Dream Views Gets Domain-Hijacked

I’ve been planning for a while to put a link to the dream journal (DJ) I keep on a site called Dream Views (DV). DV is a lucid dreaming site that has tutorials, a forum, and a blog feature for people to use for dream journals. However, that plan went out the window when DV got domain-hijacked on February 20th. It’s finally back up at another domain now, so I can post a link. Yay!

[edit- DV got it’s domain back, and is now dreamviews.com again. I’ve changed all the links in this post accordingly.]

My Dream Journal

The whole DV got hacked saga was pretty exciting/disturbing. What happened is some people used a backdoor exploit to get on the server, download a copy of the site, and use the email to transfer the domain name. Then, once they had the domain name, they set up a fake server with their previously downloaded copy of the site, and made dreamviews.com point to their fake server.

The only clue I had that something was wrong when I went to browse the DV forums that day was that 10 days of posts had mysteriously disappeared, including a topic about blogs I had posted the previous day. At first I thought my topic had been deleted for being in the wrong forum or something, and I was a little miffed that someone would delete my topic without even telling me what was wrong with it. On further investigation, however, I discovered that a lot more stuff than that was missing, such as the 13 DJ entries I’d posted in the preceding couple of weeks. I found a topic where people were discussing whether or not there had been some sort of rollback, and one person had posted something about changing a hosts file and the old IP for DV. It was easy enough to add a line to my hosts file to have my computer load DV from the specified IP, rather than the one from the DNS servers on the network. Once I’d done that, I reloaded the site, and suddenly I could access all my DJ entires again. Relief.

I spent a while backing up all the DJ entries that had ‘disappeared’. I probably should have backed them up from the start but, eh, I’m lazy. Plus, I kind of figured on posting DJ entries to the web to be a good backup of my paper and pencil dream journals (I almost lost them once), not the other way around. Anyway. I have a system, now, just to save every blog or DJ entry as a text file to my computer when I post it. Not really much effort. I still need to go through and back up all of the old blog/DJ entries, though. Maybe I could write a program to do that…

After I’d backed up my precious DJ entries, I unmodified my hosts file and went back to the first site. I had been a bit suspicious of modifying it in the first place, but I wanted to get my DJ entries back, so I was willing to try it. After poking around the site for a while, it became clear that it was a fake DV, and the one I’d gone to by modifying my hosts file was the real one. On fake!DV, a newly created admin had posted an announcement in broken English with the title “Stop Panic”, saying

Dera DV users, i am new owner of dreamviews.com
Alex just sold it to me, pls don’t panic or spam!
we trying fix chat.
Pls be patient and stop losing your mind

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen worse English than that on DV, ever. Seriously. An admin with a post count of 1 posts this announcement and expects to be believed? Yea right. Another clue that it was a fake DV was that the chat was not working on that site, but was working on the other site (at that time, anyway, later it was broken on both).

People were posting warning threads on fake!DV now, saying that it was a fake site, redirecting people to the new one, and advising people to change passwords on any sites where they’d used the same password as for DV. The admins were deleting these threads and banning the people who posted them. So the people posting warning threads made new accounts and started spamming warnings with those. Eventually, the admins on fake!DV were forced to disable new accounts entirely. A small success. The first of many. I’m really quite impressed at the tenacity and creativity of the DV community in the fight against fake!DV over the next several days.

When people were getting banned and threads deleted for warning people the site was a fake, more subtle tactics were required. People started sandwiching warnings in the middle of mundane posts, saying things like “Sometimes reality checks can fail. One reality check that I’ve found to work almost every time is to plug your nose and see if you can still breathe. If you can still breathe, you’re dreaming. This is a fake site, dream views has been hacked and people posting threads about it are getting banned. And I really have not found a better reality check than that. I hope this helps.” Another trick someone came up with was to pm users who had recently posted or been online with a warning, as the admins would be less likely to notice this. On the real DV, there was a post with an in-depth explanation of what was happening and how to deal with it. Several people trying to warn everyone on fake!DV put links to the explanatory post on the real DV in their signature (with captions such as “How to escape from the matrix” or “The only lucid dreaming technique you ever need to know”) or put this link in an image in an otherwise innocent seeming post, so that people who clicked on the image would be redirected to the real DV. Eventually, the admins on fake!DV just gave up trying to stop people from spamming warnings, and the place turned into a warning-spamfest.

