The helicopter was going to make it. Now the crew got busy below: tying down anything that could be blown off by the rotor wash or stashing it in the mess. Instead, I remember only a heavy door to our left swinging open to reveal, like a scene from an action movie, the silhouette of a man in a blue flight suit, feet planted shoulder-width apart to steady himself as the ship rocked sideways. Soon, everyone was working to squeeze him back through the narrow doorway and onto the deck where the helicopter, an MH Jayhawk, was idling overhead.
Until recently, the story I told about the accident unfolded in two basic acts: the tree fell, instantaneously unleashing a kind of unfathomable chaos; then the Coast Guard appeared and, just as swiftly, regathered that chaos into order. It was like watching footage of an exploding object, then watching it run in reverse.
The maneuver the Coast Guard was readying to execute now, on the deck of the Mustang, would be the climax of that progression. The helicopter hovered 30 or 40 feet over the boat, mirroring its speed and trajectory, while both vehicles moved slowly forward. Forward and right The whole procedure, from our vantage point, seemed seamless and routine.
In a way, it was: After the agonized deliberation at the air station, the pilots exited off their GPS route into fairly manageable conditions around Inian Pass. Ultimately, scooping Jon off the deck of the Mustang would resemble a standard exercise that the pilots drilled in their trainings. A few moments earlier, as the men scurried around Jon on his backboard, packaging and fastening him for the hoist, Jon worried that the second he got airborne he would start twirling uncontrollably, like the feathery end of a cat toy, and potentially thwack his head on the equipment on deck.
But now, he was levitating smoothly — a solitary, swaddled bale of a man, perfectly perpendicular to the ground. Dave and I watched it happen: our friend rising steadily away from us, improbably, to safety. As Jon floated higher, he could hear the Coast Guardsmen on the Mustang beneath him begin to cheer. He felt it was safe to open his eyes.
When he did, he saw someone, hunched in the open cargo door of the helicopter, pointing a television camera at him. Jon was rushed into surgery at the hospital in Sitka that evening. His spleen had been macerated into countless flecks. After awakening from surgery, Jon was disappointed that the doctors had swept those shards into a bag and thrown his spleen in the trash; he wanted to get a look at it, maybe even keep it preserved in a jar, alongside his cyborg-banana.
He felt he would need to face conversations like these if he was going to be a doctor. I guess, logistically, we did. We had zero sense of accomplishment, or even agency. In our minds, all we did was avoid screwing up until the real help could arrive and save him. From the instant he willed himself out of the water, he felt all of us locking into that same seamless flow of order steadily displacing chaos that Dave and I only experienced once the Coast Guard arrived.
It was amazing to him how the three of us managed to generate solutions for each successive problem. The feeling of inevitability that day became only more pronounced for Jon as time passed and the entire story of our rescue receded into a prologue to the rest of his life. The surgery in Sitka was only the first of half a dozen, and it would take several years for him to regain 60 percent of the use of his arm, wrist and hand, as the nerves gradually regrew along his injured side.
He could repair kayaks but needed help lifting them. He was unable to wrestle the mattress corners into the fitted sheets when he made the beds. After that, he started working at a recording studio in Portland, just as he envisioned while stuck in the water, and he now runs his own audio-mastering company: Spleenless Mastering. Eventually Jon seemed to have recovered from the accident without any conspicuous disabilities. But his life has been quietly corroded by chronic pain and, almost equally, by the stresses of navigating the doctors, medications and their side effects to manage it.
About two years after the accident, he learned he had PTSD. It manifested as a kind of unbearable empathy for anyone who was suffering. He would hear interviews with natural-disaster victims or the homeless on NPR and have to pull his car over. There continued to be other tribulations, too — more mundane ones. A few times a year, he still rebreaks a rib out of nowhere; once or twice, Jon told me, all it has taken is an especially affectionate hug from his wife.
Jon found early on that he could cordon off this suffering, both in his own mind and in conversation, by making jokes about the accident itself and sticking to the happy ending of our rescue, a trick that got much easier after the National Geographic show aired later that year. The soundtrack was all heart-thwacking synth drums and shredding guitar. Initially, the schlockiness of the production felt like a blessing.
The show depersonalized the accident, giving us all a shorthand to convey how dramatic that day had been, without confronting how destabilizing and senseless it might have felt. But we never realized the degree to which that kitschy shorthand started to obscure the real story — then, gradually, to replace it. The morning after the accident, Dave and I traveled back to Dundas Bay to pack up our campsite and collect the kayaks we abandoned the previous evening. We were shuttled there from Gustavus by the same boat captain who dropped us off three days earlier, a forbiddingly taciturn commercial fisherman named Doug Ogilvy.
He asked if we had waders. We did not. So Ogilvy put on his, climbed down the ladder and told Dave to get on his back. Then stoically, like an ox or an old-timey strongman hauling a safe, he trudged through the thigh-high water, dropped Dave on the gravel beach, then lurched back and hauled me the same way, as if I were a man-size infant in a papoose.
