Arrested Development

(no subject)

Sonnet for M.

The silence of absence is so brazen and hollow,
it echoes in my chest and is bombarded by the alarum
of life. For everything clamors to prove
their vital worth; pigeons pondering a crumb,
a shout from a passing, coughing car,
the arresting volume of music cascading from a door,
all screaming life, or death, or resurrection;
a sonic presence to reaffirm their intrinsic being.
But not absence. It isn't mute or unresponsive,
on the contrary, it reacts (noiselessly, silent,
removed of sound) casually, cruelly, incapable
of remark, foreign to noise. So I prod at it
thoughtfully, knowing it is -- my heart... --
but, relieved of sound, cannot believe it can be.
Arrested Development

Interview with a Lockpick

Interview with a Lockpick

Robert Morris: Am I right in presuming that lockpicking, like most precise skills, requires a good deal of practice?

Lockpicker: Yup! Personally, when I was first picking, I just picked constantly. It wasn't so much about making it harder, it was just that I bought a couple hundred locks right off the bat and would strap padlocks across my chest on my messenger bag strap and pick while I walked. Pick while I was at the bar. Pick at work. Pick while taking people through the tomb. Picked everywhere. Eventually I got better, but it wasn't a decided jump up, just incremental. You learn a lot just pulling shit apart and putting it back together again.

RM: Sure at first, but now?

LP: I had to retrain myself a while back which I think is the closest I can give you to what you're looking for.

RM: But nothing now that you’ve retrained?

LP: So… When I was retraining I literally locked all of my rakes away in a safe deposit box and had only hooks to work with. I needed to relearn completely what I was doing. So, I would grab a bunch of locks, arrange them in a tackle box, and pick through them. I gave myself 5 minutes per lock and tried to cycle through each lock twice in a night. If I could open the lock both times, I retired it.

RM: I suppose what I was asking was are there levels of ever more sophisticated locks that you work through to refine and strengthen your skills? Or are there avenues through which you could expand them?

LP: Not for what I do, no. I'm a speed picker, not a high security picker. The high sec guys are more in the vein of what you're looking for; difficult bittings, security pins, etc. are what I work with and it's why I did my box system. Because I would weed out all the easy stuff quickly then keep facing myself with the harder locks – the ones I could only get once or couldn't get at all – and keep topping the box off every night so that eventually all I had in the box were hard locks and each night I would be able to retire a few of those until I had made it through everything.

RM: What disinclines you from trying your hand at higher security locks?

LP: Impatience. I love knowing how higher security locks work, I love researching locks of the 19th century, I love illustrating various attacks, but I've never had much interest in opening safes or high security locks.

RM: You say impatience, does that mean their sophistication makes the process too involved?

LP: It's not so much that. I mean, I love how complex they are, it's more just their difficulty, as lame as that sounds. It's a whole different world picking high security stuff. I can think my way through some of it, but even great high security pickers, the first time they approach a locking concept are going to require hours, if not days, to pop their first one. I get really excited by their discoveries, but have never had that sort of patience

RM: You mentioned "attacks" in a term very similar to how some people describe chess maneuvers. When you read about or see some of these higher-level guys' discoveries would you equate it to how chess adepts examine problems in magazines?

LP: I think that's completely fair, especially when the complexity is such that it requires the creation of new tools. So, certain locks, if they aren't based on a simple pin tumbler design, require esoteric tools to attack them. Often, the attacker has to come up with these just by deconstructing what the lock is trying to do, and either interfere in that process or bypass that process the creativity of that, of understanding the "opponent" that completely, certainly lends itself to some rich metaphors.

RM: Do you think you'll attempt to advance to that level sometime in the future or is speed picking your set lot?

LP: I actually do a lot outside of speed picking, but the high sec stuff has just never held my interest for long enough. That said? I do get curious. I have friends who insist to me that once I open my first safe I will not be able to stop safecracking which is exactly how it happened with my first lock. I was completely consumed by it as soon as I opened my first so, I figured if the day comes that I open an ASSA Twin, or some S&G Safe I'll dive deep into that. Right now I'm pursuing the history of locks and lockpicking and lockpicking as sport, forensics too. And trying to collect different non-standard methods of attacks for some talks I'm giving. So, I'm not actively going after the high sec stuff, but I'm sure if I took enough time to open one I'd lose another year opening as many as I could.

RM: The history of this endeavor is intriguing. How do antique locks compare to modern ones? Are the approaches essentially the same or are there differences?

LP: Well, the cool thing is that most of the mechanical tech we use today can be found pre-20th century. So, I've been doing a lot of patent diving to find exactly when things came into being. Before the 1850s the pin tumbler lock basically didn't exist, however it did exist, in a simpler form, as far back as 2000 BCE.

RM: Well, all those traps in Indiana Jones had to come from somewhere.

LP: [laughter] So, it's a big question. Modern locks are the result of mass production! Back in the day locksmiths actually made locks. Now, they just service them. The transition was mass production. Locks weren't a common, everyone-has-them sort of thing until, again, the 1800s with Bramah.

