The Other Tahiti: How to Find Extra Adventure


Run away from the beach to experience the real islands of Tahiti. Off the beach, here are three adventures in Tahiti.

I claw my way through thickening jungle, following my guide who leads by hacking away with a machete. Vines, trees, and bursts of tropical flora larger than my face dim the harsh sunlight. I pull my body up enormous fallen logs and then slide down the slippery, moss-laden trunks to the muddy earth.

Turtle petroglyph Tahiti

Despite hiking away from the ocean, I almost feel like I’m swimming in the sea. Sweat drips down my face and drenches my clothes. A cool freshwater stream crossing provides the only respite from this intensity. Finally, our efforts pay off at an unassuming volcanic black boulder spackled in bright-green moss and adorned with two ancient turtle petroglyphs.

Most people travel to the islands of Tahiti to relax on the beach or to surf perfect reef-breaking waves. But Tahiti offers adventurous challenges for hikers, trail runners, and explorers.

Once off the white sand beaches, the real French Polynesia reveals itself. There are inland adventures, races, and explorations, from muddy singletrack ascending the mountains on the island of Moorea to the coastal shoreline on the roadless section of Teahupoo. And they pair nicely with the luxury of recovering beachside.

Tahiti Off the Beach: Te Pari (Tahiti)

Only one road wraps around the island of Tahiti while another bisects the island. Despite the robust population and urban vibe in the capital city of Papeete, a section of the island remains unpaved. It’s only accessible by boat or foot. The hike to Te Pari (where the mountains meet the sea) is a breathtaking way to experience the wild side of Tahiti.

Adventurers typically take the 20km route as a 2-day backpacking trip. But you can — and I did — attempt it in one if you’re swift and crunched for time.


Be sure to hire a local guide. They are essential to managing the logistics (car dropoff and boat pickup), helping you stay on the unmarked route, timing the hike with the tides, and ensuring safe passage through private properties (complete with dogs defending their turf). I went with a guide from Terainui Tours.

During Te Pari, you will encounter the diverse facets of Tahiti’s landscape. Wear shoes that can get wet and drain well, as this route oscillates between shorelines of broken coral. You’ll hike directly in the ocean and across the rivers flowing into the sea.

You also need high-performance traction to crawl up steep, slippery embankments in the jungle and to traverse narrow volcanic ledges — even though your guide may wear plastic jelly sandals (mine did!).

The route also includes fixed ropes, via ferratas, and sections that should have ropes and VF’s but don’t! Experience and confidence on class 4 terrain are ideal. Afterward, enjoy a quick boat ride past Tahiti’s infamous barrel Teahupo’o.

Race: Xterra Trail 45K and 13K (Moorea)

The Xterra Trail Tahiti race is considered a stepping stone to the Xterra World Championships, held annually in Maui. French Polynesia may not be known for its trail running, but its runners are fiercely competitive.

Racing within the slippery, narrow jungle trails felt like a roller derby match, with runners pushing their way around one another to move up in rank. The 45K and 13K races are held in June on the nearby island of Moorea (a 30-minute ferry away for only $15).

Both races will challenge you as you race through pineapple plantations before ascend high into the mountains for views above the coast. The 45K circumnavigates Mont Rotui and tours the center of the island with about 25,590 feet (7,800 m) of elevation gain. Meanwhile, the abbreviated 13K course still climbs over 2,000 feet.


Best of all, the event boasts world-class hospitality with a pre-race pasta feed, post-race lunch, and an after-party with traditional dancing, food, and awards on the beach.

Post-race, consider using your rest day to help save the coral reefs that make these islands spectacular. Coral Gardeners educates visitors about the dire effects of dying coral reefs, then takes them out in the water to snorkel and experience firsthand a method to help replant and restore them. You’ll even get to adopt and plant your own piece of coral.

Explore: Taputapuātea Marae UNESCO World Heritage Site (Ra’iātea)

Designated in 2017, Taputapuātea Marae is French Polynesia’s first UNESCO World Heritage site. It sits on the sacred island of Ra’iātea, which many consider the heart of the Polynesian Triangle.