That is, he half-expected to find evidence that the accident had been fortuitous somehow, that there was a reason, or redemptive value, behind it. My mother had the same instinct when I called her the night before. On the phone I strained to emphasize for her — she was only two years into her cruelly premature widowhood, and I was new at being the overprotective son of a widow — that Jon was going to be all right, and that Dave and I were safe. She told me that my dad must have been up there looking out for us somehow. I resented all the supernatural thinking. A tree fell in the woods.
It might not have, but it did. As strange as it sounds, it was years before I realized that the tree could have hit me — and only after a friend pointed this out, as I told the story around a fire one night. And it was only a few weeks ago, while on the phone with Jon, that it occurred to me that the tree could have hit all three of us — we were standing in a single-file line, after all, waiting to cross the creek — and that we all might have wound up clobbered and scattered in that river, dying slowly and watching each other die.
And so, the real meaning of the accident, if I felt compelled to find one, might be that it validated my most exaggerated fears. But instead, it somehow helped cleanse me of them. There was comfort for me in accepting the arbitrariness of what happened, in regarding it as a spasm of random damage in time and space that, just as randomly, a small number of human beings got the opportunity to repair. We were more capable than I had understood. We were also far more helpless. On the ride back to Gustavus with our gear, I pictured myself, again, as a small blip in empty space.
The ride was rough and jumpy as Ogilvy impatiently pounded his boat through the last vestigial wave energy of the storm; Dave and I had to hold on, to plant ourselves on the bench behind him. But there was a moment when I felt so safe that I loosened my grip, leaned slightly into the motion of the boat, and, closing my eyes, felt myself lift off the seat.
Jon Mooallem is a writer at large for the magazine who is working on a book about the great Alaska earthquake of His last feature for the magazine was about our climatological future. Rick Steves can tell you how to avoid having your pocket picked on the subway in Istanbul. He can tell you where to buy cookies from cloistered Spanish nuns on a hilltop in Andalusia. We were, at that moment, very much inside the Western Hemisphere, 4, miles west of Rome, inching through Manhattan in a hired black car.
Steves was in the middle of a grueling speaking tour of the United States: 21 cities in 34 days. New York was stop No. He had just flown in from Pittsburgh, where he had spent less than 24 hours, and he would soon be off to Los Angeles, Denver and Dallas. In his brief windows of down time, Steves did not go out searching for quaint restaurants or architectural treasures.
He sat alone in his hotel rooms, clacking away on his laptop, working on new projects. His whole world, for the time being, had been reduced to a concrete blur of airports, hotels, lecture halls and media appearances. In this town car, however, rolling through Midtown, Steves was brimming with delight.
Man, oh, man! It was almost the opposite of the Brooklyn Bridge. The Brooklyn Bridge is one of the most recognizable structures in the world: a stretched stone cathedral. This was its unloved upriver cousin, a tangle of discolored metal, vibrating with cars, perpetually under construction. The car hit traffic and lurched to a stop. Steves paused to scan the street outside. Then he refocused. This was correct. He reclines jauntily atop the cliffs of Dover and is vigorously scrubbed in a Turkish bath. The show has aired now for nearly 20 years, and in that time, among travelers, Steves has established himself as one of the legendary PBS superdorks — right there in the pantheon with Mr.
Rogers, Bob Ross and Big Bird. Like them, Steves is a gentle soul who wants to help you feel at home in the world.
Like them, he seems miraculously untouched by the need to look cool, which of course makes him sneakily cool. To the aspiring traveler, Steves is as inspirational as Julia Child once was to the aspiring home chef. You never knew exactly where his Rickniks as the hard-core fans call themselves would materialize en masse.
Some Steves appearances were mobbed; others were sparse. His appeal is slightly cultish. For every Ricknik out in the world, a large contingent of average people have no idea who he is. We arrived, however, to find the bookstore overflowing. A solid wave of applause met Steves at the door.
Fans had been pouring in, the organizer told us, for two solid hours. People sat in the aisles and stood in the back. I noticed a group of hipster somethings standing near the back, and at first I assumed they had all come sarcastically. But as Steves began to speak, they grinned and laughed with absolute earnestness. Everyone here was, apparently, a superfan. At one point, Steves showed a slide of tourists swimming in a sunny French river underneath a Roman aqueduct, and the whole crowd gasped.
When he mentioned that his website featured a special video devoted to packing light for women, a woman in the crowd actually pumped her fist. At the end of his talk, Steves offered to sign books — but not in the traditional way. There were too many people for a signing table, he said, and anyway, single-file lines were always inefficient.
