Using the Tor Browser

I know I haven't posted much of anything lately. Chronic pain will do that. I have a bunch of tea reviews piled up that I need to stop being lazy about and match up with crappy pictures. I am currently drinking the last of my Earl Grey Creme and savoring every drop.

One thing I have been doing is using the Tor browser. Or trying to, at least. Tor is open source and uses Firefox as a base. It looks nice.

Maybe I should back up here. I really don't claim to be a guru when it comes to privacy settings, but it is a topic which interests me. I've been using Orbot on my Galaxy S III for about six months, though I'll admit that I am aware that I am not using it correctly (I'm still too scared to root my phone without assistance so I can install Cyanogenmod). I will also humbly admit that I am oversimplifying the following explanations. My understanding of how these programs operate is incredibly basic, and I am very open to criticism, advice and correction - as well as help rooting my phone. Seriously, please, someone help me.  

Those that know about Tor may immediately think that it is only for use regarding shady dealings, but I can assure you, my Pinterest account is anything but. The NSA has definitely been in the news lately, but there are many other interests out there vying for information, some more sinister than others. Fortunately, with the right precautions many of these interests can be blocked rather easily. Unfortunately, that is not without sacrifice, sacrifice I'm not sure I can withstand.

To make it painfully simple (explain to me like I'm 5), Tor works in a number of ways to block outside sources from being able to read your crap, or at least where from which your crap is being sourced. In order to do this, Tor must also block some useful crap that may or may not be legitimately tracking every damn move you make. This includes, but is not limited to, services such as flash, Quicktime, any browser plugin (this one is especially painful for me), any connect service, and yes, even Youtube (though there is a beta that can be used).

I really love sharing. Going without my Pin It button, Shareaholic account, Reddit Enhancement Suite, and Tapermonkey are quite painful for me. In addition, say goodbye to browser based games (I've been dabbling in Perfect World's Fortuna as of late), the ease that is autofill (sorry r/freebies), and makes the use of sites such as Pinterest painful (I don't run bots, you got the wrong guy, I swear!). So painful, in fact, that I was only able to completely use the Tor browser for two days. Before you break out the flaming pitchforks, though, this is hardly the only reason.

If it was just extensions and sharing, I really think I could have powered through it permanently (honestly!). One of the ways that Tor keeps its surfers safe, however, is by muddling the IP addresses. Muddling is a very technical term for "I don't completely know what the eff I'm talking about." Tor can't block what is being viewed by the NSA and Facebook, that's not its purpose. If I'm looking at videos of drunken squirrels, well, the NSA can see that someone really likes drunken squirrels. What it can't see is that someone connecting to my specific IP likes drunken squirrels. BTW if you haven't Googled drunken squirrel videos, you are seriously missing out. This feature, though, makes the browser very, very slow. I'm actually typing this in Chrome right now. Anything to do with Blogger and site connecting took so long that it wasn't even worth trying to complete. In hindsight, this may have also contributed to my lack of posting. Chronic pain and slow browser pain? Jeeze, it's now a wonder I sat at my PC at all.

This linking of Tor nodes is the main feature of Tor, though, and it works well for what it does. Looking at where I have connected from most recently through my Google account reveals that I am in New Hampshire (and y'all, I don't live there). Now, this also has weaknesses. If anyone looks hard enough, one's browsing habits can be revealed, regardless of anonymity. One habit of which I am particularly guilty is using a few of the same usernames for all of the sites I frequent. If anyone knows one of my usernames, all he or she must do is a quick Google search to connect me to other accounts. Again, I have nothing to hide, but sometimes that's just not what it's all about.

The recent NSA revelation fiasco, which should have come as a surprise to absolutely no one, has raised a lot of basic questions that we should have been asking all along. I've heard this gem over and over, "I have nothing to hide, what should I be afraid of?" In addition to ending that sentence with a preposition, not that I care, u mad?, there's a lot wrong with that kind of thinking. In a perfect world this would be logical, but in our world it's just plain stupid.

We've seen time and again raids on homes where the owner and/or dog has been shot, only to find out that (OOPS!), wrong house, wrong information, wrong IP, you name it. Warrant to search a home? Hahahahaha! That's hilarious. There's no question that the government in the U.S. has not only overreached it's power recently, but has been doing so, for oh, I don't know, since the Adams administration. The federal government is a primary culprit, but state and local governments are also far from innocent.

But it's more than mistakes. Why should I have to prove I've done nothing wrong if there is no evidence of my doing so? I doubt any sources even need to be cited to prove that handing over privacy has in any way made us safer. But there is proof, a lot of it, in fact.

