Portland Confidential: What It Means to Be a Hacker

Portland Confidential: What It Means to Be a Hacker

by Rose C.

Writing this at a time when sadly, I will not be able to stay in Portland, my chosen city, for very much longer. I won’t bore you with the details. My apartment has ventilation and habitability issues. I thought for a long time that I could mitigate the poor air quality with houseplants, fans, and open windows but it’s no longer practical. Not with winter coming on.

I hope to keep PDX Local going strong, though. I will always be a Portlandian in my heart. One of these days I will get around to putting up formal writers’ guidelines. In the meantime, if you have a story, wherever you live, feel free to get in contact and pitch. Unsolicited submissions are also welcome although we don’t print every story that is sent our way.

Anyway, back to today’s chosen topic.

Lesson #1 – Hackers are never as cool as they think they are. As I once wrote to the leader of my Hackerspace in an email, “Hackers think they are cool. Everyone else thinks we are dangerous criminals.”

Rami Malek notwithstanding. His character on Mr. Robot will always be cool, at least to me.

 

Lesson #2 – Not all hackers are criminals. Ummm, probably not even most. We do tend to think that laws around media piracy are for other people, and freely share audio, video, game, and text files whenever we can. There is so much corporate censorship already in the world that we often feel justified in going down this road. As for me personally, I don’t steal media or make unauthorized copies. I am extraordinarily law abiding.

Hackers like me, who refrain from breaking the law, are sometimes known as whitehats. I prefer the term “lawful and ethical hacker,” because it has no racist connotations. (Criminal hackers used to be called blackhats.)

This has less to do with the chances of getting caught and more to do with the fact that I am an artist as well as a programmer. I believe that creative work should be compensated, and that creators deserve the opportunity to make a living. When only wealthy trust fund kids have the opportunity to write memoirs or play in bands, we know that something is wrong with our universe.

 

Lesson #3 – IF YOU CALL YOURSELF A HACKER, YOU WILL GET HACKED. Certain people view the label as an invitation to test out your defenses. It can’t be helped.

It may not be anything bad. Maybe just a little spyware, or a Bitcoin miner hidden unbeknownst to you on your computer. Or it might be more severe. So be careful about using the term lightly. Many hacks can be prevented, but as long as people write new software, there will always be new vulnerabilities.

Back when I ran a web hosting company, I asked my former sysadmin what he thought about the slogan, “Your money back if you get hacked.” He wouldn’t go near it. While he was working part-time for me, he was also a VP managing cybersecurity and automation for a major national bank. You would have to assume he knew what he was talking about.

I don’t practice pentech, as hacking techniques designed to crack and illegally break open other peoples’ systems are known. So if I’m not pirating music and movies, and I also don’t try to break into other people’s systems, why do I call myself a hacker?

 

Lesson #4 – Hackers hack. It’s what we do. What I mean by hack is simple. We like to build things with electronics. Honestly, I would probably pay good money just to have the opportunity to keep doing this type of work. Collaboration, and with it the ethos of Free and Open Source Software (or FOSS) is also key to our worldview. We have our own language, and our own “in jokes.”

Here’s one you’ve probably seen before. The only other form of creativity that comes even close to being this collaborative without being rigidly hierarchical is music. That is probably part of why enjoy seeing live bands and being part of the Portland music scene so much; unfortunately I can’t carry a tune or play an instrument so I had to learn to code instead.

Still learning, actually. And probably will be for life.

Originally published on December 6, 2022. This post has been modified from its original version.

Portland Confidential: Coming Out as Genderfluid

Portland Confidential: Coming Out as Genderfluid

Still pretty femme here.

This post first appeared on Medium on January 3, 2017. It has been edited from the original version.

 

Gender nonconforming while a Scorpio

by Rose C.

I went to a queer support group here in Portland and, for the first time ever, asked the people in the group to call me Jack.

And they did!

And I was blown away. It kind of made my night. I was inwardly beaming. Having trouble paying attention to others’ heart-rending stories, I was so inwardly thrilled to be recognized as Jack.

Me, a large-breasted girl with painted fingernails, longish hair, full lips, and a sweet, heart-shaped face. I was Jack! I had claimed some essence of my masculine self, and people had listened.

Not sure what to do about pronouns and the rest of it. Genderfluid and trans. “They/them” works nicely, for those that bother to ask. I’m not getting tied up in knots about this. I mean, I still carry a purse.

Where this goes next, I have no idea. But here is a bit of backstory.

Last Monday night I decided to try an experiment. There was this young dude (30, great body, worked out all the time) who had expressed an interest in me that was more than purely professional. About a month and a half ago we ended up making out past 2 AM in some downtown bar whose name I don’t even remember. We took an Uber to his place but stopped just short of having sex.

I wanted to think through my current relationship, long distance and already polyamorous in theory, and decide whether I really wanted to open it up to somebody new. I also figured I should get re-tested for STDs, just to be safe.

The answer I came to was emphatically, yes. So last week I sent Young Dude a text to see if he wanted to catch the Warhol exhibit in town. Four hours later, we ended up eating vegan mozzarella at a punk rock dive bar, then singing karaoke (my performance was unimaginably bad), then back to my place. The night was comically ill-timed (the smell of burning rubber alerted us that the tea lights were melting the blinds, even though not directly in contact) and a cold shower almost gave my date hypothermia.

The interesting part of the experience was that even though I knew I might be getting laid that night, I made no special effort to femme it up. Legs remained unshaven. I wore out the same bulky black hoodie that I wear everywhere. This was intentional (even though I did clean up the apartment some, with the thought that somebody might be coming back).