This is one of his travel credos: avoid waiting in line. Instead of sitting down, Steves walked out into the center of the room and invited everyone to open their books and surround him. He pulled out a Sharpie. And then he started to spin. Steves held out his pen and signed book after book after book, fluidly, on the move, smiling as the crowd pressed in. A woman asked him where to celebrate Christmas in Europe. Steves, in midrotation, still signing furiously, told her that he had made a whole special about precisely that question and that it was available free on his website.
As he spun, Steves thanked everyone and gave quick, off-the-cuff advice. In an astonishingly short time, he had signed every book. The people were satisfied. The crowd thinned. Steves finally came to a stop. Rick Steves is absolutely American. He wears jeans every single day. He drinks frozen orange juice from a can. He likes his hash browns burned, his coffee extra hot. He has a great spontaneous honk of a laugh — it bursts out of him, when he is truly delighted, with the sharpness of a firecracker on the Fourth of July.
Although Steves spends nearly half his life traveling, he insists, passionately, that he would never live anywhere but the United States — and you know when he says it that this is absolutely true. In fact, Steves still lives in the small Seattle suburb where he grew up, and every morning he walks to work on the same block, downtown, where his parents owned a piano store 50 years ago. On Sundays, Steves wears his jeans to church, where he plays the congas, with great arm-pumping spirit, in the inspirational soft-rock band that serenades the congregation before the service starts, and then he sits down and sings classic Lutheran hymns without even needing to refer to the hymnal.
Although Steves has published many foreign-language phrase books, the only language he speaks fluently is English. He built his business in America, raised his kids in America and gives frequent loving paeans to the glories of American life. And yet: Rick Steves desperately wants you to leave America.
The tiniest exposure to the outside world, he believes, will change your entire life. The more rootedly American you are, the more Rick Steves wants this for you. If you have never had a passport, if you are afraid of the world, if your family would prefer to vacation exclusively at Walt Disney World, if you worry that foreigners are rude and predatory and prone to violence or at least that their food will give you diarrhea, then Steves wants you — especially you — to go to Europe. Then he wants you to go beyond. He wants you to stand and make little moaning sounds on a cobblestone street the first time you taste authentic Italian gelato — flavors so pure they seem like the primordial essence of peach or melon or pistachio or rice distilled into molecules and stirred directly into your own molecules.
He wants you to hike on a dirt path along a cliff over the almost-too-blue Mediterranean, with villages and vineyards spilling down the rugged mountains above you. He wants you to arrive at the Parthenon at dusk, just before it closes, when all the tour groups are loading back onto their cruise ships, so that you have the whole place to yourself and can stand there feeling like a private witness to the birth, and then the ruination, of Western civilization. Steves wants you to go to Europe for as long as you can afford to, and he also wants to help you afford it.
Much of his guru energy is focused on cutting costs. Out of this paradoxical desire — the enlightenment of Americans through their extraction from America — Steves has built his quirky travel empire. His guidebooks, which started as hand-typed and photocopied information packets for his scraggly s tour groups, now dominate the American market; their distinctive blue-and-yellow spines brighten the travel sections of bookstores everywhere.
Steves is less interested in reaching sophisticated travelers than he is in converting the uninitiated. Steves teaches his followers everything from how to pack a toiletries kit to how to make themselves at home in a small hotel room to how to appreciate a religious tradition they may have been raised to despise.
In order to enjoy St. He is simultaneously goofy and dead serious; he can ping, in an instant, from golly-gee Pollyanna cheerfulness to deep critiques of the modern world.
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I can testify, firsthand, to the power of Rick Steves. In , he spoke at my college. Nothing about the encounter seemed promising. Our campus was a tiny outpost in a tiny town, and Steves delivered his talk not in some grand lecture hall but in a drab room in the basement of the student union. I was poor, shy, anxious, sheltered, repressed and extremely pale. I was a particular kind of Pacific Northwest white guy — blind to myself and my place in the world.
I had never really traveled; I was more comfortable on Greyhound buses than on airplanes. Going to Europe seemed like something aristocrats did, like fox hunting or debutante balls. My girlfriend dragged me to the talk. I had never even heard of Steves. But what he said over the next hour or so changed the rest of my life.
He paces, gesticulates and speaks very fast. He tells his favorite old jokes as if they were eternally new. Onstage, he is a combination of preacher, comedian, salesman, life-hacker, professor and inspirational speaker. Steves told us, that day, how to pack our entire lives into a single bag measuring 9 by 22 by 14 inches. The back door, by contrast, led to revelations. He showed us impossibly enticing photos: cobblestone piazzas teeming with fruit stalls, quirky wooden hotels among wildflowers in the Alps, vast arsenals of multicolored cheese.
He made travel seem less like a luxury than a necessary exploration of the self, a civic responsibility, a basic courtesy to your fellow humans. It seemed almost unreasonable not to go. Above all, Steves told us, do not be afraid. The people of the world are wonderful, and the planet we share is spectacular. But the only way to really understand that is to go and see it for yourself. So go.