A complex of ceremonial and funerary sites sits along the coral reef shoreline, flanked by forested valleys. In Polynesian culture, maraes are sacred places where the world of the living intersects with the worlds of the ancestors and the gods.

These square courtyards — made of volcanic stone and featuring rectangular alters with lines of larger stones as well as adornments ranging from petroglyphs to shells and flowers — were also used as political meeting grounds.


On an overcast and rainy 75-degree afternoon, part of French Polynesia’s winter, I ventured the few kilometers away from the resorts of Raiatea — a charming set of tucked-away bungalows that vastly contrast with the mega-resorts of the larger islands — to visit this piece of French Polynesian heritage.

It’s possible to walk around and explore this site without a guide. But hiring one is extremely helpful if you actually want to learn about the rich history of this ceremonial spot. My guide from French Polynesian Escapes, Tahiarii, answered just about any question I could think of — from anthropology to politics, endemic plants, food, economics, and culture.

In between glimpses at each marae, he led the way while playing a homemade flute. He shared his local insights into the progression of this spiritual epicenter becoming a UNESCO site. (This reminded me of similar conflicting views surrounding American sacred spaces like Bears Ears National Monument.)

Best of all, the view from Taputapuātea Marae is as spectacular as any of the island’s beaches and offers a greater understanding of life from past to present on these beautiful ocean-bound mountains.

The islands of Tahiti are small and close together, making travel to and from activities efficient and convenient. You can string together multiple “inland” excursions in one week and still have time for that beachside mai tai at sunset.

The post The Other Tahiti: How to Find Extra Adventure appeared first on GearJunkie.

from – Outdoor Gear Reviews

7 Unique Ways to Process Samples for a Better Mix


So you’ve found some samples to work with. Now what?

Even if you’ve discovered the perfect sounds for your track, a little creative processing can be necessary to make them sit in your mix just right.

But when traditional mixing techniques aren’t cutting it you’ll have to try some unconventional solutions.

Here are 7 unique ways to process samples for a better mix.

1. Record them “live.”

Sometimes samples can sound too dry and “in-the-box.” One way to fix it is by capturing the sound of the sample playing in a room with a microphone.

You can think of this technique a little bit like adding a subtle reverb plugin—but for real!

A real room is often the most convincing reverb you can apply to a sound.

A real room is often the most convincing reverb you can apply to a sound.

Simply set up a microphone in your mixing environment to capture the sound of the samples coming directly from your speakers.

Experiment with varying the angle and distance or selecting different microphone types.

The change will be subtle but the extra weight and space from the room sound can help your samples fit better into your mix.

Just make sure not to enable input monitoring on the channel you’re recording or else you’ll get intense feedback!

2. Use vintage style sampler plugins

Vintage gear often takes on legendary status. Today even the earliest sampler hardware fetches high prices on the used market.

The reason is that the original samplers had a unique sound. It comes from their limited digital storage and primitive AD/DA conversion.

Samplers like the Akai MPC 60 and Ensoniq ASR-X are sought after for their crunchy, lofi early digital quality.

sonic charge cyclone

Samplers like the MPC 60 and Ensoniq ASR-X are sought after for their crunchy, lofi early digital quality.

You can get some of this unique character for yourself using plugins that are specifically modelled to recreate the quirks of this type of gear.

Try using plugins such as TAL Sampler, Sonic Charge Cyclone or 112 dB Morgana to add that perfect retro grittiness to your samples.

3. Try slicing functions

Many samplers and sampling plugins have built-in slicing options that can make even the most mundane samples come alive.

Common slicing functions include creating slices based on grid divisions or transients detected in the source sample.

Ableton’s powerful Simpler sampler uses this method to let you play subsections of your sample with a MIDI controller.

Getting hands on control of your chopped up samples is super inspiring.

It’s the easiest way to chop on the fly!

