensional barcodes and QR codes can hold a great deal of information, and the codes printed on airline boarding passes may allow someone to discover more about you, your future travel plans, and your frequent flyer account.

Earlier this year, I heard from a longtime KrebsOnSecurity reader named Cory who said he began to get curious about the data stored inside a boarding pass barcode after a friend put a picture of his boarding pass up on Facebook. Cory took a screen shot of the boarding pass, enlarged it, and quickly found a site online that could read the data.

An older Delta boarding pass with a board code. Source: IATA.

An older Delta boarding pass with a bar code that does not include a frequent flyer number. Source: IATA.

“I found a website that could decode the data and instantly had lots of info about his trip,” Cory said, showing this author step-by-step exactly how he was able to find this information. ‘

“Besides his name, frequent flyer number and other [personally identifiable information], I was able to get his record locator (a.k.a. “record key” for the Lufthansa flight he was taking that day,” Cory said. “I then proceeded to Lufthansa’s website and using his last name (which was encoded in the barcode) and the record locator was able to get access to his entire account. Not only could I see this one flight, but I could see ANY future flights that were booked to his frequent flyer number from the Star Alliance.”

The access granted by Lufthansa’s site also included his friend’s phone number, and the name of the person who booked the flight. More worrisome, Cory now had the ability to view all future flights tied to that frequent flyer account, change seats for the ticketed passengers, and even cancel any future flights.

The information contained in the boarding pass could make it easier for an attacker to reset the PIN number used to secure his friend’s Star Alliance frequent flyer account. For example, that information gets you past the early process of resetting a Star Alliance account PIN at United Airline’s “forgot PIN” Web site.

After that, the site asks for the answer to a pre-selected secret question. The question in the case of Corey’s friend was “What is your Mother’s maiden name?” That information can often be gleaned by merely perusing someone’s social networking pages (e.g., does your aunt or uncle on your mom’s side have your mother’s maiden name as their last name? If so, are they friends with you on Facebook?)


The readout from the barcode on Cory’s friend’s boarding pass (redacted).

United Airlines seems to treat its customers’ frequent flyer numbers as secret access codes. For example, if you’re looking for your United Mileage Plus number, and you don’t have the original document or member card they mailed to you, good luck finding this information in your email correspondence with the company. When United does include this code in correspondence, all but the last three characters are replaced with asterisks. The same is true with United’s boarding passes. However, the full Mileage Plus number is available if you take the time to decode the barcode on a boarding pass.

Interested in learning what’s in your boarding pass barcode? Take a picture of the barcode with your phone, and upload it to this site. This blog on the same topic from several years back includes some helpful hints on how to decode the various information fields that get dumped by the barcode reader.

Finally, the standards for the boarding pass barcodes are widely available and have been for years. Check out this document (PDF) from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) for more on how the barcode standards work and have been implemented in various forms.

05 Oct 17:17

La Dolce Vita: Italian Pear & Chocolate Breakfast Cake

Fergus Noodle

I don't really like the slitty pears but I do like the idea of breakfast cake

This cake is something special. Sent in by a Dear Reader Robbie she first tried this cake at the hotel Ai Lumi in Trapani, Sicily who furnished her with the recipe. This cake is perfect served for breakfast, morning tea afternoon tea or dessert-in fact Robbie had it for breakfast at the hotel!
06 Oct 15:33

Why is it so hard to give Taylor Swift credit for 1989?

by Lisa Wade, PhD

Musician Ryan Adams recently released an album cover. A cover, that is, of an entire album written and performed by Taylor Swift. Both albums are titled 1989.


Critical praise for Adams’ version was immediate, turning quickly to a comparison of the two. At There’s Research on That!, Jacqui Frost explained that there was…

…a media frenzy about which album is “better” and who deserves credit for the “depth and complexity” that many say Adams brought to Swift’s poppier original. Some reviews argue Adams “vindicated” Taylor Swift as an artist; others argue that emotional depth was already present in Swift’s songwriting…

Swift’s 1989 was the best selling album of 2014 — by popular vote, it was obviously an excellent album — but many people seemed not to notice. Instead, they wanted to talk about who should get credit for the quality of Adams’ album, as if whether there was anything good there to begin with was an open question.

Frost draws on sociological research to suggest that gender might help explain why we have such a hard time giving credit to Swift.

First, she notes that musical genres are gendered and we tend to take feminized genres less seriously than masculinized ones. “Many publications that reviewed Adams’ version [of 1989],” for example, “did not review Swift’s original.” This may be because serious music critics don’t review pop.

Second, research shows that male creatives in the music industry are generally more likely to get credit than females ones. Frost writes:

[M]ale musicians, regardless of genre, are more likely to receive critical recognition and be “consecrated” into the popular music canon. Women are less likely to be seen as “legitimate” artists and are more often judged on their emotional authenticity and connections with “more” legitimate, male artists.