My girlfriend and I left the room converts to the gospel of Rick Steves. We bought his book and highlighted it to near-meaninglessness. We started mapping itineraries, squirreling away money, asking relatives for donations. In probably the worst phone call of my life, my rancher grandfather expressed shock and dismay that I would ask him to support this meaningless overseas lark.
Eventually, over many months, we scraped together just enough to buy plane tickets and order minimalist Steves-approved supplies, including a travel towel so thin and nonabsorbent that it seemed to just push the moisture around your skin until you forgot you were wet. We packed exactly as Steves taught us: T-shirts rolled into space-saving noodles, just enough clothes to get us from one hotel laundry session to the next. Then, for the first time in our lives, we left North America. When I opened it recently, the reality of that long-ago trip hissed out with fresh urgency.
My year-old self recorded everything. On our first day in Europe, we bought imported Austrian apples with fat, heavy English coins and saw a woman stumble on a staircase, breaking an entire bag of newly bought china. We arrived at our first hostel, the Y. As we tried to make out the names of the dead, songbirds sang strenuously in the trees all around us.
This juxtaposition — old death, new life — blew my jet-lagged American mind. Reality fills its gaps. That, more or less, was the theme of the trip. For six weeks, we followed the Steves game plan. We shared squalid bunks with other young travelers from Denmark, Australia, Canada and Japan. In the stately public parks of Paris, we ate rotisserie chickens with our bare hands. One stifling afternoon at the Colosseum in Rome, we watched a worker slam his ladder against the edge of an arch and break off some ancient bricks.
He looked over at us, looked down at the bricks, kicked dirt over them and kept working. Once, I left my underwear on a Mediterranean beach overnight and, since I could not afford to lose a pair, had to go back and pick it up the next day, in full view of all the sunbathers. Wherever we went, Rick Steves was with us. We seemed to have entered the world of his slides: the fruit markets and overnight trains, the sunny French river under the ancient Roman aqueduct. Sometimes our European hosts, with the quiet pride of someone who once met Elvis, told us stories about Steves.
He was a gentleman, they said, a truly good man, and he always came in person to check out their hotels, and he never failed to ask them how their children were doing. By the end of our trip, we were completely broke. We flew home looking ragged, shaggy, weather-beaten and exhausted. But of course Steves was right: Our lives were never the same.
We were still young Americans, but we felt liberated and empowered, like true citizens of the world. The most important things we learned all had to do with home. As the English writer G. I began to realize how silly and narrow our notion of exceptionalism is — this impulse to consider ourselves somehow immune to the forces that shape the rest of the world. The environment I grew up in, with its malls and freeways, its fantasies of heroic individualism, began to seem unnatural.
I started to sense how much reality exists elsewhere in the world — not just in a theoretical sense, in books and movies, but with the full urgent weight of the real. And not just in Europe but on every other continent, all the time, forever. I began to realize how much I still had to learn before I could pretend to understand anything.
Some people get there themselves, or their communities help them. But I needed him, and I am eternally glad I was dragged that day to see him talk. Steves answered his front door slightly distracted. I had come in the middle of his breakfast preparations. He was stirring a block of frozen orange juice into a pitcher of water. This was April , exactly 20 years after my first trip to Europe. I had come to see Steves in the most exotic place possible: his home.
He lives just north of Seattle, in a town so rainy it has a free umbrella-share program. There is nothing particularly exotic about the house itself. It has beige carpeting, professionally trimmed shrubs and a back deck with a hot tub. What was exotic was simply that Steves was there. He had just returned from his frenetic speaking tour of the United States and would be leaving almost immediately on his annual trip to Europe.
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For now, he was making breakfast: frozen blueberries, Kashi cereal, O. But of course, he could not. Steves is gone too much, yo-yoing between the misty forests of the Pacific Northwest and the sun-baked cathedrals of Europe. Every year, no matter what else is going on, Steves spends at least four months practicing the kind of travel he has preached for odd years: hauling his backpack up narrow staircases in cheap hotels, washing his clothes in sinks, improvising picnics.
He is now 63, and he could afford to retire many times over. Among his colleagues, Steves is a notorious workaholic. On long car rides, he sits in the back seat and types op-eds on his laptop. His relentless hands-on control of every aspect of his business is what has distinguished the Rick Steves brand. It is also, obviously, exhausting — if not for Steves, then at least for the people around him.
He has two children, now grown, and for much of their childhoods, Steves was gone. He was building his company, changing the world. For very long stretches, his wife was forced to be a single mother. She and Steves divorced in after 25 years of marriage. Every summer, when the family joined Steves in Europe, his pace hardly slackened: They would cover major cities in 48 hours, blitzing through huge museums back to back. The kids complained so much, on one trip, that Steves finally snapped — if they were so miserable, he said, they could just go sit in the hotel room all day and play video games.