4. Don’t use a sampler

This may sound counterintuitive, but you don’t need a sampler to use samples.

Samples can be used as basic audio files on your timeline.

You don’t always need to load up a sampler plugin to use samples creatively. Sometimes simply dropping them on the timeline and manipulating them as audio is enough.

samples on the timeline

Applying fades, clip gain, reverse, automation or other audio operations directly on the timeline is a perfectly fine way to work with samples.

Applying fades, clip gain, reverse, automation other audio operations directly on the timeline is a perfectly fine way to work with samples.

This way you’ll have your entire DAW at your disposal for mixing and processing your samples.

Sometimes it doesn’t have to be too complicated!

5. Resample creatively

Have you managed to mangle your samples into uncharted territory with effects? It might be time to resample.

Resampling means taking your sampled sounds and…sampling them again.


It’s essentially like “bouncing” your samples down—you commit to the processing on your original sample and treat it like the source material.

Resampling multiple times can lead you to completely alien sonic landscapes.

6. Use your sampler’s onboard LFOs

LFOs are the perfect way to get your mixes moving. When it comes to sampling they’re a unique tool.

Modulating a sample’s pitch will approximate vibrato. That’s super useful for playing realistic instrument samples polyphonically.

Modulating the volume with a square wave will create a choppy tremolo. Modulating the filter will create synth-like textures.

Applying a sine LFO to the pan position will create a psychedelic autopanner effect.

See what LFO shape and routing options your sampler has—the options can be pretty inspiring.

7. Use samples as oscillators

Some wavetable synth plugins (such as Ableton’s excellent Wavetable) allow you to import custom user wavetables.

This means you can use your samples as the oscillator source in a synth! I’ll explain.

Instead of VCOs, wavetable synths load each individual sample in a digital file into a “cell” in a table.

A pointer scrolls through the table at different rates to produce different pitches.

Hardware wavetable synths typically used fixed wavetables that approximated waveshapes from traditional analog synthesis.

But plugin synthesizers have expanded the possibilities considerably.

Now it’s easy to import user wavetables from samples from your own sessions.

Using samples as wavetables can create highly unpredictable results!

Trust the process

Creative processing is a key component of mixing well with samples.

The sonic content of your samples can be so varied that no single mixing strategy alone will work.

Try these techniques the next time your sampled sounds need a little something extra to shine.

The post 7 Unique Ways to Process Samples for a Better Mix appeared first on LANDR Blog.

from LANDR Blog

Watch Porsche Taycan perform 30 consecutive 0-124 mph launches


Porsche has been pushing the idea that the Taycan is going to be the first performance all-electric car with repeatable power, and to prove it, they let a YouTuber do 30 consecutive 0 to 124 mph (200 km/h) launches.

The German automaker has previously mentioned that unlike Tesla’s performance vehicles, the Taycan is going to be able to maintain continuous higher power output for long periods of time.

That’s how Porsche is trying to differentiate itself from Tesla’s performance vehicles, which can beat Porsche on several metrics, but if the performance is pushed for an extended period of time, the vehicle starts limiting the power output.

Tesla even famously warns people of potential accelerated wear when engaging the highest performance mode with their “I want my mommy” warning:

Porsche doesn’t want to have to do that. They want Taycan owners to feel confident that they can push the performance of their vehicle.

In order to be able to do that, the automaker developed a robust liquid-cooling system for both the battery packs and the motors, which it describes as the key to the repeatable performance of the Taycan.

They invited Jonny Smith from the Fully Charged YouTube channel to do 30 launches with a pre-production Taycan prototype on an airstrip near Stuggart, Germany.

He used the same prototype shown at the Goodwood Speed Festival last month.

Smith said that he was able to do 30 “hard launches,” and the Vbox was still showing 10-second 0-200 km/h (124 mph) acceleration.

Here’s Fully Charged’s video about it:

Recent reports have stated that the Taycan is going to come out first with a 96 kWh and 600 hp dual motor powertrain. The originally promised 350 kW charging capacity has also been reduced to 250 kW.

