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Techsploits

Disasters!!!

By Annalee Newitz

I'M IN one of those moods where you want every sentence you write to end with at least one exclamation point, but preferably more. I think it's because I saw the century's first truly great disaster movie last week: The Day After Tomorrow. Let me lay it out for you: Super giant frozen hurricanes! Multiple megatornadoes! Ice kudzu! Winds from the upper troposphere! Random angry wolves! Dennis Quaid's flared nostrils! VP Dick Cheney (er, an actor who looks exactly like him) groveling to the Mexican government so they'll let U.S. citizens cross the border to escape the coming ice age!

Of course, none of it is scientifically or politically accurate. That's what makes the film an instant trash classic. Sure, Professor Flaring Nostrils has a brief speech at the beginning of the flick where he talks about salination points and the Atlantic current and global warming, but even that "teachable moment" is pretty iffy. Even funnier: all the good-guy climate experts are constantly stymied in their quest to alert the world to the impending disaster because nobody will give them access to mainframe computers (simulating weather patterns requires a lot of computing power). But nobody ever whips out a Linux Beowulf cluster! Hello, Hollywood! If the Matrix guys could stick Nmap into their hacking scene, couldn't director Roland Emmerich track down a damn Linux consultant for his dumb weather movie? I bet Chris DiBona would have done it for free! The other thing that's great about The Day After Tomorrow is the sight of all the climate geeks going apoplectic over its fantastical representation of global warming. I'm so sick of hearing Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter fans debating the "accuracy" of the movies that it's a genuine pleasure to hear meteorologists, systems biologists and Woods Hole ocean nerd types freaking out over the realism of a science fiction movie. OK, so nobody is going to come away from this movie understanding global warming. But how often do you get to see a paleoclimatologist action hero? Core samples are sexy. Woot!

Don't forget that The Day After Tomorrow is only the latest in a long line of awe-inspiringly wrongheaded efforts to teach people that pollution is bad. Homage must be paid to global-warming apocalypse flick Waterworld (features Kevin Costner, recycled bodily waste, boat nomads and Spam). And there are also the 1970s greats Prophecy (features a giant killer bear monster and mercury-tainted streams) and Godzilla vs. Hedorah (features a nasty, gloopy monster who thrives on smog, guitar-playing Japanese hippies and more poop than you've ever seen in your life).

But let's not allow the coming ice age to distract us from all the other astonishing disasters that have been wracking the pseudoscientific world. The cafeterias at Microsoft's Redmond campus have been downgraded! Omigod, that's right—now there aren't as many juice bars in the food courts! What the fuck is up with that, Bill? Where is the goddamn JUICE? It's the proverbial beginning of the end of Microsoft's days as a vaguely swanky place to work. Really the juice thing is just salt in some already-raw wounds: recently, the software octopus announced it was offering employees a crappier health-care package and is reducing the discounts for workers who participate in the company's employee stock-purchase program. All I can say is that if Bill wants to keep his precious source code secret, he shouldn't be so cavalier about screwing his employees over. Know what I mean?

Maybe we should hire some Russian hackers to take Bill down. A bunch of people have forwarded me the best piece of spam ever. Originally in Russian, it's been translated by a helpful nerd thusly and stet: "We are glad to you to give qualitative service, on elimination of sites. We can kill any site by our attack, which have name 'DDos attack.' We have already killed hundreds Russian and foreign sites. If you have enemies, and It is necessary to get rid of them, ask us and we will help with pleasure. The prices at us low, 60 dollars for 6 hours. 150 dollars day. Destroy any project on the Internet with the help of ours DDos service. Payment in WebMoney."

My hacker pal Mason says he thinks the prices are reasonable. You heard it here first. A distributed denial of service attack (DDos)—the kind of attack that brought down Yahoo! a few years ago—is worth about 60 bucks. Yay capitalism and all that.

I can see the disaster-movie posters already. Bill Gates vs. the Siberian DDos Monster! The only thing protecting him is the Linux boxes at Akamai that distribute Microsoft's websites all across the world! Will the forces of good protect the forces of evil? Who will pay the $60? Will somebody please drive into Seattle to pick up some fucking juice?


Annalee Newitz (!!!!!!!!@techsploitation.com) is a surly media nerd who is contributing to the dangerous carbon dioxide situation by exhaling on a regular basis.


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From the June 9-15, 2004 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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