They remember this day as heaven. One year, while Steves was away, the children converted to Catholicism. His son, Andy Steves, eventually went into the family business: He now works as a tour guide and even published a European guidebook. Steves is fully aware that his obsessive work ethic is unusual. He admits that he has regrets. But he cannot make himself stop. He has the fervor of the true evangelist: The more people he meets, the more cities he visits, the more lives he might change.
At one point, as we talked, he pulled out the itinerary for his coming trip — from Sicily to Iceland, with no down time whatsoever. Just looking at it made him giddy. What would I do if I stayed home? Not much. Nothing I would remember. In his house, Steves offered up a little show and tell. He pointed out an antique silver cigarette lighter shaped like the Space Needle. He sat down at his baby grand piano and lost himself, for a few happy minutes, playing Scarlatti. He took me to a room filled with books and reached up to a very high shelf.
When Steves was 13, he decided, for no apparent reason, to conduct a deep statistical analysis of the Billboard pop charts. The lines were multicolored and interwoven — it looked like the subway map of some fantastical foreign city. You could see, at a glance, the rising and falling fortunes of the Beatles red and Creedence Clearwater Revival black and Elvis Presley dots and dashes. Steves kept this up for three years, taping together many pieces of graph paper, and in the end he summarized the data in an authoritative-looking table that he typed on the family typewriter.
This is what was in that binder: a systematic breakdown of the most successful bands from to , as determined by the objective statistics of an analytical adolescent weirdo. Steves laughed. It was ridiculous. But it was also a perfect window into his mind.enter site
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Even at 13, a powerful energy was coiled inside him — an unusual combination of obsession and precision, just waiting for some worthwhile project to burst out in. And that, coincidentally, was exactly when he found it: the project of his life. In the summer of , when Steves was 14, his parents took him to Europe.
They owned a business tuning and importing pianos, and they wanted to see factories firsthand. Steves approached this first trip abroad with the same meticulous energy he brought to his Billboard graphs. As he traveled around the continent, he recorded the essential data of his journey on the backs of postcards: locations, activities, weather, expenses.
One day, Steves spent 40 cents on fishing gear. Another, he met a year-old man who had witnessed the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. To keep everything in order, Steves numbered the postcards sequentially. He still has them all packed lovingly into an old wooden box. On that same formative trip, the Steves family visited relatives in Norway. They happened to be there in July , when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. Europe was a crash course in cultural relativity. In a park in Oslo, he had an epiphany: The foreign humans around him, he realized, were leading existences every bit as rich and full as his own.
That first trip set the course for everything that followed. When Steves was 18, he went back to Europe without his parents. Soon, life in America became a series of interludes between travel. He taught piano to earn money, then stretched that money as far as he possibly could, sleeping on church pews and park benches, in empty barns and construction zones, from Western Europe to Afghanistan. He turned his cheapness into a science. Instead of paying for a hotel room in a city, Steves would use his Railpass and sleep on a train for the night — four hours out, four hours back. He would stuff himself on free breakfast bread, then try to eat as little as possible for the rest of the day.
Naturally, he recorded all this, and today he has an impressive archive of old travel journals. Their pages preserve, in tiny handwriting, shadowy young dissidents in Moscow, diarrhea in Bulgaria, revolution in Nicaragua. In his 20s, Steves brought his wide-roaming wisdom back to the United States. He started to supplement his piano teaching with travel seminars. His signature class, European Travel Cheap, ran for six hours.
Steves could have talked longer than that, but it struck him as impractical for his students. In Europe, he rented a nine-seat minibus and started to lead small tours. Eventually, his seminars and tour notes morphed into his books. It had no ISBN and looked so amateurish that bookstores assumed it was an early review copy. This was the birth of the Rick Steves empire.
Rick Steves both is and is not his TV persona. Offscreen, he allows himself to be much more explicitly political. He has the passion of the autodidact. Growing up, Steves led a relatively sheltered existence: He was a white, comfortable, middle-class baby boomer in a white, comfortable, middle-class pocket of America. Travel did for him what he promises it will do for everyone else: It put him in contact with other realities. He saw desperate poverty in Iran and became obsessed with economic injustice.
He studied the war industry and colonial exploitation. In the early days, Steves injected political lessons into his European tours.
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Sometimes he would arrive in a city with no hotel reservations, just to make his privileged customers feel the anxiety of homelessness. In Munich, he would set up camp in an infamous hippie circus tent, among all the countercultural wanderers of Europe. Today, Steves is more strategic. His most powerful tool, he realizes, is his broad appeal. He has an uncanny knack for making serious criticism feel gentle and friendly.
But other nations have some pretty good ideas too. Steves learned this strategy, he said, from his early days running tours, living with the same people for weeks at a time. Survival required being pleasant. Instead, he pointed out different perspectives with a smile. He became fluent in the needs of American tourists. I want to preach to organizations that need to hear this, so I need to compromise a little bit so the gatekeepers let it through to their world.