I decided, just that once, to act like a man — which is to say, just be me.

No special outfit, very little makeup.

This is me at 40, folks. I wanted to not apologize for it or cover it up. I wanted to see what would happen. No regrets.

Face it: my body will probably never look the same in lingerie as it did five years ago. I lost a lot of weight after my divorce — got to experience about seven years of having pretty much my ideal body. But then one day, metabolism and time catches up with you. You start to wonder, what exactly does the future hold in store for average looking women in their forties and fifties who don’t have kids?

I am viewing this unavoidable process of aging as an excuse to explore my more masculine side. Which is weird, because I really love my body. I can’t imagine having chest surgery. I could fantasize about a deeper voice, chest hair, all the other effects of “T”. (And yes, I’ve done the research about transitioning in midlife.)

I have no idea how other people experience gender. I just know that I almost never feel like a girl. Even when I did femme it up, it felt like a costume, or a video game avatar. A really fun and sexy costume, but something contrived and separate from the essence of who I was.

I know that I’m also a very nurturing and empathic person, and that those traits put me in the bucket of “feminine.”

But then… this is also me. Leader. Builder of things. Entrepreneur. Somebody who prefers to call shit like it is and isn’t afraid of conflict. Somebody with an unflagging code of loyalty to my peeps, even when they don’t return the same. Somebody whose idea of a perfect evening is just having two beers with a buddy. Really. That’s it.

Interests: comics, rock and roll music, computers, science fiction.

I think about why I have so many more guy friends than female friends, and it’s easy to just chalk it up to women being busy with children and partners, or women’s internalized jealousy and mistrust of other women.

But sometimes I wonder. Maybe something is clicking for me on a deeper level. I’ve never been a tomboy, never been super butch although I did shave my head in my early 20s. I’ve only ever been with two women in my life.

I feel dorky for embarking on this “voyage of self discovery” at the cusp of middle age. But I also feel like to try and fit a mold I outgrew sometime in the last few years might be literally dangerous to my health.

I had plenty of years to play the “cute girlfriend.” Am I now going to be the “less cute girlfriend?”

I guess for me the essence of masculinity is being perceived for my talent, strength, and ability rather than for how I look or my relationship to others. It has very little to do with having a penis or chest hair. And yet, projecting this self while outwardly feminine can be threatening to some.

I have thought about this shit for years, but never expressed it publicly before. I don’t know where it will lead. At this point in my life I am used to feeling like an outcast, even while deftly maneuvering professional and social situations and keeping casual acquaintances at arm’s length. Adapting a less traditional gender presentation might change that. It might make me, finally, a bit less closeted in my multifaceted “otherness.”

And honestly, that might be a change I am looking for.

Portland Confidential: Part One of Several

Portland Confidential: Part One of Several

Hello, there.

I would like to explain what is confidential about this series. First and foremost, it is my name. I have an unusual first and last name combination, and I have had stalkers. For the purposes of this blog, I go by “Rose C.” That’s short for Rose City.

Here is my avatar:

Rose C.

If you don’t like it, I’m sorry. It was a public domain vector illustration that I adapted. People have many good and legitimate reasons for wishing to protect their privacy. To give just one example, this blog post gives advice to parents about how their children can avoid rape. It is based on personal experience.

The second reason I am using a pseudonym is that I may occasionally piss people off or cause strong reactions. I know we had over 600 unique visits on this site in the last week. Some of those may be ‘bots. Regardless, it appears that even though we do not advertise and rarely post on social media, real people do from time to visit our site. As a writer and creator, this makes me happy, I’d like to encourage it!

But you can’t be an honest journalist and never report anything negative.

For instance, right now I am typing this blog entry at Old Town Pizza in downtown Portland. So far, the experience has been only positive: good beer, a good slice, a comfortable corner booth to write at. It’s really nice, honestly, to find a space that’s not a strip club or a cabaret and still has affordable food and beverage in this neighborhood on a Sunday evening. Portland’s downtown isn’t what it used to be. It needs all our help to come back and thrive once more.

But perhaps something will go horribly wrong at this restaurant before I sign for the check! I cannot imagine what that might be, but I reserve the right to write a critical restaurant review if circumstances demand. That is another reason I choose to remain Rose C.

Something else you should know about PDX Local, if you have not visited before:

We have a number of different writers, and we welcome volunteers. We are not advertiser-supported. We accept donations, but to be honest there are a lot of other local organizations that can probably benefit more from your hard-earned cash. I will try to profile some of these in the weeks and months to come. Suggestions welcome.

We are free and independent media. We are here by choice.

Yours truly (that is to say Rose C.) has a contract job at a large and well-known corporation, but I would not call myself rich. Not by a long shot. I have a lot of credit card debt to pay off. Some of that is medical debt. Some comes from taking my ex-partner and his child along with me to South Korea on a business trip. Some comes from travel back to the East Coast to see friends and family. A lot comes from simply using credit to pay for all of life’s daily necessities (including groceries, utilities, and transportation) for approximately ten years, while I was toiling away as a startup founder, with enough money to pay my employees (including the aforementioned ex-partner) but not myself.

Do you hear the world’s tiniest violin playing here?

I don’t.

It’s been the ride of a lifetime, and it’s not over yet.

If my job vanished tomorrow (and I hope it doesn’t) I would go back to doing deliveries—driving for DoorDash and UberEats.

Restaurants are so important to our local economy. If they go away, I don’t know what Portland will become.