RM: Is there a venue for replica locks from antiquity?

LP: Well… Let's talk security by obscurity. So, the reason locks were safe way back when was that each one really was a puzzle in a much more literal sense than they are now. The locksmith knew how the lock functioned and gave a key to the owner that would bypass all of his clever tricks. Sometimes they would even put false keyways on locks to throw people off, all sorts of things.

RM: Like puzzle boxes.

LP: Exactly. But, along with efficiency and affordability, mass production brought with it a big problem. Now everyone know how everyone else’s lock worked. You could literally take your lock apart and know how your neighbor's lock worked. Once you understood the concept you could learn to attack it. Attack your own lock sucessfully and you can attack your neighbor’s. In fact, much of the interesting innovation of the 1800s came from one manufacturer picking another's lock then realizing they could pick their own, too. So, you have this whole disclosure debate: do we try to keep secrets when everyone can find this out for themselves? Do we fully disclose everything? Responsibly disclose? Etc., etc. A lot of what I deal with, actually, are methods of responsible disclosure. But interestingly, you drop a lock no one has seen in a hundred years on something important, it turns out that security by obscurity actually has it's place. An immediate example is bike locks. You know how, in the last 5 years or so, bike lock keys have changed from normal keys to little metal posts with evenly spaced gashes taken out of 2 sides? They are operating disc detainer locks and they are operating really crappy ones at that. However, because disc detainer locks are all but unseen in America they are great security! People ask me about them and I usually say that they should get another 5 years before they've become too popular to ignore and we start seeing cheap tools to pick and bypass them flood into America. But for now, and for a while, they are going to be awesome locks even though if you brought one to Finland they would be able to pop it immediately. Obscurity, in specific instances, can be genuinely secure and dropping an old lock into a modern context could be secure.

RM: So there’s a real cultural divide going on here.

LP: It's funny. As international as everything has become – as global – locks really do remain very regionalized. Pin tumbler locks that we use are not the king of every country. Lever locks are still in huge use in the UK, disc detainers in Finland & Scandinavian countries in general, magnetic locks and crazy high security wafer locks in Asia, whereas we typically only get low sec wafers here. There's a lot out there and it's not always as accessible as so many other things have become.

Interview was conducted over a series of entries in an IRC.
Arrested Development


Now brutal spring graduates, irreducibly, groping
to the year's midway, begging an accounting
of each weekly scar. This, from the memory
of the discarded green and always rising sea;

this, inflicted when I leaned too softly against
some secret inaction; this, in bitter recompense
for misaligned ambition; and this, accrued in anger
blind and persecuted in the rain. Inaction's imprimatur

bubbles all around me, but idleness is distasteful
at best.  Though blind, I'll resist the indefatigable
current as far as arms and legs can carry,
as long as I resist misery's, desperation's, intermediary.

The risen sun occludes the moon's eclipse;
I peruse this year's history and find only an ellipse.
Arrested Development


Impossible tale, those budding leaves

            surcease of silence, the brilliant

cloud-begotten fountains shimmering

                        like the fallow field.  Impossible


spring!  But each catastrophe

            of nightfall — a July with Cassiopeia

still blatant in the brightest

                        night; dull dust as uncompromising


calumny to bitter sleep.  The rocks

            and lions hold my voice stillborn.

Happiness, or begrudging vital acceptance,

                        saps all around me, to be distilled


to their insufferable syrup.  I gape

to sing, and find the effort unforgivable.

Arrested Development

(no subject)

I can count, if I think about it, all the beaches I’ve walked upon, shoes
or not, accessed by singular determinations or with elaborate machines,
the adjoining trees on the sandy peripheries standing straight as posts
or arching towards their watery horizon, their own private planet or moon,
their own glancing salt-toughened wind, their own inexorable turning
from the marching sea. Always first is long

Crescent Beach, a furrowed brow against the rocky Maine coast, long
and isolated, comfortable and satisfied with that, one mile of sand, shoes
rarely needed, blocked with walls from the blast of perfect storms’ turning
impotently in the gulf. Great waves, for Maine, no machines, elaborate
or otherwise, visible on its always grey planet- or moon-
scape. The dunes are barricaded, protected say the signs, with straight posts

dry and good for kindling when we forgot to bring our own. Straight-post
pines surround like centurions Harmon Beach so that, with its thin, long
line of isolated sand protecting a shallow pond and open to the planet or moon
of Sebago beyond, the one place seems like two, shoes
on against the pine needles and stones in one, off to the mucky elaborate machines
of the sunken water line and almost muddy sand in the other. I could turn

my head just a little and imagine myself alone, an isolated warmth turning
the pond to bathwater. On St. John’s, when it was night, we stood straight as posts
and oscillated, and hundreds of elaborate machines
(bioluminescent dinoflagellates) ignited in the waters off those beaches, long
deceptively and ponderous against the azure sea. The only time I ever wore shoes
was in the showers; a toothless Caribbean jungle like some alien planet or moon

read in a book, seen in a movie. Then there’s the entirely different planet or moon
of that beach in Genoa where I saw night turn
to day as I held your necklace. Its pebbles first stung then toughened feet with no shoes.
The city crowded against the cloudy sea, post-war chromatic buildings straight as posts
in the calm humidity that tastes like Chianti in my memories. Or there’s Long
Beach where I went only once in winter, or pebbly beaches below the elaborate machine

of Portland Headlight. Or piloting elaborate machines
past the few beaches along the Cumberland, or in darkness looking at planets or moons
through a telescope as wind wracked us on wintry Old Orchard Beach. For long
hours I’d look at the photo of all of us at the beach on Thomas Pond as the turning
wake from a passing motorboat soaked us to the armpits, reeds straight as posts.
To think of it, I can remember everything about you then, even your shoes.

