Pixel Scroll 3/25/17 Not Really Very Specific

(1) CASHING IN. Naked Security has discovered “Spock will unlock Kirk ransomware – after you beam up a bunch of Monero”.

Star Trek fans might remember an episode from the original series where our heroes were transported to a mirror universe where their counterparts served an evil version of the Federation. At the end of “Mirror Mirror“, it is the alternate universe’s Spock who begins to set things right.

One has to wonder if the creators of the recently discovered Kirk ransomware had that episode in mind. SophosLabs threat researcher Dorka Palotay told Naked Security that this new specimen appeared a few days ago….

Monero is the new (or old) latinum

Unlike the ransomware families SophosLabs has seen so far, this family uses Monero for ransom payment, which is a cryptocurrency similar to bitcoin. Monero has already been popular among cyber-criminals. You could say it’s the new latinum – the favored currency of the Ferengi. Or, you could say it’s the old one. (These temporal paradoxes give us a headache.)

(2) SPOOK FANAC. Naked Security also disclosed that the CIA named one of its hacking tools after a famous science fictional gadget – “Latest Wikileaks dump shows CIA targeting Apple earlier than others”.

Here’s a breakdown of the tools documented and their purpose:

Sonic Screwdriver: Fans of Doctor Who know that the Sonic Screwdriver is the Doctor’s trusty device for analysis and defense. In the CIA’s world, it’s a “mechanism for executing code on peripheral devices while a Mac laptop or desktop is booting,” allowing attackers to “boot its attack software even when a firmware password is enabled”. The CIA’s Sonic Screwdriver infector is stored on the modified firmware of an Apple Thunderbolt-to-Ethernet adapter. The documentation for this was released internally at CIA headquarters November 29 2012….

(3) IRON FIST. While my Facebook friends have leveled plenty of criticism, Comicbook.com declares “Iron Fist Is The Second Biggest Marvel Netflix Premiere”.

Marvel’s Iron Fist may not have gone over well with critics, but fans can’t seem to get enough.

According to a report by Parrot Analytics, Marvel’s Iron Fist is the second-biggest debut for a Marvel series on Netflix so far, performing better than both Marvel’s Daredevil and Marvel’s Jessica Jones in the first week it was available to stream. Iron Fist falls just short of Marvel’s Luke Cage, which was Marvel’s best debut to date.

It should be noted that Parrot Analytics is a third party industry analyst and that these metrics are not endorsed by Netflix. Netflix does not share its viewership numbers publically.

(4) DO’S AND DON’TS. Here are the first two of “Ray Bradbury’s 12 Rules For Writers” at Tripwire.

  • Don’t start out writing novels. They take too long. Begin your writing life instead by cranking out “a hell of a lot of short stories,” as many as one per week. Take a year to do it; he claims that it simply isn’t possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row. He waited until the age of 30 to write his first novel, Fahrenheit 451. “Worth waiting for, huh?”
  • You may love ’em, but you can’t be ’em. Bear that in mind when you inevitably attempt, consciously or unconsciously, to imitate your favorite writers, just as he imitated H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, Arthur Conan Doyle and L. Frank Baum.

(5) BY YOUR ROYAL LEAVES. Standback guested on Jonah Sutton-Morse’s Cabbages and Kings podcast. (I’m not trying to blow his cover, he sent the link indicating it should be a “scroll item for Standback.”)

This episode I am joined by Ziv Wities (@QuiteVague), host of the SFSqueeAndSnark short story discussion site, to discuss Jo Walton’s The Just City.  We covered our different reactions to the story, the elevation of Plato’s Republic to a holy text, and the problems of privilege and how it is portrayed in The Just City.  In addition, Brandon O’Brien returns for the second installment of Black Star Cruises, a review of Maurice Broaddus’ forthcoming novella Buffalo Soldier.

There’s a transcript of the podcast available at the site, too.

Z – So, this is the only book in my entire life that I have ever bought based on a book ad. There was a print ad for the Just City in Fantasy & Science Fiction and I saw it and I read it and I said that sounds really really really cool. I don’t think I’ve ever reacted that way to a print ad before.It’s just, it’s just a cool high-concept idea, and one of the things that really grabbed me about it was the idea that it’s not only a recreation of The Republic but specifically that it is done with the support of a goddess.  With Athene, Athene?

JSM – Yes

Z – With Athene supporting and bankrolling and magicing together the entire thing.

(6) DON’T BLAME WEIR. The Wrap reveals “More Hollywood Whitewashing: CBS Pilot Casts 2 White Actors in Lead Roles Written for Minorities”.