That took care of warning people away from the fake site, for the most part, but the fake site was still up, and the only way to get to the real one involved fiddling around with hosts files. Not ideal. Some people came up with the idea to DoS the fake site, but the moderators put a stop to that pretty fast, since that’s kind of illegal. Alex (the actual owner of DV) posted an announcement of what had happened and what he was doing to get the domain back, saying not to do anything illegal, like DoS-ing the fake site, as that could potentially hurt his case in court. Someone else came up with the idea of sending DMCA takedown notices to the company that hosts the fake site, saying they were posting infringing material (e.g. our copyrighted dream journal entries). This… may have actually worked.

Something worked, anyway, because fake!DV was now down, three days after the initial hijack, displaying only this image:

The next day, dreamviews.com only went to a GoDaddy page at dream-views.com advertising domains for sale, and a couple days after that, it wouldn’t even load anymore.

The bulk of the crisis now over, everyone turned to making fun of the hackers’ broken English, making “Stop Panic” signatures and avatars, and posting funny meme pictures like this one:

Man. That one still cracks me up. ShadowOfSelf made it, I think. There’s more on this thread.

So yea. Then Alex switched DV over to dreamviews.org, and now things are finally starting to get back to normal. DV wasn’t the only victim of these hackers, though. A replica movie prop forum also got domain-hijacked. They’ve moved to another domain, but their fake site is still up. This whole series of events is really making me paranoid about websites.

How I Discovered Lucid Dreaming and Sleep Paralysis

The first time I had a lucid dream was before I had any idea what lucid dreaming was. I just somehow figured out I was dreaming while I was still in a dream. I’ve forgotten most of the details, as happens with dreams, but I remember a few things. I was crawling on the top of these partitions in a room, like cubicle walls. Then I crawled out of that room and into another sort of place. It was red, and fleshy, like the level in a video game where you explore the inside of something living. Then I woke up. Sort of. I was in my bed, my real bed, and I could see the room around me, but I couldn’t move. There was an odd background noise, not quite like a buzzing or rushing, and there was a feeling in the back of my neck, an odd sort of pressure. It was really weird, but I was enjoying the weirdness and novelty of it, rather than freaking out. I drifted in and out of it a bit, being paralyzed a short time, then able to move again, then paralyzed. I didn’t start freaking out about it until I suddenly realized why I was paralyzed. I’d been bitten by a spider. A big brown spider two feet across. I saw it. I freaked out. I tried so hard to move, panicking, but I couldn’t move. After a short time, though, I could move again. I sat up. I was fully awake now. And I saw the spider. It scuttled off into a corner of my room and disappeared. Literally disappeared. I went over there, and it was gone, and there was no space it could have fit through to leave the room. The window was closed, and it was far too large to fit in the gap under the door.

I’d just had my first hallucination. And that paralysis thing was so weird. Was there something seriously wrong with me? Was I physically sick in a serious way? Was I going mad? Surely there must be something wrong with me.

It would be some time before I had any answers to these questions. I experienced that odd paralysis, on the edge of sleep, dozens of times more. There would always be the same weird background noise and the same strange pressure in the back of my neck. This thing would happen every once in a while, at seemingly random intervals. It seemed only to happen when I overslept, if I fell back asleep after waking in the morning. Sometimes I went months without it happening at all. Sometimes it was fun, and sometimes it was incredibly disturbing. I often saw incredibly vivid, dream-like hallucinations when it happened. Sometimes I would wake from it, and then if I didn’t get up right away, I’d fall back into it. The longer it had been since the first time, the less often I would experience this as though I were in my bed. Like, I’d be in the same position that I’d been in when I was awake, but when the paralysis came on, it’d be more like I was in a very odd, very vivid dream state in which I saw incredible visions but could not move. Sometimes, after a minute or two, I could move with great effort, like raise an arm or move my leg, but then when I woke I’d find out that I hadn’t actually moved at all.