In fact, Frost notes, “the albums will be competing for a Grammy this year, and many think Adams will take it over Swift

Whatever you think of the two albums, the instinct to dismiss Swift’s album as “just pop” and Adams’ version as “artistic” is likely tied to the powerful ways in which the music industry, and our own experience of music, has a thumb on the scale in favor of men and masculine genres.

This post borrows heavily from Jacqui Frost at TROT! and you can find links to the original research there.

Lisa Wade is a professor at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. Find her on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.

(View original at

01 Oct 16:08

Like Uber, but for online harassment: Why we should be very afraid of new app Peeple

by Katherine Cross
Fergus Noodle

Sounds like an awful nightmare

By now it’s a cliche to make fun of Silicon Valley copycat-ism with the “this app is like Uber, but for x” joke, which has produced some amusing permutations. But it turns out what we needed to be afraid of was “it’s like Yelp, but for people.” 

That’s the elevator pitch of the forthcoming Peeple app, which essentially allows crowdsourced star ratings and reviews of… people. It’s being developed by Nicole McCullough and Julia Cordray, who both have a background in business. Cordray, who has successfully spearheaded two marketing companies, wanted to create an app where people could “showcase” themselves and their personalities; “Character is Destiny” thunders their inaugural slogan.

The Washington Post’s Caitlyn Dewey interviewed the co-founders for a withering column on the subject published yesterday afternoon. She discusses the ways in which the app is supposedly secure against abuse:

Peeple’s “integrity features” are fairly rigorous — as Cordray will reassure you, in the most vehement terms, if you raise any concerns about shaming or bullying on the service. To review someone, you must be 21 and have an established Facebook account, and you must make reviews under your real name.

You must also affirm that you “know” the person in one of three categories: personal, professional or romantic. To add someone to the database who has not been reviewed before, you must have that person’s cell phone number.

These supposed safeguards are woefully inadequate, not least because a phone number is often one of the pieces of private information that doxers release to online mobs. It also evinces the profound naivete of believing that lack of anonymity prevents abuse. There are thousands of examples one could use, but one will suffice. Illustrator and vlogger Kat Blaque wrote a comprehensive account of how she was repeatedly and viciously harassed by a man on Facebook who said things like “please girl you know you’d like a real man not these white knight bitches… I’d throw you on the bed and ravage you and you’d fucking love it” with his legal name, photo, and workplace attached to it all.

I emphasize this because this sort of thing happens to marginalized people on the internet every day. People don’t harass because they’re anonymous; they do it because they don’t think they’re doing anything wrong. Blaque reveals how she got her harasser fired by reporting him to his (now former) employer, New York Life Insurance; in the aftermath the man portrayed himself as the victim, refusing to so much as even apologize: “First off aggressive sex isn’t rape stupid… i.e. you would enjoy it you dumb cunt.”

Clearly there’s more at work here than anonymity; this something that Cordray and McCullough fail to consider. Even in the wake of mountains of criticism on Wednesday, they took to Facebook to say that they were listening to criticism but defended themselves by saying that their site would be even more “positive” than Yelp (defined by the total percentage of positive reviews) because “we are not anonymous as users of the Peeple app which should make our positivity even higher.” They also told critics condescendingly that they needed to learn that “people are good.”

I do believe in the fundamental goodness of humanity; it’s something to rely on in our darkest hours. But even if we have inborn empathetic instincts, they require cultivation and direction. Simply throwing people into a digital arena and expecting them to sort themselves out is what got us into this mess, which tech writer Sarah Jeong aptly calls “The Internet of Garbage,” in the first place. A Wild West will be treated as such by the most amoral actors, looking to expectorate without consequence as any trip to YouTube comments will verify.

Peeple venerates online rating culture in much the same way many entrepreneurs and CEOs have historically: a way to harness the wisdom of crowds and provide a reasonably objective, democratic metric for the quality of a good or service. The flaws with that system are apparent: we’ve all encountered one-star reviews on Amazon that either had nothing to do with the product (e.g. a complaint about the shipping) or were for extremely trivial or petty reasons. In theory, at an economy of scale, the bell curve will iron out the impact of such poor reviews, but that just barely works with basic products. When you get to, say, political books, review aggregation in the form of star-rating averages becomes next to useless. To return to Amazon, just look up your favorite feminist books. Odds are that many of the one or two star reviews are from MRAs.

Now, scale this problem up to the even more nebulous and subjective world of rating human beings. Dewey’s article has a good rundown of the way that smaller-scale, data hungry sites of the same nature, like Rate My Professor, express such profound bias that they cannot be said to communicate useful information. She writes:

In fact, as repeat studies of Rate My Professor have shown, ratings typically reflect the biases of the reviewer more than they do the actual skills of the teacher: On RMP, professors whom students consider attractive are way more likely to be given high ratings, and men and women are evaluated on totally different traits.

Then factor in Peeple prioritizing anyone who knows you “personally, professionally, or romantically.” What if you’re reviewed by a bitter and abusive ex? Or a sexually harassing co-worker who wants to ruin your reputation for turning down their advances? Or a controlling parent or spouse? Again and again, as dystopian as this app is the cardinal adjective I return to for describing it is “naive.” The idea that personal ties may not be toxic is breathtakingly naive.