Andy Weir’s sci-fi drama “Mission Control” was written with a bilingual Latina and African-American man — now played by Poppy Montgomery and David Giuntoli…

According to an individual familiar with the project, producers initially did reach out to and offer the roles to non-white actors, but they passed. The production ultimately moved on as the script evolved, leading to the casting of Montgomery and Giuntoli. Montgomery’s character will no longer speak Spanish in the final version of the pilot.

The pilot, which the individual described as an “ensemble drama,” does feature nonwhite actors in other roles, including “Desperate Housewives” alum Ricardo Chavira as the director of the Johnson Space Center and Nigerian-born actress Wunmi Mosaku as Rayna, the mission’s public affairs officer….

(7) A NUMBER OF BUGS. Find the answer to “What Kind of Bug Eats Books” here. There are five main types, a number that suits the Scroll perfectly.

Bugs that eat books aren’t injurious to humans, but they can destroy your library. Book-eating insects inhabit books in their larval stage, eating collagen glues, cotton, leather, linen and paper. These insects can be difficult to spot because of their small sizes and hiding instincts. Use a magnifying glass to inspect volumes for intruders. There are five types of bugs that commonly infest books.

(8) SOMETIMES IT CAUSES ME TO TINGLE. Future Nobel laureate for literature Dr. Chuck Tingle weighs in on Castalia House’s latest antics at The Rabid Puppies.

in recent days man name of JOM SCALZI put out a big time book name of THE COLLAPSING EMPIRE. bad dogs blues said they could copy it and do better, so to keep bad dogs blues honest this is now website to show current sales rank between BAD DOGS BLUES fake book and JOM SCALZI real book. this is good way to determine wether or not being a devil is a WINNING WAY. please enjoy.



(9) MAKING PROGRESS. Christine Valada gave this update about Len Wein’s health:

Len is doing better but still not on social media. It’s boring when he’s not actually working and he’s at war with the restrictions on his diet. What a surprise, right? The amputated toe is considered healed (yay), but the doctor needs to do some clean-up work on his second toe which had been delayed because of the neck surgery. He’s a captive patient in rehab, so that will get done on Monday evening.

(10) SAD TRIVIA. Today’s Livestream of the Debbie Reynolds/Carrie Fisher public memorial had over 63,000 views. Right now, the link is just showing a short slide-show of the pair at various ages.

Their celebration of life was in the same auditorium that Sammy Davis, Jr.’s was held.

The BBC had a few brief quotes from before and during the memorial.

Earlier Mr Fisher said the public was invited to the memorial “because that’s how my mother would want it”.

He added that she was “very connected to her fans and felt they were a part of her”.

James Blunt was friends with Carrie Fisher and recorded part of his debut album in her bathroom. His tribute song will be accompanied by a montage of photographs of the pair.

Todd Fisher called it a “beautiful song to Carrie”, adding that “it might rip your heart out”.


Princess Leia from Star Wars reel shown at SDCC 2015.

(11) NO CGI FOR FISHER. Gene Maddaus of Variety, in “Bob Iger Reveals ‘Star Wars’ Han Solo Spinoff Details, Talks Plans After ‘Episode IX’”, reports on a talk that the Disney CEO gave at USC.  Iger says that Carrie Fisher’s performance in Episode 8 is complete and does not have to be digitally enhanced and the forthcoming moving about young Han Solo will reveal how Chewbacca got his name.

At the conference, where he also confirmed that he’s “definitely” leaving in 2019, he said he has seen Episode 8, “The Last Jedi,” and addressed how the company is handling the death of Carrie Fisher, who appears extensively in the film.

“We are not changing ‘8’ to deal with her passing. Her performance remains as it was in ‘8,’” he said. “In ‘Rogue One’, we created digitally a few characters… We’re not doing that with Carrie.”

…Iger was otherwise tight-lipped about Episode 8, saying that he sometimes reviews dailies “in my laptop in bed under the covers” to keep the project secret from his own teenage boys.



The Tolkien Society started Tolkien Reading Day in 2003 after a journalist from New York enquired as to whether or not there was such an event. March 25 was selected because that is the date of the Downfall of Sauron.


  • March 25, 1957 — United States Customs confiscated 520 copies of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl and Other Poems, printed in England, on grounds of obscenity.

(14) BY THE LITRE. “Discovery enables ‘mass produced blood’” – the BBC has the story. Chip Hitchcock says, “The kicker is that it’s so expensive it’s only useful for types so rare that they’re in very short supply — e.g. Heinlein’s AB-.”