With most dreams that I can still remember years or months after having them, the only things I remember are what happened in the dream. With this paralysis thing, every memory I have of it seems to be strongly tied to the location I was sleeping in when it happened. I can usually remember what position I was sleeping in, too. The time I experienced floating slowly down the inside of a giant kaleidoscope (in such incredibly vivid color that it makes real life look drab), I had drifted off while lying on my back on the spare bed at my brother’s place. The time I was in a wasteland and felt a wind blow over me that was a breath from hell (I cannot describe how creepy this was in words), I was lying on my stomach on the couch at my parents’ house. The time I saw the creepy clown face character with the red eyes, I was sleeping on the futon. I was also sleeping on the futon the time I felt an uncomfortable pressure across my stomach while falling in slow motion. I was being pulled down and down, as if by a rope someone had tied around my waist.

When this paralysis thing happens, I am always aware that that is what is happening. It’s not like a dream, where you usually have no clue that it is a dream or, often, even who you are in real life (haven’t you ever had a dream where you were someone else?). One of the times I experienced this, I wanted to wake up in the middle. But I couldn’t. I was stuck drifting along in a weird place that reminds me of nothing so much as the intro to Dr. Who, until I woke up some time later. One time I wondered what would happen if I never woke up. I knew, or saw, that my mom was shaking me, but I didn’t wake up, and she was starting to get very worried. After a minute, I did wake, but my mom wasn’t actually there after all. Another time, I was frightened, and I wished very much that someone would wake me up. My dad poked his head into my room and spoke, which woke me up. Except, after I was awake, I realized that my dad couldn’t have woken me up. He wasn’t there and the door to my room wasn’t even open. Both of those times were while I was staying at my parents’ house between semesters at college, so it would have made sense for my parents to have been trying to wake me.

So, I was having all these weird/fun/scary/uncomfortable experiences every once in a while, always on the edge of sleep. I had no words for it, and I was a little afraid to tell anyone else about it, and I had a nagging feeling that something might be wrong with me. Then one day I suddenly found out that there is a word for it. I was lurking on a particular mental health forum, and someone had posted a thread about sleep paralysis (sometimes abbreviated SP). I read the wikipedia article for it, and poked around a few other wikipedia articles (such as this one and this one), and although the information on sleep paralysis didn’t match up 100% with my experiences, it was a close enough fit that I figured this must be what I had been experiencing. It was really great to finally have a word for it. It was even greater to know that it is perfectly normal and not something to be worried about. Many perfectly healthy people experience sleep paralysis at some time during their lives. Even the hallucination of the two-foot spider I had upon waking is normal. Sometimes perfectly healthy people experience hallucinations while waking up or falling asleep.

I also ended up reading about a certain related topic while I was poking around wikipedia: lucid dreaming. I found out about dream-initiated lucid dreams (DILD) and a wake-initiated lucid dreams (WILD). A DILD is the sort of lucid dream that I described having at the beginning of this post. It happens when you realize that you’re dreaming in the middle of a dream. A WILD is what happens when you transition from a waking state to a dreaming state with no lapse in consciousness. And this WILD thing just sounded so cool that I had to try it. I read about some technique or other for WILDs that involved lying in bed and visualizing stuff. So that night, after I went to bed, I tried to have a WILD. It didn’t work of course. I’d missed the single most important point about how to have a successful WILD- you have to try it when you’ve already had several hours of sleep, not at the beginning of the night. You see, sleep has several different stages, and dreams mostly take place during the REM stage.
Sleep Stages
When you fall asleep at the beginning of the night, you usually go into deep sleep, and, as you can see on this handy diagram of sleep stages that I found on wikipedia, you only go into the REM stages of sleep later in the night. So, a good time to try to have a WILD would be while trying to fall back asleep after having awakened an hour or two before you would normally wake in the morning. The trick here is to remain aware enough that you’ll be lucid when you start dreaming, but not so aware that you don’t fall asleep at all. Another good time to try to have a WILD is during a nap in the middle of the day. A very bad time to try to have a WILD would be at the beginning of the night, like I was trying to do, because it’s a bit hard to transition from waking to dreaming without losing awareness when your body is all set to go into the early, dreamless stages of a night’s sleep.