This balancing act has become increasingly difficult over the past two decades, in a world of terrorism, war, nationalism and metastasizing partisanship. After the Sept. They canceled tours and cut back budgets. Steves, however, remained defiantly optimistic. He promised his staff that there would be no cuts, no layoffs and no shift in message. He insisted that a world in crisis needed travel more, not less. Soon the shock of Sept. In his hometown, Steves caused a controversy when he walked around removing rows of American flags that had been set up in support of the war.
It was, he argued, an act of patriotism: The flag is meant to represent all Americans, not just war supporters. Lately, Steves concedes, his political message has begun to take over his teaching. Some moments in the book verge on un-American. Occasionally, despite his best efforts, Steves still ruffles feathers.
After one recent speech in the Deep South, event organizers refused to pay Steves — their conservative sponsors, he learned, considered his message a form of liberal propaganda. In recent years, Steves has become a happy warrior for an unlikely cause: the legalization of marijuana. He first tried the drug in Afghanistan, in the s, in the name of cultural immersion, and he was fascinated by its effect on his mind. In his headquarters you will find a poster of the Mona Lisa holding a gargantuan spliff. On a shelf in his living room, right there among all the European knickknacks, Steves displays a sizable bong.
Sometimes, fans urge Steves to run for office. To stay in a family-owned hotel in Bulgaria is to strengthen global democracy; to pack light is to break the iron logic of consumerism; to ride a train across Europe is to challenge the fossil-fuel industry. Travel, to Steves, is not some frivolous luxury — it is an engine for improving humankind, for connecting people and removing their prejudices, for knocking distant cultures together to make unlikely sparks of joy and insight.
When people tell Steves to stay out of politics, to stick to travel, he can only laugh. When I want to do something, I can do it. Steves is deeply indifferent to creature comforts. When I visited him, the back seat of his car was covered with a greenish slime, practically disintegrating, because of a mysterious leak. He just cracked the windows to try to dry it out. Steves prefers to spend his money on his favorite causes. His activism can be quirky and impulsive. This, pointedly, was how much money he would get back from President George W.
Last year, during a chat with one of the national leaders of the Lutheran Church, Steves wondered how much it would cost to send every single Lutheran congregation in the United States a DVD of his recent TV special about Martin Luther. In the s, working in partnership with the Y. The plan was to take that money out of the banking system and let it do a few decades of social good, at which point Steves could sell the buildings to fund his retirement. Eventually he worked his way up to buying a whole unit apartment complex — and then he donated it outright to the Y.
The mothers, he said, needed it more than he would. Steves is obsessed with the problem of poverty and amazed at our perpetual misunderstanding of it. This needs to be talked about.
I can do it, and I can get away with it. I could retire now. Once the travel market finally recovered, some years after Sept. By taking a principled stand, Steves flourished. Today, his chipper voice is reaching more Americans than ever. One night, in his living room, Steves pulled out a plain black notebook. This, however, was something else entirely — a record of a very different kind of journey. For the next 20 minutes, Steves would read me koans about the glories of being stoned. He would get baked, open up to somewhere in the middle and jot down whatever he happened to be thinking — deep or shallow, silly or angry.
There is no chronology; on every page, axioms from many different decades commingle. The entries covered an impressively wide territory. I found myself wondering, for the thousandth time: Who does this? What kind of mind not only thinks of such a project but actually follows through with it, decade after decade after decade? As Steves read, he interrupted himself again and again with great shouting honks of laughter, and I cackled right along with him.
Then, suddenly, with almost no transition, we would find ourselves deep in earnest conversation about the nature of true happiness or the dangers of ambition. And then we would suddenly be cackling again. And of course there were many, many more descriptions of getting high itself. At some point, he looked up from the journal. Because this is me. He shook his head. An earlier version of this article misstated the size of a bus Steves used in his early tours through Europe.
It was a nine-seat minibus, not a nine-foot minibus. When my wife and I were married, my mother-in-law told us she had a special gift for us. In Sweden, on an island, in the forest. As with all magical places, getting to the island in Sweden requires some effort particularly as my wife, son and I live in Los Angeles. After the plane, the train and a car ride to the countryside, a boat ferries us across the lake from the mainland. There are only a handful of cottages — with no electricity or running water — on the island. Distances walking in the forest are hard to determine.
You spend so much time walking over, under and around branches, brush and fallen trees that a simple hike can quickly become a disorienting journey. There are no straight lines in a forest. In Sweden, mushrooms are like gold. Specifically chanterelle mushrooms. Aside from their high cost and their subtle earthy flavor cooked in butter and served on toast , their value is enhanced by how late in the season they grow.
So Swedes are extremely protective of their chanterelle patches. The higher the security the better the challenge. The better the challenge the better they need to be. So to speak! These individuals come in a variety of age classes. They range from High School students to University Grads. They are quite They prefer to work from behind the scenes and preserve their anonymity. This is primarily the term given to individuals who are skilled at the art of bypassing software copyright protection. They are usually highly skilled in programming languages.