(15) HOT PILOT. You can listen to the recording of Harrison Ford excusing his Han Solo moment at this link: “’I’m the schmuck that landed on the taxiway’”.

A recording has emerged of Harrison Ford explaining to air traffic control why he flew directly over a waiting passenger jet and landed on a taxiway at John Wayne Airport in southern California in February.

(16) CURRENT READING. Rosemary Benton visits a newsstand 55 years ago at Galactic Journey — “[March 25,1962] A Double Hit (A.Bertram Chandler’s The Rim of Space and John Brunner’s Secret Agent of Terra)”.

I turned to Brunner’s Secret Agent of Terra. I couldn’t help but feel as if I was reading a novella that pitted the characters of H. Beam Piper’s Paratime series against the American agents of The Time Traders. In almost exact contrast to the universe of Chandler’s piece, Brunner’s protagonists are agents of the Corps Galactica – a economic and security force powerhouse for Earth’s galaxy-wide territories. When a remote and technologically backward world called Planet 14 is penetrated by off-worlders looking to take advantage of the natural resources of the isolated human society, it is up to agents of the Corps to infiltrate the population without notice and take down the exploitative evil doers.

(17) FREE DELANY. You do not need to be a member of Facebook to read this unpublished novel excerpt by Samuel R. Delany:

Here’s the coda to a not yet published novel, whose manuscript ran more than 700 pages in 2006: Shoat Rumblin: His Sensations and Ideas.

Samuel Delany

(18) FURTHER DELIBERATIONS. Here are the newest reviews from the Shadow Clarke jury.

Tidhar’s novel is both subtle and quotidian, bolshie and wildly inventive.  In common with some of its characters, it is a cyborg patchwork; a novel about a bold future that has its feet firmly planted in the past.

The book started life as a series of short stories, reworked and ordered here within a narrative frame to form a novel.  It’s complex and wily, structured around three points in time: a present, a future and a far future. The author introduces themselves quietly in a first-person Prologue, a writer sitting down in a shebeen in Tel-Aviv – perhaps in our present, perhaps not – to tell a science fiction story.  They sip cheap beer while the rain falls outside and put pen to paper: ‘Once the world was young,’ they begin, ‘The Exodus ships had only begun to leave the solar system then…’ (2)  Our writer in the present addresses us as if were a knowing audience in a far distant future, ‘sojourners’ amongst the stars who tell ‘old stories across the aeons.’  These stories – of ‘our’ past but the author’s fictional future – make up the meat and substance of the book that follows.  It sounds like rather a baroque set-up and it’s barely gestured at but it is thematically fundamental.  Central Station is a book about how the future remembers, about the future’s past. It’s a historical novel as much as a science fiction novel.

Good Morning, Midnight is a bit of a shortlist risk, as shadow jury conversations have proved. Ranging in complaints about too much lyrical sciencing to complaints about too much overt preciousness, overall, the general jury criticism toward the book has been along the lines of “too much too much.” And yet, the novel has been blurbed as a blend of Station Eleven and Kim Stanley Robinson– two supreme yet entirely different approaches to SF, flawed in their own “too much” ways (the first, a well-written, but literary carpet bagging of superficial SF tropes, the other, an over-lingering on most things, including the sublimation of ice). With comparisons like these, Good Morning, Midnight might be just the kind of “too much too much” I, and other Clarke readers, would relish. Besides, it has stars on the cover, a spaceship in the story, and is free of the usual, predictable pew-pew hijinks that tends to come with spaceship stories, so, for those reasons, it seems like something worth discussing within the context of possible Clarke contenders.

If the blurring of the ‘human/animal’ distinction gives Geen’s book its substance, the thriller plot gives it its shape—and here the novel comes a little unstuck. With two plot strands unfolding over the length of the novel, the reader is geared up to expect two conclusions: first, the revelation of whatever it was that caused Kit to flee ShenCorp; and second, the final reckoning. ‘Uncanny Shift’ builds the intrigue, as Kit is invited (not compelled, no, not at all) to work on the development of a new income stream: consciousness tourism. She’s not sure about the ethics of this, as she tells one character:

When discussing Steph Swainston’s fiction within the context of the Clarke Award, it is never long before the question arises: but is it even science fiction? I have heard it said that Swainston’s debut, The Year of Our War, should not have been eligible for the Clarke Award by reason of it being a work of fantasy rather than SF. No doubt similar objections were voiced in respect of the volumes that followed. The old dragons versus spaceships dichotomy, in other words, complicated only by the fact that there are no dragons in Swainston’s Fourlands novels, and there is a strong argument to be made that the multi-generational, FTL space craft so beloved of much heartland science fiction is as much a fantasy as any mythical leviathan and possibly more so.

