A Most Austere Prayer

Let us pray:

O Father, who art in Heaven,
Rescue us from worldly temptations
Such as fresh bread
Purchased from a good local bakery
Sliced and toasted golden brown on the outside
And the ruination of a soft pillowy crumb within,
Slathered with softened butter and preserves,
Or topped with an egg fried Spanish-style
In a quarter inch of olive oil
Until the edges are brown and crispy.
O Lord, rescue us from such temptations,
That we may focus on carrying out Your will.

O Father, protect us from the deviancy of pasta,
Whether noodles or extruded into shapes,
Whether coated in a rich cream sauce
Or a tomato sauce infused with herbs
Or just some garlic sauteed in olive oil
Or even boxed fluorescent orange mac and cheese.
O Lord, cast pasta away from our mouths
That You may speak the gospels through us.

And potatoes, O Holy Father, potatoes!
Those high-glycemic apples of the underworld.
As the Grace of Your only Son’s blood sacrifice
Rich in tannins, with signifiers of blackberries and red currents,
Underscored with notes of dried red florals and salted dark chocolate,
Hath cleansed mankind of our sins,
Thus we ask for Your Grace and Strength
In resisting finely mashed potatoes whipped in buttermilk
Or oven-baked potatoes broiled until crispy on top
Or potatoes chopped and fried with onions and herbs
Or even potatoes zapped in the microwave
Served with sour cream and pepper
But most of all from chips,
Nasty chips !
Nasty perditious chips !
The Prince of Lies whispers in our ear
That one chip will be enough,
That one taste will be enough,
But as with all sins, O Lord,
One sin follows another
Until the entire bag is empty.
Close our ears to these lies, O Father!
Make these susurrations as discordant as chainsaws
As children screaming in restaurants
As neighbors renovating the apartment upstairs
So that we may not be tempted
By salt and vinegar chips
By dill pickle chips
By hickory smoke chips
By sour cream and onion chips
By those ketchup chips they sell in Canada
By cracked pepper chips
By any potato chip of any flavor anywhere.
Already potatoes led our Irish brethren to famine
Please Lord, do not allow them to claim another soul.

O Father, spare us from tortilla chips also,
Whether salted and plain
Or loaded up with sour cream
And refried beans
And salsa
And salsa verde
And guacamole
And grated cheese melted under a broiler
And maybe olives on top.
As Your Son resisted his three temptations in the desert
May we resist the temptations of loaded nachos
And thus carry out Your Will.

We look to You, O Lord
And place our hearts and souls in Your Care.
Please lend us Your strength
That we may be well prepared
For St Peter’s measuring tape
And St Peter’s bathroom scale.
Shield us from temptation
So we may join You
In our eternal reward:
Plates of steamed green vegetables,
Half-scoops of cottage cheese,
And on occasion
Bits of stale dry Melba toast.
Amen.

Grindr PSA

“Walk in the swamp.” “Replace the houseplants.” “Take a driving test.” “Go to the carwash.” “Rehome feral kittens.” “Take up tea-totalling.” “Ride in a Lamborghini.” “Install a Magic Keyboard.” Judging by the number of charming euphemisms for anonymous sexual encounters in my blogroll recently, it seems that the lot of you are done with pandemic isolation and revving up your libidos again. And since we are in the roaring 2020s, that means booting up your smartphones and hitting the apps.

Well, Old Stick-in-the-Mud Lurker is here to offer a note of caution about Grindr in particular. In my opinion this app has not had a good track record about caring about your privacy. Let’s ignore the fact that the company was owned by the Chinese for a few years before being sold to a mysterious group of “US” investors including a former executive of Baidu. That’s just geopolitics, and besides China has a commendable record of treating its minority populations with kindness and respect. Instead, let’s examine a few instances of how the company treated your data.

There was, of course, the infamous disclosures of HIV status to analytics companies (as documented by the security researchers). That feels unpleasant, but since we have drug cocktails now there is no more HIV stigma, so I guess this was no big deal. Also it is not surprising at all — pretty much every app on your phone makes use of a bunch of other surveillance companies and libraries, and it is exceedingly common to allow those apps to collect more data than you intend.

How about the incident with Norway, which got mad at Grindr for sharing potentially-identifying data with advertisers. Again, I guess this is no big deal, and probably Norway was just being a bully.

The incident that worries me the most happened last October, when noted computer security researcher Troy Hunt (oh behave! That’s his real name. This is not a “Lost Boys” post.) discovered that you could exploit the “forgot your password?” functionality of Grindr to log into someone else’s account.

Oh wait. Troy Hunt didn’t discover this bug. Another less famous security researcher named Wassime Bouimadaghene discovered the exploit, tried to tell Grindr about it, and was summarily ignored. It wasn’t until Hunt boosted the signal that Grindr bothered to respond.

Look. I’m not computer literate but even I know that bugs happen in computer programs. This was kind of a stupid bug to leave uncaught in your code (especially for a security-related function like password resets) but it does not surprise me that such a bad bug got through.

Having said that, this bug is really serious. You did not need a virus or a phishing email to exploit this. You just needed someone’s email address (is your email address floating around the Internet somewhere?). The unforgivable sin here is that Bouimadaghene reported a serious problem and Grindr ignored it. It does not matter than Bougimadaghene was not famous. It would not matter if it was reported by a completely anonymous source. When somebody tells you about a bug like this, you investigate and you act. Otherwise people get hurt. (I am tempted to make a Lindsey Graham joke here, but that would undermine the point. It might be nice schadenfreude if Miss Lindsey’s Lady G’s account got hacked, but being happy for security bugs because they hurt people we dislike is a bad security attitude that gets us into lots of trouble.)

Once Troy Hunted the company on Twitter, Grindr acted quickly to fix this particular bug. That’s great, but the fact that they needed to be publicly shamed before acting is reprehensible. That does not matter for me because nobody on Grindr would ever want to date chat with me, but my blogroll is full of beautiful charismatic people and I want you all to be safe.

So should you switch to another hookup app? This is not an easy question. On the surface it might seem like Bumble or Scruff or ChristianMingle might be a better choice, but on the other hand they all have bugs too. Some people might argue that Grindr is safer because (as the market leader) it is under so much scrutiny. Personally (and perhaps irrationally) the underlying values a company demonstrates matters a lot in my technology decisions. WordPress and Blogger are both big targets and have lots of security issues, but my values align more closely with WordPress, so I chose that platform for my regrettable blog. It might have been the wrong choice or it might have been the right one, but as a heuristic it has not been awful. In that sense, Grindr is right off the table for me.

Mind! Learning anything about the underlying values of a capitalist enterprise is no easy task, especially if you want to dig deeper than the marketing fluff. So most of us just use whatever everybody else is using and rest assured we will all go down on the ship together. Maybe that is not an awful strategy, but sometimes these ships do sink.