They are often confused with Hackers. As you can see they are similar in their agenda. Some tools are readily available and some are actually written by other hackers, with the sole intent of being used for system break-ins. In the end however it boils down to they need to infect your system in order to compromise it. This will give you as a user insight as to what exactly they look for and how they obtain this information. In this section, I also explain how these tools are used in conjunction with each other. Chapter 5 A port scanner is a handy tool that scans a computer looking for active ports.
Take a look at the list below for reference. Starting Scan. Target Host: www. Scanning for open ports is done in two ways. The first is to scan a single IP address for open ports. The second is to scan a range of IP address to find open ports. Try to think about this like calling a single phone-number of say and asking for every extension available.
In relation to scanning, the phone-number is equivalent to the IP address and the extensions to open ports. What does a port scanner look like? There are hundreds of Trojans. To list them all would make this manual extremely long. It is in my opinion by far the most advance Trojan I have seen. Take a look at some of the features of Sub Seven. Here is a picture of what SubSeven looks like.
It consists of a server and a client-part. The server- part is the program which must be running on your computer. This should give you an idea of what Netbus is capable of. If no full path of the image is given it will look for it in the Patch-directory. If no full path of the sound-file is given it will look for it in the Patch-directory. The supported sound-format is WAV. You can even navigate the mouse on the target computer with your own. The answer is always sent back to you. With this feature it will be possible to remotely update Patch with a new version.
The sound is sent back to you. This is what the Netbus client looks like. These programs make it possible to hide the Trojans in legitimate files. ICQ Though as itself is not a utility for hacking there are program files written by Un-named programmers for it. Given that you are infected with a Trojan. There are also files that allow you add users in ICQ without their authorization or notification.
Hack 1: Objective: Obtain entry to the users machine. The only thing I can think of when I hear someone say that is that person is not aware of just what type of information they have access to. Try to remember this is not meant to scare you, it is meant to inform you. Keep in mind you are reading this manual to gain a better understanding of how to protect your-self. Chapter 6 You probably pay your bills online via your banks website. Most banks require you to use bit encryption browsers to do your banking online. This form of banking online does encrypt your information and protect it from otherwise prying eyes of the world that may wish to gain access to such vital information.
That means there are many billions a 1 followed by 12 zeroes of possible keys. That means a computer would require exponentially more processing power than for bit encryption to find the correct key. Question: How? Most banks have a login screen of some kind, where you type in your username and password. The screen shot would look like this. From that screen shot they can tell what site you are at in which case it would be your bank. Perhaps there are some of you who do not use online banking. Perhaps you use another program for managing your finances. There is a variety of programs out there available for financial purposes.
They can copy the files from your computer to theirs and browse through them at their leisure. They can read them and possibly check your mail before you do. Not only has the individual compromised your computer system, they also know what you look like. How many of you have resumes typed up on your computers? Those are just a few of the things that can happen when your system is compromised. This is no science fiction these are real life possibilities.
The extent of that information was gathered just from files on your system. Take into consideration the following. Depending on how much you read and how much you know about Trojans you are probably aware of what I am talking about. Answer: How many of you have Webcams? How many of you have Microphones? Not all Trojans have the ability to access your Web Cam and Microphone.
Add to that since the recording is a file they can play it back whenever they want to who ever they want. By the same method they access your Web Cam effectively getting both a video and audio feed from your house of what is currently going on in that room. That sounds crazy, but I can assure you it is not. In Chapter 7 we will discuss methods to protect yourself from these individuals. Take it back from those who may invade it.
The individuals who are responsible for these attacks will always prey off those who do not take an interest in defending their privacy. Chapter 7 I personally recommend that you use one of the following or both if you can. Black Ice Defender This is a very user-friendly comprehensive firewall program. I highly recommend it to both advance and novice users. It has a simple graphical interface that is easy to understand and pleasing to the eye. Lockdown has a very nice graphical interface to it also and is user friendly. It does the same thing Black Ice Defender does but also runs scans on your system for Trojans.
It monitors your registry and system files for changes that occur. Then gives you the option of either undoing all the changes or allowing it. As they both compensate for the short-comings of the other. Anti Virus Software This is also another piece of software you should by all means have on your system. There are numerous anti-virus software out there.
Norton Antivirus and Mcafee are two of the more common ones. They are all good and do their job. The reason is I find Black Ice Defender blocks incoming attacks and any system changes that occur on your system Lockdown catches. If you have an external modem then this tip is easy. Depending on how often the lights blink and how fast they blink gives a rough idea of how much activity is going on between your computer and the net. If you are connected to the internet, and are just sitting by your system doing absolutely nothing, those lights have no business to be blinking rapidly. For Example: If you have your email program open and you are just sitting there reading your mail, you may notice that every 15 sometimes 20 mins that the lights will blink back and forth This is normal because chances are you have your email program configured to check your mail every 20 mins.