The production version is going to be unveiled next month

Porsche came out with a press release about Smith’s test and they confirmed many of those specs directly for the first time:

26 times from 0–200 km/h and back: the new Porsche Taycan demonstrates its staying power

Performance typical for the brand that can be reproduced virtually as required: The Porsche Taycan’s electric powertrain is designed to enable it to reach full power output even when accelerating multiple times in direct succession.

Numerous hot laps around a circuit are no problem for the first fully electric sports car from Zuffenhausen.

In an initial test, a pre-series version of this 440 kW (600 PS) all-wheel drive car accelerated from 0–200 km/h 26 times in succession. The Sprint Challenge was held at an airfield in Lahr in southern Baden. Average acceleration times documented on the “Fully Charged” YouTube channel were just under 10 seconds. The difference between the fastest and the slowest attempts was just 0.8 seconds.

The test runs were carried out in both directions on the airport’s taxiway. The entire strip, about 2.3 kilometers long, was used during the tests. The outside temperature was 28 degrees Celsius.

The Taycan is the first all-electric sports car from Porsche

A full range of technical innovations in the Taycan guarantees breathtaking acceleration figures, traction power typical of a sports car, and a superior, permanently available power output.

  • The two powerful electric motors at the front and rear axles are the so-called permanently excited synchronous motors (PSM). They feature a rotor with high-grade permanent magnets that generate a natural magnetic field. As a result, the rotor moves in sync with the magnetic rotating field of the stator, hence the name PSM. A pulse inverter specifies the frequency of the rotating field in the stator, therefore determining rotor speed. The design, function, and excellent thermal behaviour of permanently excited synchronous motors allow them to deliver the high performance typical of Porsche.
  • A special feature of the Taycan’s electric motors is the so-called hairpin winding, in which the solenoid coils of the stator consist of rectangular rather than round wires. The wires are bent, and before they are inserted into the stator’s laminated core their shape looks like a hairpin — hence the name “hairpin.” The open ends are welded together using a laser beam. Hairpin technology makes it possible to pack wires in a more condensed way and therefore integrate more copper into the stator. This increases power output and torque at the same level of volume. Another important advantage for a high-performance car like the Taycan is that a hairpin stator can be cooled considerably more efficiently.
  • The Taycan is the first production vehicle with a system voltage of 800 volts rather than the normal 400 volts for electric cars. Among other things, this delivers continuous high power and charging capacities to enable both fast driving and fast loading,  while also reducing the weight of the high-voltage cabling.
  • In combination with the drive train concept (PSM and 800-volt technology), thermal management ensures a high reproducibility for when power is demanded. The cooling system is tailored to the needs of the individual vehicle and enables the performance, which is typical of a sports car, to be achieved multiple times in succession when required. Porsche has achieved a wide spread between performance and range. In winter, intelligent thermal management also enables efficient and demand-oriented heating functions.

The Taycan has a top speed of over 250 km/h. It accelerates from 0–100 km/h in significantly less than 3.5 seconds, and its lithium-ion battery has a gross capacity of around 90 kWh. The Taycan will be presented in September and launched onto the market at the end of the year.

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from Electrek

If you want an emoji that isn’t available, you can create it. Here’s how everyday people send their submissions.

  • Each year, new emoji sets are released. In 2019, we’ll see the yawn, sloth, and several emojis focused on inclusivity
  • Anyone can create an emoji but only those with a really good proposal and design can advance. You don’t need funding or connections, just a really good 10-page paper. 
  • From start to finish, the process could take up to two years.
  • In the video above, we break down the process of how an emoji is made and the timeline to follow if you want to submit your own design.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Following is a transcript of the video.

Narrator: Emoji. For some of us, it’s a second language. But did you know anyone can make an emoji? You don’t need funding. You don’t need to know someone on the inside. You just need a really good 10-page paper.