(19) POWER GRAB. Prosthetic limbs with built-in power cells could be self-charging.

A synthetic skin for prosthetics limbs that can generate its own energy from solar power has been developed by engineers from Glasgow University.

Researchers had already created an ‘electronic skin’ for prosthetic hands made with new super-material graphene.

The new skin was much more sensitive to touch but needed a power source to operate its sensors.

Previously this required a battery but the latest breakthrough has integrated photo-voltaic cells in to the skin.

(20) IN THE END, GOODNESS PREVAILS. NPR says Power Rangers is fun in the end: “In The Agreeably Schlocky ‘Power Rangers,’ ‘Transformers’ Meets ‘The Breakfast Club’”.

Power Rangers cost a little over $100 million to make and looks about half as expensive, unless catering services were provided by Eric Ripert. The five Power Rangers are appealing but bland, as if skimmed from a CW casting call, and Israelite stages the action sequences in a chaotic mass of swish-pans and rapid-fire edits, perhaps to hide the daytime special effects. And yet the film grows steadily more disarming as it approaches the grand finale, in part because it believes so earnestly in the unity necessary for good to defeat evil and in part because everyone appears to be having a ball.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, David K.M. Klaus, Mark-kitteh, Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, Matthew Johnson, John King Tarpinian, and Standback for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Meredith.]

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63 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 3/25/17 Not Really Very Specific

  1. Yet another ironic thing about blood donation rules on the mad cow/CJD front: spending a total of 3 months in the UK during the relevant period eventually got me banned from donation…but actually working with lab animals infected with CJD didn’t. (When it started being a topic of concern and before they went to the timespan-based ban, I’d started self-disclosing what my work involved just because the questionnaires don’t think to ask, “Do you work with any of the following problematic organisms in the course of your emmployment?”

  2. @Nancy: Hmm. That’s interesting. I didn’t read Kebes that way at all. I could see that as maybe where his anger began, but. I don’t feel like it’s his primary motivation. The things he cares about later on – Simea, escaping the city, what he does in Book 2 – don’t seem to me like a pursuit of revenge (revenge against Apollo, maybe…). As I said, I feel like the taking of Kebes’s name is his defining moment – and that’s the City, not the slavers.

    On the other hand, that does put an interesting spin on what we learn about Kebes in the last book… hmmm.

    More generally, I think being entangled with the world in a theme in Walton’s writing

    That’s a great way of putting it!

    I think that’s a lot of why I connected to it so much.

    Curious, though – do you feel the theme holds up in Necessity? That one threw me quite a bit, precisely because I felt it broke with that theme, and became outright utopian.

  3. @Meredith

    I went and had a look through the UK rules and it turns out I’m not allowed to donate blood, but not because of anyone else’s health – people who have fainting spells and dizziness related to low (or wonky-low) blood pressure are banned. I suppose that should’ve been obvious, since the primary method of controlling it is to drink (lots of) water and eat (a moderate amount of) salt to raise blood volume, and removing a bunch would probably be unhelpful.

    I have that, too, so I’m probably doubly banned.

    Coincidentally, my Mom donated a few times in the 1980s and was told to stop, because she had a persistent problem with collapsing veins, which are apparently inborn with her. Of course, when she had to go to the hospital recently and the nurses had problems finding a vein (a known problem with her), they asked my almost 75-year-old Mom, if she’d ever taken illegal drugs. Even though she told them she’s always had that issue.

  4. #6: So they were able to get non-white actors for the supporting roles, but all the non-white actors turned them down for the lead roles that were specifically written as non-white? And it just sort of “developed” towards white actors for the leads instead. Yeah, sure. I buy that. Also I’m planning to purchase this nice bridge in Brooklyn.

    They are clearly feeling more pressure to be more creative in their excuses these days: “We knocked on the door, but they weren’t home!”

  5. I was a regular blood donor for several years. During that time I was diagnosed with idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, which translates into English as a low platelet count for no obvious reason. Prevailing theory seems to be that it’s an autoimmune condition, maybe. I continued to donate after that; I’d answer yes to a question about blood disorders, they’d ask me about the details, we’d go through their checklist, I’d be OK’d to donate.

    Then I developed an allergy to the antiseptic they were using. Nothing big, just local redness and itching, but they deferred me for that. About a year later I got a letter telling me they now had an alternative antiseptic and I could resume donating. Went to my regular blood drive…and they had changed the rules on ITP. Haven’t heard from them since. Well, I gave while I could.

