Your leaking thatched hut during the restoration of a pre-Enlightenment state.


Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


decay & ruin
Biosphere II
dead malls
Irving housing

got that wrong

appropriate tech
Arduino μcontrollers
Backwoods Home
Fractal antenna

fun social media stuff

(nobody does!)

Like my brownhouse:
   two-factor authentication trap
Monday, February 6 2023

high up a hill just northwest of the center of Santa Teresa, Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica

At certain times every day, always beginning a little after sunrise and continuing for about an hour and then at around 4:00pm for maybe an hour, a group of magpie jays arrive in the tree in front of our casita and then one of them starts pecking on the glass front that runs along the top of the west-facing (ocean-facing) side of the outdoor kitchen. Sometimes the bird will peck in one place, though it's more normal for him (or her) to move along the length of the glass. I've seen birds attack their reflection in glass so often that my father and I came up with a nonsensical verb for it: "turtling." I'm not sure this is what the magpie jay is doing, since it only ever involves singular pecks spaces out every second or two. But the pecks are powerful ones involving the heft of the bird's whole body. But he (or she) never flies up against the glass, which is what I've seen other birds (paticularly goldfinches) do when attacking their reflection. It's possible that instead the bird is just going through a ritual that, in the past, has caused the human residents of the casita to give them food. This could account for why the magpie jay only does this around breakfast and dinner time, though he (or she) might be doing it then because that is when the glass is most mirror-like.
This morning in the midst of this pecking a couple of magpie jays flew down into the kitchen and poked around looking for accessible food. One made a half-hearted attempt to peck at an unopened bag of corn chips, but we'd done a good job of putting food away (something April had stressed was essential).
As I was preparing for my first workday on this trip to Costa Rica, two of my devices suddenly demanded two-factor authentication. On one of those devices, I'd logged out and logged back in specifically to buy more time before needing such authetication, since my cellphone does not receive text messages (how two-factor authentication is done) while I am outside of the United States. I'd been wanting to keep the fact that I was working from Costa Rica something of a secret to the higher-ups in the company. But to deal with a two factor authentication trap (one that might cut me off from all forms of company communication), I needed to reach out to Nick, one of the top guys in operations, and I needed to do it before the cut-off happened. Otherwise I'd be emailing him from some sketchy private email address. When I wrote to Nick and matter-of-factly told him I was in Costa Rica and was worried two factor authentication was going to cut me off from communication, he didn't seem to blink and immediately came up with helpful ideas. Maybe I could use my Vonage softphone (something I apparently had but had never used even once). He told me how to connect to that, and I was able to. But no SMS messages sent to it from anywhere except its own number were ever received. Eventually Nick gave up and turned off my two-factor authentication, which solved the entire problem. Forunately he never once questioned that I was who I said I was, though I suppose a clever person who had stolen my laptop and for some reason wanted the ability to communicate with my colleagues (I'm not sure how useful that would be, and it probably wouldn't work for long) might be able to impersonate me well enough to get Nick to turn off two-factor authentication.
Another lesser problem affecting my ability to get work done involved my Amazon Workspace, which is a virtual computer hosted in the cloud where I've been expected to do my work since the beginning of the year. I've had no trouble with my Workspace on Woodchuck back at home, and I've successfully run it on Bunny, my work-issued laptop I've been taking with me on trips since I got in September of 2018. Indeed, the Workspace was open and running on Bunny when I arrived at the casita on Friday evening (I checked). But this morning it opened with a message that said it was trying to load a web page, and then it crapped out died. If I didn't have access to my Workspace, how was I going to get any work done? Our company is now so dependent on Amazon Workspaces that it no longer has a VPN, which means I couldn't access the development servers without it. So I tried downloading the Amazon Workspace Chrome app onto the Chromebook I'd also brought on this trip, but I couldn't get that to work either. Fortunately, Amazon Workspaces provides another method of access: running it inside a web browser. For some reason that actually worked, though it's confusing to access a computer desktop through a Chrome window, particularly when that desktop has its own Chrome windows open. Also, the navigation overhead of Chrome restricts usable desktop space noticeably beyond what the Amazon Workspace app does, and, coupled with Window 10's horrendous implemention of windows borders, it can be difficult to know where to click and drag. But at least I would be able to work.
Meanwhile April had arrived with some technicians to investigate the problem with out air conditioning. She was as unpleasant as ever, but all I was in response was nice. I even expressed sympathy for whatever illness was troubling her. She'd mentioned spending lots of time on the toilet, but now she was saying that it might possibly be covid. (Fortunately we never got very close to one another.) It didn't take long for April and her technician to determine that the air conditioning wasn't healthy. The technician tried cleaning the dirt-clogged outdoor unit, but that didn't much help. Eventually April told me that fixing it would have to wait until tomorrow.
At that point I brought up an issue Gretchen had wanted me to bring up. Was it possible, I asked politely, for us to roll up and put away the various animal skins on the floor throughout the casita? (I don't really care about them, since I'm not that kind of vegan, but Gretchen does. But I felt it important to say that we both have an issue with them so April wouldn't try to exploit any difference of opinion on the matter.) April wanted to know why, which is never the right question to ask a guest making a reasonable request. I said that it was because we are vegans. At that point she cut me off, claiming (apparently just as a tool to win the argument; she'd said things previously indicating she is not a vegan) that she herself is a vegan, but she likes "beauty." Evidently the skins of dead animals are beautiful to her. But that was an absurd argument; was I then supposed to say, "Oh, you're right, I guess we can live with the skins then." She then claimed the skins were there to protect the floor, so I suggested that if she has any more woven straw matts, maybe we could have those. Grudgingly she agreed, taking only the biggest of the skins away as she left.
Earlier today I'd made the mistake of drinking two full french presses of coffee, and by late this morning the pleasant buzz had given way to something that felt more like illness. This soured my mood, making me feel more hopeless about things than I normally do. Coupled with the discomfort of the stools next to the island in the outdoor kitchen (the closest thing to an office chair at the casita) and the difficulty of finding a sufficiently shady place to work at certain times of the day, I was pessimistic about how much workplace productivity I would have in Costa Rica.