Emoji is actually a Japanese word that means "pictogram" or "pictograph." SoftBank, a Japanese wireless carrier, created the first known emoji set in 1997. When Apple launched its iOS 2.2 in November 2008, it had to create its own emoji so any emoji sent from SoftBank customers would show up on iPhones. The company gave the task to three designers.

Angela Guzman, Former Apple Intern: And so, when I was there, I just openly asked, "What is an emoji?" And they told me, "Oh, it’s like an illustration, and you’re gonna be drawing about 480 of them with your mentor." And I was like, "Oh, all right, well, here I go for three months making these illustrations."

Narrator: Fast-forward to 2019. Thousands of emoji have been added, depictions of existing emoji have been changed, and now anyone can propose an emoji. The first step is to submit your proposal to the Unicode Consortium. It’s a nonprofit organization that sets the standard for how text is represented and displayed across various programs and pieces of software. The Unicode Consortium deals with about 50 emoji proposals a year. That might not sound like a lot, but it’s because most of the proposals don’t even make it past the first round. Why not?

Greg Welch, Unicode Consortium Vice President: Well, you have to design an icon that still looks like a redwood tree, or whatever you’re interested in, even at extremely small size, because we use emoji in text. And that’s where a lot of proposals just fall flat immediately.

Narrator: Proposers also need to make sure their emoji align with Unicode’s 13 mandatory selection factors, turning their proposals into 10-page documents that include an overall explanation of the emoji, reasons why it’s needed, and data justifying its existence.

Sebastián Delmont, Arepa Emoji Proposer: So if you want to have a strong proposal, one, it should be an emoji that people will use frequently, often, and that a large number of people will use. Two, it has to be in that sweet spot of being specific enough to warrant a separate image and not general enough to be confused with other things that are not that emoji.

Narrator: That’s Sebastián Delmont. He successfully proposed the flatbread emoji. He’s also an active member of Emojination, a community of emoji enthusiasts that helps get many emoji proposals approved, like the hijab and the dumpling.

Once your proposal is ready, you submit it to Unicode via email, but the review process takes about a whole year. Why so long? Well, it needs to be approved from different committees within Unicode.

Here’s the journey your proposed emoji takes after it’s been submitted to Unicode.

January – March

First, the Emoji Subcommittee will review and refine proposals with those who submitted them. Some proposals may get rejected, but proposals that do meet all the selection factors will get passed to the Unicode Technical Committee.

April – June

This committee finalizes everything that will go into the Unicode Standard, like assigning a universal code for each emoji.

July – September

Six months in, the Draft Candidates list is created, which lists all the emoji that will be moving forward. Vendors including Google, Apple, Microsoft, Twitter, and Facebook will all see the list and weigh in on the designs.

October – December

In the final three months, Unicode’s Common Locale Data Repository will establish a name for the emoji and record the name in languages other than English.

January – March

Finally, the last step: designing! In the first quarter of the second year, the final candidate list will be sent to all the vendors to start designing. Each vendor has their own style guide to follow.

Jennifer Daniel, Google Emoji Creative Director: Any time a designer starts an emoji, they read the proposal, they look at the reference icons, and they confer with experts on the subject. For the case of the deaf emoji, we talked to the CEO of the National Association of the Deaf. We look at it very, very tiny and we say, "OK, are those legible when they’re small?" And, of course, we try to anticipate what other folks are doing, which is why we talk to all of our friends in the Emoji Subcommittee. And that’s sort of the process for an emoji.

April – June

Narrator: Once all the designs are finalized, vendors will roll out the new emoji set, usually around the time they update their operating systems.

July – September

Apple usually does it in the fall, around the same time iOS gets updated. From start to finish, it could take almost two years before you see your emoji on your devices.

So, if you have an idea, start working on it now. And pro tip: The best time to submit is the beginning of each year.

Angela Guzman: And when I came to the US, I didn’t speak the language, but I ended up drawing stick figures to sort of express my ideas and also be understood. And so working on the emoji decades later was really ironic, because it’s kind of doing that same thing of bridging those language barriers and having everyone understand one another. I think that’s really beautiful.