So, my first few attempts to have lucid dreams on purpose were total disasters. I lost interest in lucid dreaming pretty quickly, without ever having tried very hard. I was mostly just happy over figuring out what that creepy sleep paralysis thing was that I kept having. I obviously got back into lucid dreaming later, or it wouldn’t be one of the major topics on my blog, but that’s a whole other story, and this post is getting much too long, so I’m just going to wait until later to write the rest.

On Being Out

On my path to becoming an atheist, I struggled with doubts for years. I was given the impression that voicing these doubts, questioning my religion, was something that is just not done. I kept my thoughts to myself for so long, because I was afraid to talk about it. Had I asked questions, would others have had answers for them? Would someone have helped me figure things out? Or would I have been seen as being weak or as though I was just not trying hard enough, not doing all the things a good Christian should do? How badly would my parents have reacted, had I started questioning out loud all the things they have taught me to believe since birth?

Religion is very important in my family. Parents have certain things that they want for their children: a good education, a good marriage (grandchildren), perhaps a particular career that is traditional within the family. Oh yea, and that they will all go to heaven when they die. How could I even hint otherwise about something so vital?

It really bothered me to think that I could not talk about my doubts, my questions, my thoughts, to struggle through an existential crisis, alone and ashamed. I’m tired of hiding. I’ve finally figured some things out. That I’m an atheist, that I’m queer. And I don’t want to hide any of it anymore. I’m not ashamed of who I am.

I was quite happy, the other day, when we were assigned groups in one of my classes to analyze a piece of writing by an atheist. It was a perfect opportunity to mention, off-hand, to one of my classmates that I am an atheist. It felt good. And another time, walking with a friend from one of my classes, I was sharing an anecdote about how I used to go to the library with my ex-girlfriend. It was uplifting, to casually mention having had a girlfriend to a someone I’d met outside of LGBT circles. I suppose he probably thinks I am a lesbian now, but ah well. I relish not hiding. I’m not going to go out of my way to make sure that everyone knows my sexual orientation or (lack of) religion, but I’m not going to hide either. And that feels great. Hiding things, keeping secrets, keeping track of who you’ve told what, suppressing the urge to mention certain topics- it’s too stressful. Pretending to be someone I’m not goes completely counter to my values. I want to be genuine.

And yet…

My family.

My conservative Christian parents.

Saying something like “so, I’m a queer atheist” would come across more like “so, I’m willfully immoral and I’m going to hell.” My parents have always told me that they will love me, no matter what. That they will be there for me, no matter what. And yet I’m terrified to tell them who I really am, because I kind of don’t want to find out if there are any exceptions to those things they said. I really don’t think they would disown me or threaten to withhold financial support to manipulate me, but I’m not really in a good place financially at the moment (college is not cheap), so I don’t want to find out right now.

I don’t know how long I can keep this up. It hurts, to keep quiet about things that matter so much to me. But I’m terrified to speak up. I keep thinking, I’ll just come out slowly, one little step at a time, gauging their reactions as I go, but my mom keeps saying things that scare me just enough to shut up for a little while more. I mean, she’s bothered by the fact that I occaisionally use minor swear words. She cuts me off with a religious statement that I literally cannot argue with when I disagree with her about politics. Every time the topic of gay marriage comes up, she makes these disgusted noises. She is not open-minded about these things. She’s not willing to have a discussion. If that’s how I see her react to little things, how could I ever hope to get her to accept something big?

Usually I Don’t Mind Religious Pamphlets…

I only started this writing yesterday, and I’m already literally being handed material for my blog.

On my way to eat lunch after class today, I managed to avoid being handed a pamphlet by a religious group, but afterwards I was feeling unwell and had decided to go home. On the way out of the building, I just took the pamphlet because this was easier than trying to politely explain that I’m not interested. I took one glance at the pamphlet and was immediately struck by the desire to walk back and argue with the person who handed it to me (I’ve had a small but growing desire to challenge the stuff this group says for several months now), but I was already in go-home-take-nap mode. Instead, I’m just going to talk about it on my blog.