When I traveled more internationally, I was quite accustomed to being poked, prodded and scanned. If you need to make flights, putting up fights just to make points to the TSA is really counteractive. Not that the TSA really cares. But being able to compare how I was treated and scanned in some of the largest airports in the world really made me question how the U.S. loves blanket surveillance at the cost of right to privacy, and the dolla dolla bill, y'all. LAX, ahem, the ninth circle of Hell, has always seemed to think that I am deserving of the full body scanner. I suppose a petite, 5'2'', Caucasian wearing shorts and flip flops is particularly threatening. I remember the first time I was asked to step in the scanner, and honestly I never really questioned it. Which entirely contradicts my personality. It likely had something to do with my lack of understanding of just how much the scanner revealed.

But these multi-million dollar radiation bots aren't necessary in Narita, Inchon, and Suvarnabhumi. Every single attendant in these airports is professional, highly trained, friendly, and efficient. What a stark contrast to every TSA agent in which I have ever had the pleasure to meet. And, you know, it really sounds like I am just jumping on the bandwagon, but it's the honest truth when stating that the TSA agents I have encountered have the literacy of a 5th grader and the personality of a water moccasin. And I am known for my generosity.

That's just the TSA, I know, but it's a pretty damn good example of a loss of privacy in which no one wins. No one is safer. Well, I'm sure the company that's making billions off of those machines is happy.

And what does this all have to do with the Tor browser!? Well, everything. No one, not the government, Facebook, Google, or any advertising company needs to see what drunken squirrel videos I like the most.

Too bad it's slow as Hell. I'm just not man enough, I guess. The question does arise in this, though. Why don't you just use the Tor browser for, you know, certain things. I hate to break it to you, but there's nothing I do that actually needs to be hidden. I don't download anything other than what I have legitimately paid for and open source freeware. This is about solidarity, principle, and creating a larger network of people that will say no to surveillance. If Tor isn't used for everything, even day-to-day browsing, then what good does it do? If lots of people don't use the network, how anonymous is it, really?

Sorry, my peoples. I am weak. There are a few extensions I can suggest if you are like me, and want to feel a bit safer (but aren't completely) while sticking it to the man. I'm going to list some extensions from Chrome, but I'm sure all of these exist for Firefox in some manner.

Google Analytics Opt-out Add-on (by Google)

IBA Opt-out (by Google)

HTTPS Everywhere - one of my favorites, also used by Tor

Disconnect

Ghostery - I've heard some recent rumors lately regarding their use of information, so I can't comment on their legitimacy any longer, but their comprehensive list of advertising companies is impressive

DoNotTrackMe


I will warn you, use extensions at your own risk. Do your homework. It doesn't matter what antivirus you use or what vpn you put into place, your discretion is the first line of defense to your personal information. Companies that were once trusted can easily change hands and become what they were originally intended to fight. Any extension, addon, app, or game usually requires some kind of access to your data. Before you download it you give consent. Read carefully what it asks to access. A game does not need to be able to read your emails and know all of your passwords, if it asks for that information, it's usually best to just not use the game. It sucks, but that is sometimes the cost of privacy. The extensions listed above are no exception.

If you're a better person than me, download Tor.











Tea Review: Pepe Le from Chad's Chai

Tea Review: Pepe Le from Chad's Chai

I was reeeally excited about this one. Besides black tea, peppermint is one of my great loves. Real, honest-to-god peppermint. Chad at Chad’s Chai was gracious enough to send me five very generous samples with my cup infuser, he even allowed me to pick out which ones I wanted! I was like a kid in a candy shop. No, seriously, it was shameful how excited I was.
This was the first one I opened… and man it was heavenly. I've had lots of peppermint teas before, but nothing ever this strong. I sniffed and sniffed, and sneezed, and sniffed some more. I’m not sure if I should be admitting this addiction to the internet.
I used boiling water. I like my peppermint strong, and boiling certainly didn't do any harm, save made me wait a bit longer to drink it, or, should I say, allowed me to burn myself sooner. The brew smelled as one would imagine, minty angels wafting into my nostrils on gently unfurling, leafy wings.
The description is very correct in that this tea has a very full body, and is really designed for the mint lover. I can see myself drinking this year-round as it is THE best mint tea I have ever tasted, but I can see some only purchasing this for colder months or as flu relief. This will certainly be a future purchase.

in the news


in the news will be a way for me to rant about current events in one place so I'm not making constant rambling posts during the day. This way I keep my rambling to a minimum, or at least neatly packed away in an area that can be avoided.

I should really entitle this "what pissed me off today" or maybe just "ragequit," but that's really not ladylike. And I'm a lady, dammit.

Not everything makes me angry, though. There are tons of beautiful scientific articles that make me depressed that I will not live forever, or that I did not live in the past. But really more in the future. I am very appreciative for air conditioning, and antibiotics.

The first anger inducing article is Golden Rice: Lifesaver?

Genetically modified anything should raise questions, but with blanket fear, I fear the right questions aren't being asked. Through genetically modified food billions of people have been saved from starving to death, billions. Read here about Norman Borlaug.