Join the conversation about this story »

from SAI

How to Take Care of Your Calluses


When you start lifting weights, your body undergoes a lot of adaptations. Muscles get bigger, tendons get stronger, and fat tissues decrease. 

Your skin also adapts to the stress of barbell training by forming rough, tough calluses on your hands where you grip the barbell. 

Calluses aren’t just dermatological badges of honor. They help protect your hands from the barbell and allow you to get a better grip on it. You need calluses to lift heavy. 

But you don’t want your calluses to get too big or else you risk one ripping off while doing a pull-up, deadlift, or Olympic lift. A callus typically rips off when its ridge catches on the bar during the middle of the movement. When a callus rips off, it leaves an open wound on your hand and it hurts like hell. The pain is best described as a persistent stinging sensation that only gets worse when you try to grip a barbell or pull-up bar. At its worst, a torn callus can make barbell training impossible for a few days, and even if you can work through it, it’s still extremely uncomfortable for a couple weeks. 

I’ve only torn one callus during my lifting career. When I first started training, I didn’t do anything to manage my calluses so I had some big ones build up. During this time, I did an obstacle race that required me to cross some monkey bars. Halfway through a swing, a large callus on my right hand tore completely off. It hurt like a mother. It put a damper on my barbell training for a few days, and took about two weeks to heal. Since then, I’ve stayed on top of managing my calluses. 

Below I walk you through what you can do to manage your calluses so you can keep your paws grippy and protected. 

How to Manage Your Calluses

How to Prevent Excessive Callus Build-up

When it comes to callus management, you want to keep your calluses, but you don’t want them to get too big. The first step in keeping them pared down, is to prevent them from getting excessively large in the first place. Here’s how:

Don’t wear gloves. To prevent excess callus formation, you’d think it would be a no-brainer to wear gloves. But you’d be wrong. You don’t want to wear gloves when you lift weights. While gloves would indeed prevent calluses, they get in the way of you lifting the barbell properly. The leather in the glove adds thickness to the bar which makes gripping it during a deadlift more difficult. Also, you’re not looking for complete callus prevention; we want some toughening of our hand-hide as a natural adaptation and protection. 

Hold the bar correctly. The best way to prevent excessive callus formation is to hold the barbell properly. When most people grab a barbell for a deadlift, they naturally want to place the bar in the middle of their palm. Gripping a barbell there feels more secure. But by gripping it this way, you sow the seeds of excessive callus formation. 

Gripping a barbell in the palm of your hands creates a fold of skin at the top of your palm. When you pull up on the barbell, the fold gets shoved down towards your fingers. This folding is what causes calluses to form. 

Instead of holding the barbell in the palm of your hands, grip it closer to your fingers at the proximal digital crease. You won’t have that skin folding occur when you grip the bar there. Gripping the bar this way won’t eliminate callus build-up (which again, we want), but will go a long way in reducing excessive callus build-up. 

Use this same grip placement for pull-ups and chin-ups. 

Use chalk. Chalk helps prevent the bar from slipping in your hands which reduces skin folding. Keeping your hands dry with chalk is just a good safety measure to take, so chalk up before every set. 

How to Reduce Your Calluses

Even when you take measures to prevent and slow the growth of your calluses, eventually they’re going to get too big and will need to be intentionally reduced. 

I do my callus maintenance every 2-3 weeks. My goal is to keep my calluses flush with my hands. If they’re looking like mountains on a topographic map, that’s a sign it’s time to pare them down. Here’s how I do it:

Soak hands. Callus reduction is much easier when the skin is soft and pliant. I usually cut mine after I’ve taken a hot shower. If you haven’t taken a shower, soak your hands in warm water for a few minutes.

Use a callus razor. A callus razor is a safety razor for your calluses. If you remember from our guide on safety razor shaving, when you shave your face, you’re not going for beard removal, but rather beard reduction. The same rule applies when you’re shaving your calluses. Don’t try to remove the callus with one fell swoop. You risk cutting down too far and creating a wound. Instead, lightly apply the razor on the callus and take several strokes to reduce it. The goal is to shave your calluses down so that they’re even with the palm of your hand.