This particular pamphlet is a little booklet with the words “Satan versus Christ” in bold on the front, followed by a few bullet points, one of which is “Never worship the deceiver–Satan–or demons.”  Why on earth would they say this? I mean, really, who worships Satan? Most Satanists don’t even worship Satan (if we are talking about LaVeyan Satanists, they are generally atheists and/or agnostics), and there are really very few Satanists. The best estimate I can find is that the number of Satanists in the world is probably measured in thousands or tens of thousands*, as compared to nearly 7 billion total people on the planet. If we go with a high estimate of 100,000 Satanists, that’s less than 2 thousandths of a percent (0.0014%) of the population, and that could easily be overestimating by a factor of 10 or more.

So why is this statement prohibiting Satan worship so prominent on this pamphlet? The only thing I see it accomplishing is encouraging myths such as Satanic ritual abuse, by implying that it is not that unusual for someone to worship Satan (and anyone who worships Satan must, of course, be terribly evil). When I was a child, my mother forbade me to celebrate Halloween, because on that date there were supposedly evil devil-worshipping witches gathering together in covens to be evil. I still regret having missed out so thoroughly on such childhood fun, and I find it a bit disturbing that I don’t have to look far at all to think of an example of this sort of Satanic cult myth. It’s really quite similar to the beliefs behind various infamous witch trials a few centuries back.

It’s also possible certain that they are trying to imply that anyone who worships a god other than theirs is actually worshipping Satan. In one section in the little booklet, they equate idol worship with devil worship. There are also sections condemning witchcraft and divination, in a booklet which talks about how bad the devil is on nearly every page, which again encourages the devil-witch-cult myth (and also the misconception that all witches/Wiccans/occult types/etc. are devil worshippers). They also explicitly state that the only choices are between serving Satan or Jesus. So, basically, their god is the only right one, and anyone not worshipping their god is actually worshipping Satan. And by that definition of Satanism, there are 5 or 6 billion Satanists in the world.

Yea, an attempt to convert me by telling me I’m worshipping Satan isn’t really going make me very receptive. It also rather bothers me when people start going on about devil worshippers and Satanists when they don’t actually know anything about Satanists. It really doesn’t take that much effort to read a wikipedia article or something. I mean, is it really so much work to try to learn a little bit about other people’s beliefs if you’re spending so much time trying to convert them?

* Sites with estimates of the number of Satanists: Adherents, Religious Tolerance, Holysmoke

Hello world!

Greetings, hypothetical audience, and welcome to my blog. I have such great plans. There are so many things I want to write about. Primarily, I think, I will focus on the following three topics, although I reserve the right to ramble on about whatever the hell I feel like, even if it’s not what you came to my blog to read about.

One of the topics I want to write about is lucid dreaming. If you don’t know what lucid dreaming is, that’s when you’re aware that you’re dreaming while you’re in a dream. Once you become lucid in a dream, and thus aware that the normal rules of reality do not apply, you can do all sorts of nifty stuff. Some of the more interesting things I’ve done in lucid dreams include flying, using telekinetic powers, visiting Hogwarts, and turning into a dragon. It’s incredibly fun. I don’t really put that much effort into lucid dreaming, though, beyond just writing down my dreams every morning. Some of my non-lucid dreams are every bit as fun as some of the lucids, though. I really don’t want to forget those, so that’s why I write them all down. So, yea, I’ll probably end up posting various stuff about my experiences with trying to have lucid dreams. I’ll also post some of the more interesting dreams I have, lucid or not.

I also want to talk about being an atheist. I ended up becoming an atheist in my own, unique way, just like many other atheists. I think I have rather an odd world view because of the particular path I took, and I want to share it. I think there are few things so valuable as being able to look at something from different viewpoints. There are some things you just don’t see when you are limited to a single viewpoint. I want to talk about my particular philosophy, partly just to force myself to write this stuff down, and partly to share and discuss ideas with others.

I also want to talk about being queer. Specifically, I am asexual, and beyond that I’m still trying to figure things out. I like the term queer because it is a convenient umbrella term that I can use to get across the idea that I’m not straight and/or cisgender, without spending half an hour trying to explain exactly what flavor of not-straight/cis I am. I mean, really, just trying to explain the term asexual takes that long, nevermind trying to explain nuances. Oh, don’t worry, I’ll have a post later explaining what asexuality is (or you could just google it). But anyway, I have done a lot of thinking in the past year or so, trying to figure myself out, and I really think blogging could be a useful tool in this process.