The term GMO sparks emotion, for sure, but should it? Isn't that akin to saying you hate broccoli because you think it might have killed your mother, but have no evidence? It's no secret that large corporations have used their deep pockets to influence just about everything in the great US of A, but does that make anything genetically modified inherently evil?

The fact of the matter is that there are all kinds of genetically modified crops, and they vary widely in why they were created. Is RoundUp ready corn the same as Golden Rice? No, not really. And while most of the people capable of reading this can afford to shop at Whole Foods or local farmer's markets, the countries that the anti-GMO propaganda effect the most don't all have the same opportunities.

The next article I present is No, thanks: Stop saying "support the troops"

This article might get me hanged even more quickly than the last, but I'm really glad someone finally said it. I've been thinking it for years, but anytime I so much as hint at such a sentiment I have met some very unfriendly glares.

Not supporting the troops is unthinkable for some. What are you, some kind of monster? Do you not love America!?

I do. I love it so much that I don't want to see it's true spirit stomped by corporatism. I don't want to send off young men and women to fight unnecessary wars, only to return and have no support, be placed on terrorist lists, and become suicidal. All the while they find no jobs because of outsourcing and deregulating by politicians paid off by the corporations that have everything to gain. The very same that also gain from selling weapons of war.

So no, I don't support the troops. Not in that way. I support taking care of all Americans, supporting the return of individual rights, and stopping the military industrial complex.

And now for a bit of wonder after all of the rage: This 1,600-Year-Old Goblet Shows that the Romans Were Nanotechnology Pioneers

I mean, I don't think some official Roman Nanotech Chief woke up one day, and was like, "I think I'll make a nanotech goblet!" While certainly advanced, it was more like they figured out how to make the glass pretty colors in different kinds of light. Not that I am belittling it by any means, I sure as hell couldn't do it, and I'm sure the chief's nanotech slaves worked their asses off for years completing such brilliant works of art.

The Romans prove, once again, that they were advanced basasses. This news comes only months after how Roman concrete was discovered to be superior to our own. 

This also reminds me of NOVA's Secrets of the Viking Sword  where a select few swords discovered were found to be made of a steel a full millennia ahead of their time.

What else has been lost? And how long will we continue to still be amazed by how advanced our ancestors were?

My samples and cup infuser came in!

Chad at Chad's Chai was generous enough to send me some samples to try. I also ordered a cup infuser with a really fine mesh.

I sent him an email last week asking if he sent samples. He responded quickly, stating that he does indeed send out free samples, but only asked that I paid for shipping, which is more than fair

I picked out five of what seemed the tastiest and also ordered a cup infuser, which I've needed desperately. 


The samples were very generously sized and I've tried 3/5 already. I need to get around to writing the reviews soon, but I wanted to taste them each more than once to be fair. So far the Pepe le (peppermint) is my favorite. 

Thoughts: THE CONFIDENTIAL MEMO AT THE HEART OF THE GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS

Okay, sorry. I was in pain most of last night and was using the Android mobile app. For whatever reason the drafts I save on mobile don't sync, so I'm forced to post tidbits - it's likely some setting I'm overlooking. I could make the notes in Evernote, but whatever. 

I stumbled across this article last night. I really need to stop reading news altogether. This is killing me from the inside out. 

Vice is not a source with which I'm readily familiar, so if anyone knows anything about it's reliability, I'm all ears. Unless it's coming straight from The Guardian, I'm immediately very suspicious, and I still chide myself on being too trusting of sources. 

If all this information is legit, however, it could blow up, fast. If you didn't read the article, it's basically saying, "Hey, look, you big bank bastards, we now have a primary source proving that you single-handedly and intentionally conspired to cause the global financial crisis for your own monetary gain." It's no secret that there has been a loss of regulation regarding big banks and money in the pockets of elected officials, but a planned conspiracy? I think The Lone Gunmen and Mel Gibson just creamed themselves.

The fat cats involved: Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Bank of America, Citibank, Chase Manhattan. Again, no surprise. The only thing shocking is that Dr. Doom, Dr. Evil, and Dr. Claw's names were suspiciously absent. These few individuals caused the housing boom of the '90s and the following burst, the financial collapse of Greece and god knows what else - how many people have lost their homes? their livelihoods? life savings? for these ALREADY RICH BASTARDS to play with their lives (our lives) like ants in a glass case.

How deep does this rabbit hole go? The Lawrence Summer guys has already served under two presidents and Harvard. This thing transcends political parties and goes straight to evil.

Greetings!


Hi everyone. I've been looking for a way to share my thoughts and finds in a better venue than Facebook and Tumblr. I need something that I can manipulate and that will encourage me to actually learn more. Hopefully that includes learning how to customize the site better. 

As the blog title states, many of my posts will be centered around my two favorite things in the world: tea and cats. That's nearly all of the internet, yeah, I know. There will also be posts regarding literature, film, video games, and current events. Enjoy, engage. 


Premium Dragon Well Green Tea (Long Jing) by Teavivre