Meanwhile Gretchen had spent her first day at the language school, which was northwestward up the beach about 2.1 kilometers from the sidestreet our casita is on. Since we don't have a vehicle, she had to walk both to and from that school today. She did so mostly on the beach so as to avoid the congestion and unpleasantness of Calle Cóbano. On the way home this evening, she stopped at La Hacienda Super to get more provisions, including hummus, a decidedly Hispanic form of junk-food corn chips (I love the MSG!), a tomato, and various buns and pita bread (as they were out of bread loaves). Hiking that stuff up the steep grade to the casita wore Gretchen out, and she immediately jumped into the pool when she arrived. It was the end of the workday for me, so I joined her, and we talked about her new classmates, the latest troubles with April, and possible solutions (which included moving to Montezuma at some point during this vacation).
This evening we had a simple spaghetti dinner prepared mostly by me. Mostly all I did was boil the pasta water, and we then added marinara sauce and chickpeas to it. We sat out on one of the day beds watching the bats, and, as it grew darker, the star-spangled night. Jupiter and Venus defined points on a nearly-vertical line pointing down to the horizon where the sun had set. At some point a satellite near Jupiter briefly became about as bright but then faded away to nothing, which made me realize something interesting: there are almost no airplanes in the sky over western Costa Rica. The only ones you see are very rare puddle-jumpers flying at low altitude. Another interesting thing is that there are almost no big ships visible on the ocean, which seemed odd given how close we were to the Panama Canal. At some point we did see a single large ship moving along the horizon from south to north. But that was it.
The emerging pattern for me seems to be that I go to bed soon not long after darkness descends. At this time of year in this time zone, that seems to happen by about 6:15pm. (It's a little weird being some place so warm where the sun goes to bed so early.) After I climnbed in bed, I watched some of Vesper, that creepy movie I'd caught glimpses of while stoned out of my mind on the flight to Costa Rica. There's a fair amount of casual body horror in that movie, and some of the scenes linger with you long after you see them, particularly the scene where a reluctant boy is forced by an unpleasant older man to dispatch a creepy looking non-sentient humanoid who blubbers like a helpless baby after being trapped beneath a collapsed structure.

A magpie jay in our outdoor kitchen. Click to enlarge.

He or she pecked once at the bag full of corn chips. (Those chips weren't very good; they were kind of sweet.) Click to enlarge.

Magpie jays against the sea, preparing to leave the outdoor kitchen. Click to enlarge.

I caught one of them in flight. Click to enlarge.

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