If you have an internal modem, you will not be able to see the lights on your modem, instead you can rely on the two tv looking icons at the bottom right corner of your screen near the clock. They will look something like this. Any data being sent and received will be noticed by the blinking of the lights rapidly. If you are on cable or dsl, the same applies. There should never be any form of heavy data transfer of any kind from your system to anything unless you are authorizing it.
For example if it is Established then that means whatever the foreign address says is currently connected to your machine. There is software available that will show you this information without typing all those commands. Earlier in this manual I showed you how to find what is being shared. Scroll through the listing and look for whatever shared files you have. For a refresher the folder will look like this. If you wish to turn off the sharing you would select Not Shared. This will make the folder read only.
My personal suggestion is to set any directory you are sharing to Read Only and password protect it. This is only if you must share resources. Do the following steps to disable it. You will see a variety of icons the one you are looking for will be the icon that says Network and it looks like this. You will then receive a screen that looks like this. After clicking on that a box will open: You must then click OK again and this will return you to the Control Panel. At this point will be prompted for you Windows CD.
Simply insert it and click OK. Do you wish to keep your existing file? When the process is completely done your system will ask you if you wish to reboot. Click on Yes. Software wise up until this point we have talked about how to protect your system. The only way you are really going to know if you are infected is diagnosing your computer properly. I recommend getting Lockdown for this. Install it on your system and run a full system scan on your machine. Consult the documentation for Lockdown After running Lockdown , run your anti virus scanner just in case Lockdown missed anything.
You may ask yourself why I suggest such redundancy? Computers are built on the principle of redundancy. One program will always compensate for the short-comings of the other. This should reveal most if not all Trojans currently residing on your machine. Until you are absolutely sure about not possessing any Trojans on your machine I suggest being alert of the happenings on your computer. Watch the transmit and receive lights on the modem like we discussed. Run the firewall programs I suggested to block out intruders.
Monitor your system for unusual happenings CD Rom opening for no reason 4. Use the Netstat command to see what ports are being used if you get suspicious. The ultimate goal is not to be paranoid about the use of your computer. It does not matter how powerful a system you have, how many different firewall programs you run or how many virus scanners you have. In the end you are your systems worst enemy. This is a lot easier said than done, but it can be done. Those socially engineered attacks are focused on getting you to give them your money, bottom line.
Chapter 8 This type of attack happens primarily more in business scenes. Social engineering directed to a business setting usually occur as a phone scam. They pit their knowledge and wits against another human. This technique is used for a lot of things, such as gaining passwords and basic information on a system or organization. These same principles are applied when it comes to your personal computer. Chat lines make people highly susceptible to such social mayhem.
They become as believable as their ability to write and express themselves. On a Chat Line your perception and intuition is all you have to rely on. The person on the other end of the keyboard can be nothing as they describe themselves. The same goes for E-Mail or any form of communication without visual recognition. This person may sound romantic, funny and down to earth. This is the turning point of your conversation. If they go for the strike right of the bat then they risk exposing themselves.
In either case their goal has been accomplished which is to get you to accept the file from them. Given it takes a certain level of finesse and grace to accomplish this type of attack. Get them to expose themselves and their intent. The person seems charming, funny even normal by every sense of the word. The conversation becomes a little personal at some point and while not giving him your life story you share some fairly confidential information with this person. The conversation heats up and turns to the point of a possible picture trade.
You have two options. B Play up to the game and see if you can catch this person by making them expose themselves. They will more than likely log offline very quickly.
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If you play up to the game you have the chance to maybe catch them, or at least find out who they are. Some of the most common tactics is to assume the identity of a girl and going to channels where pictures are commonly exchanged. One of the most popular methods of sending a person a Trojan on IRC is to automatically send you the file when you join a channel. The reason goes as such that some people have a feature turned on in their IRC programs that automatically accepts incoming file transfers.
Consult your IRC program documentation When you join the channel, you automatically accept the file. If you are aware of the file you might see it is called something like tiffany. Out of sheer curiosity some people will open the file to see what it is, especially those who are not aware of the potential dangers of such files. They will attack whoever falls prey to whatever trap they layout. Face it everyone is paranoid about something or the other. I believe however if you use the right types of programs combined with self-education on how hackers think, you can make your computer much safer.
Reporting hackers can sometimes be a little bit tricky. A lot of users never report hack attempts. Once your system is connected to the Internet, some form of system attack will eventually hit your computer. Most of the times these attacks will be completely random. While not every single attack ever made should be reported, repetitious attacks should. This is a clear indication that someone is trying to gain access to your computer. If you are using Black Ice Defender and or Lockdown , you will be able to see the IP address of the person attempting to break into your system.
Chapter 9 Before you can do anything you will require some utilities. I recommend getting the following program. Consult your firewall program documentation for instructions on where to locate the number of attacks originating from an IP address.