In a society where women are more likely to be raped by someone they know, where domestic violence remains rampant, and where online harassment — particularly against marginalized groups — is metastasizing into ever more organized, collectivist hate campaigns, such an app as Peeple can only be construed as another vector for abuse.

Peeple itself may fizzle under this torrent of criticism, but the idea isn’t going away. We are sleepwalking into a future where we are metamorphosing from citizens into “content,” and Peeple’s premise is the logical endpoint of this.

If you think the problem of harassment is bad now, wait until we all become forcibly commodified before the baying crowd of the entire internet.

02 Oct 16:34

Whole Foods promises to stop selling food produced by people in prison

by Dana Bolger

At last: Whole Foods has promised to stop selling food produced by people in prison.

The change comes in response to years of bad publicity and protest, including, last week, a direct action at a store in Houston. While the company markets itself as hip, progressive, and a champion of sustainability (“We embrace our responsibility to co-create a world where each of us, our communities and our planet can flourish”), Whole Foods has come under fire for charging customers $12 a pound for cheese produced by workers paid less than a dollar a day.

In a smart piece over at Dissent last year, Trish Kahle exposed the hypocrisy behind the Whole Foods brand:

If Whole Foods sells free-range eggs because it’s inhumane to keep hens in cages that rob them of their quality of life, it seems more than a little contradictory to then claim that exploiting the labor of caged humans who have been ripped from our communities—often for nonviolent offenses—and locked up by a barbarous criminal injustice system is ‘serving the community.’

Whole Foods’ CEO, a staunch libertarian, is a big proponent of so-called “conscious capitalism.” Conscious capitalism is marketed to the American public under a million different names — corporate responsibility, corporate social responsibility, responsible business, and (my personal favorite) corporate citizenship — but, at the end of the day, it’s all just capitalism with a smile. The company’s comfortable reliance on exploited labor exposes the ruse.

So too does its recent decision to shape up. Whole Foods didn’t decide to stop relying on exploited prison labor because it cares about people in prison. It didn’t stop because it cares about workers’ rights, or even about its customers. It stopped in order to come “in-tune with [its] customers’ wishes.” It stopped, in other words, because it cares about its bottom line.

That’s why this week’s victory feels deeply incomplete. Responsive only to the ethic of profit under the logic of capitalism, Whole Foods will inevitably find some other way to keep profits up and people down. And, what’s more, Whole Foods is just one company of many that relies (and — in a capitalist system — necessarily must rely) upon an underpaid, powerless labor force to keep overhead low and profit margins high. Labor exploitation is just one abuse of many (rampant gender violence, for instance) levied against people in prison. And prison is just one tactic to keep black and brown folks down. The exploitation of (black) labor is foundational to this country.

So let’s not go out and enjoy our goat cheese conscience-free. The fight isn’t over because the exploitation isn’t; the system that produces and maintains economic (and racial, and gender) violence is still going strong. As organizer Michael Allen succinctly put it, “We can only emancipate prisoners by ending capitalism.”

29 Sep 17:16

A Staycation at the InterContinental Double Bay!

Fergus Noodle

Let's do the cocktail high tea!

The leafy affluent suburb of Double Bay is the home to Sydney's latest luxury hotel development. What used to be the Ritz Carlton has been transformed into the InterContinental Double Bay with a completely new look for this stunning hotel. And it's full of surprises from the spacious suites to what has to be Sydney's best value afternoon tea. Value in Double Bay? Yes!
27 Sep 23:02


by mugumogu


Hey Maru, you are like a Teru teru bozu!

22 Sep 17:39

Eating Ethiopian at Aaboll Cafe & Persian at Shiraz, Merrylands

Fergus Noodle

NQN doesn't like Merrylands shocker!

One Friday night we decided to take a drive out to Merrylands thanks to a recommendation from a reader Mrs Flowerpot. She had recommended an Ethiopian restaurant called Aaboll as well as a Persian ice cream shop. What we found was a surprise as well as the chance to eat with our hands!
20 Sep 21:04

On A Roll - Finding Sydney's Best Sausage Roll!

Fergus Noodle

Man this has got all my haunts in it

Our intrepid and hungry squad set out this past weekend to travel across Sydney to try and find the best sausage roll on offer. Buoyed by childhood memories and a craving for this classic Australian snack we pitted old skool against the new breed of sausage rolls. What emerged was surprising to say the least!
19 Sep 17:14

Nutella & Honey Shibuya Brick Toast

Fergus Noodle

love dis shiz

This breakfast or afternoon tea toast is like no other. From Japan, this home made version of the famous Shibuya Brick Toast will have you falling for its buttery, honey soaked crunch. The ice cream and Nutella make it that much more irresistible! Serves 2 or 1 very hungry person!
15 Sep 22:50


by mugumogu

Hey Hana, there has been already something in the box.

Hana:[Wow, I cannot get into it...]

Maru:[This box is already full.]

Hana:[I am satisfied on this box.]