Then there’s the long day we spent on Gooch’s Beach, the elaborate machines
of our hearts set against one another, our shoes set aside, the planet or moon
of your face coyly turning away, our legs straight as posts.
Arrested Development


Dug up this villanelle I wrote waaaaaaaay back when I was a freshman at Ithaca and reworked it a bit. I'm of too much of two minds to know if it's any good. What do you think?


I sit and watch the weather-weary beach
throwing sand smooth stones into the waiting tide.
Little dreams of things forever out of reach.

Tethys and Oceanus murmur in their secret speech
articulating a language in which only they confide.
As I sit and watch the weather-weary beach

A lone gull serenades, curses his soulless breach
(his gray sky open and acrid and wide
and dotted with dreams forever out of reach.)

His helpless cry begs for what is deserved to everyone. Each
his tones resound around while through gale he glides
hoping forever to avoid that weather-weary beach

full of sadnesses too great in number, too infinite to teach,
and the shells of hearts, impassionate, unkind
and dreams of things forever out of reach.

So I turn back, and, as to a waiting choir, preach
of life and hearts ripped straight out from the side,
of fecund days and a weather-weary beach,
and dreams of things forever out of reach.
Arrested Development


I am likely going to be transposing this post largely into a new short piece, "Five Fables," with some details and embellishments and fictionalizations. If you've read my spider fragment, that's going to be one of the fables.

I had a dream about Audra last night. It was the final dream I had this morning and the dream preceding it was about trying to cook eggs for myself with my family in Maine. People kept eating my eggs through misunderstandings and before I knew it, it was lunch time.Collapse )
Arrested Development

Writing Night

All right, so my general course of action is to wake up at 11, waste a bunch of time, go running , eat, and then go to work, come home, maybe write a bit, veg in front of Sportscenter and Adult Swim a bit, waste time/eat if I'm hungry, read, sleep, repeat. When I was briefly unemployed, I ended up waking at the same time, then eating, reading, and writing for a couple hours before evening activities settled in. What was the secret to this?

I feel sure that if I had full days where I could write or not write at leisure, as I did in my most productive college days, I could regain full productivity. I am still able to get writing in at night -- I've been untangling some manifold narrative problems in "At First" as well as adding about a thousand words, and I'll probably be able to edit well poetry and the like at night as well; maybe recopying to suss out particularly entrenched issues -- but not nearly as much as I need to, as my material and I deserve. That will likely remain unchanged.

Over the past couple of weeks, even when I've had a set schedule and not placated my depression by such as getting drunk on Tuesday, I've noticed that I still have trouble getting right up at 11 on Tuesday morning. I had a little issue with that this morning, but it wasn't nearly as late as it often is on Tuesday and was likely more due to me being a little dehydrated/slightly malnourished than anything. A monkeywrench from Diesel with an Odwalla smoothie helped my attitude immeasurably, until I discovered the Red Line was going to be an asshole on this day of days.

So instead of fighting my apparent necessity of sleeping in on Tuesday, I'm going to aid it along. I hate running at night, so I won't be sleeping until the standard 90 minutes before work as is customary throughout society, seemingly regardless of start time, but I will be sleeping later. I will abet this by also sleeping later on Monday. Since Monday is one of my rest days from running even when I'm at my full five-days-a-week schedule, I will sleep right up until 1:30; enough time to shave, shower, hop on the T either eating a sandwich along the way or grabbing one in South Station. That night, instead of turning off the light at 0300, I'll use this time to write with a feeling of open-endedness that I felt when I was staying at Josef's. Or read more extensively. Or edit more extensively. Or anything writing-related that I feel I need to get done.

I immediately realize that there will be a few hurtles in this that are schedule-based. I'm planning on coming home from a weekend with the family on next Monday, so that'll be right out; even if I end up staying late that night, I'd be too exhausted to write effectively. But this week will be the dry test run. Additionally, this upcoming Tuesday I don't have to work, so I'll wake up whenever I damn feel like it, run, eat, then write/read until night-time activies; I think folk are arranging trivia at the Tam. Maybe it's best to ease into this schedule anyway.

My goal is to have a first draft of the full installation of "Scottish Prometheus" by the end of November. It's about a third written on the page, haven't got the central clock, haven't tried to read it as a narrative hyper-text. Saturdays, Monday nights and, hopefully when I get a head of steam, during the days before or after running. Wish me luck.