  6. @Standback:

    I’d have to reread at least the third book to have an opinion about whether the theme is carried through, though I think it might have something to do with how they found Athena.

    I didn’t like the third book as much as the first two because the plot developed very naturally in those, but Necessity seemed more like trying to figure out something to do with the characters. Also, I was dubious about a secondary pantheon– wouldn’t they need to expand what they were in charge of?

  7. I’m in the same spot as Ultragotha, although in my case it was in 1980. So I am banned from blood donation because of a semester in the UK during the Carter administration.

    As Cora pointed out, the reason that blood collectors are so careful about CJD is that there’s no test for it.

  8. @Mister Dalliard: those restrictions sound quite similar to the ones I see as a US donor.

    @ULTRAGOTHA / @Heather Rose Jones: I thought it was 6 months rather than 3, but I haven’t had to think about it since they put an end (1996?) as well as a start on the time frame and the Red Cross website speaks only in generalities (or sneers at my web-fu…). I hadn’t thought about “work with problematic organisms”; possibly they think someone who does is paying attention (or can do so) enough to avoid infection in controlled circumstances, while incidental/environmental exposure is harder to control for (since most of us don’t micro-analyze the food we eat, wear masks in social settings, etc.). What’s the incidence of infection in people working with such organisms? (The question has local relevance, as a P4 lab may open soon.)

    @Anne Sheller: fascinating. I spent several years telling RC about being prophylacted (prophylaxed?) several decades ago for a hepatitis scare (due to a TA in a lab that pipetted by mouth rather than suction bulbs), until they finally said “don’t tell us about this anymore”; IIRC, they later set a formal 1-year boundary-of-concern on the prophyaxis.

    @Nancy Lebovitz: I had similar issues with Necessity.

    I’m O+, an ordinary very-long-time blood donor (pushed by becoming eligible not long after both I Will Fear No Evil and The Making of a Surgeon came out). I’ve seen some of the debate over gay eligibility; some of the issue is certainly hangover optics from the scares when HIV first appeared, but I also get the impression that the infections associated with het hookups are known to be fully extinguishable (“curable”) with drugs, while HIV was only suppressable. (I’ve seen reports indicating HIV may have been extinguished (at least short-term) in some people; confirming this will probably be a long slow process, as people are understandably wary of stopping medications given the risk of restarting not being effective.) I’d be interested in seeing any current references people can point to. I’d also be interested in any references suggesting we’re making progress in a substitute for red blood cells; reports 5-10 years ago sounded sufficiently optimistic that I thought I might see red-cell donations disappear in my lifetime, but the only more-recent reports have been of failure to prove out.

  9. From the reviews, Iron Fist isn’t ever going to make my watch list. Jessica Jones was incredible and Luke Cage was darned good, but I never made it through the first season of Daredevil and Iron Fist sounds much, much worse.

    Re #17: Facebook is giving me the Delaney item isn’t available. Anybody manage to get it?

  10. @ Chip Hitchcock

    I thought it was 6 months rather than 3, but I haven’t had to think about it since they put an end (1996?) as well as a start on the time frame and the Red Cross website speaks only in generalities (or sneers at my web-fu…).

    Web MD (which was a top Google hit for “blood donor restrictions mad cow”) indicates it’s 3 months or more in the UK since 1980. If it had been 6 months it wouldn’t have caught me: 3 months exactly back in 1981 (post-college wander-quarter-year). It also indicates that there has been some pressure to ease the restrictions, particularly as there have been no confirmed cases of transmission through blood donation. But after the HIV-via-transfusion fiasco, you can forgive the agencies to operate on the side of paranoia, given that there’s no actual diagnostic test for mad cow.

  11. Unfortunately, the first thing that comes up is dated 2003; there have been some changes since then. More recent info is variable; the NPR story says 3 months, a FDA page (undated, but it refers to 2002 as the future) says they \did/ recommend 6 months but are now recommending 3 due to a rise in cases in Europe; all of these say the N months are between 1980 and 1996. So my brain may have toggled when the cutoff went in and not toggled back, or I just may have misremembered.

  12. Hi, Chip:

    The US rules for time in England were modified about fifteen years ago. Around the same time that the time period was capped at 1996. Before that, it was 6 months, and I could donate. Once it became 3, I ceased to qualify.

  13. I forgot to mention during all this blood talk that #1 I like(d) giving blood (which not everyone does, even people who do so), and #2 the place I work has a blood drive once? twice? a year (which makes me jealous).

    /blood-stalk! (#NotAllVampires)

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