How to Train With a Torn Callus

Let’s say you follow all these guidelines and you still suffer a torn callus. How do you keep lifting hefty weight with an open wound on your hand?

You’ll want to put some sort of barrier between the wound and the barbell. Ideally, this barrier is as thin as possible so that it doesn’t disrupt your grip on the bar. When I tore my callus off, I just applied some medical tape over the wound when I trained. It did the trick. Band-aids tended to come off too easily while lifting. 

While you should avoid using gloves when you lift, when you have an open wound on your hand, using a glove might be the only thing that will allow you to keep training. Try the medical tape before you start using the glove. 

After training and showering, apply some antibacterial cream and a band-aid to your wound to help speed the healing along.

The post How to Take Care of Your Calluses appeared first on The Art of Manliness.

from The Art of Manliness

The Russians are coming! The Russians are … complicated!


Did you know that Russia’s security services, particularly those related to hacking / information security, have been in the throes of vicious high-stakes infighting for years? Did you know that the perceived Russian doctrine which informed much Western analysis of Russian strategies never actually existed? Did you know that the Kremlin’s secrecy has built an entire cottage industry of largely-unfounded rumors and conspiracy theories based on the few tantalizing details which do leak?

OK, you probably knew that last part. Everyone, or at least everyone who calls a social-media stranger with whom they disagree a “Russian bot,” is a Russian conspiracy theorist nowadays. And of course the evidence of widespread malevolent Russian activity, ranging from assassinations to hacking to social-media bombing, is copious.

But exactly which Russian organizations are doing what, and why — that’s a lot harder to establish. I’m reminded of old Cold War spy novels in which Kremlinologists analyzed the few public appearances of Politburo members, wrongfully reading great significance into who stood where and when, because they had little else to go on. Just like those bad old days, our instinct nowadays is to treat “Russia” as a single, well-oiled, tightly-orchestrated malignant machine.

Of course it’s nothing of the sort. Instead it is a complex, seething, tiered morass of many figures and institutions, often incentivized against one another, in a time of profound and rapid change. Today I attended a Black Hat talk by Kimberley Zenz, who opened with a plea for nuanced consideration of Russia and Russian activities. She’s right, of course, but sadly the Internet tends to be where nuance goes to die.

This nuance, though, is especially fascinating, the stuff of spy thrillers. In 2017 a slew of Russian intelligence officials and hackers — along with, inexplicably, Kaspersky Lab’s Head of Investigations — were suddenly arrested. One was “apparently forcibly removed from a meeting with fellow FSB officers — escorted out with a bag over his head” according to Stratfor. A case was eventually made against them for “high treason in favor of the United States.”

Four individuals were this year sentenced to up to 22 years in prison. (They are appealing.) Andrei Gerasimov, the longtime director of Russia’s Information Security Center, “a shadowy unit … thought to be Russia’s largest inspectorate when it comes to domestic and foreign cyber capabilities, including hacking,” resigned a week after this case emerged.

Stratfor again: ‘Because the charges are treason, the case is considered “classified” by the state, meaning no official explanation or evidence will be released.’ From this fog of secrecy, half a dozen different rumors and theories have emanated. Are the charges entirely trumped-up to eliminate rivals? Did someone leak to the US to attack their rivals, only to see this backfire spectacularly? Did the FSB turn a hacking group which then discovered something they really shouldn’t have about a powerful oligarch? Who can say?

Of course another conspiracy theory is the nuance-free “well-oiled malignant machine” one, in which this case is just an instance of said machine expelling a bit of grit from its innards. It’s remarkable how common this “monolithic Russian single-voiced hive-mind” analysis has become. Here’s Politico, for instance, after the above scandal broke: “Lately, Russia appears to be coming at the United States from all kinds of contradictory angles … Confused? Only if you don’t understand the Gerasimov Doctrine.”

That doctrine — named after General Valery Gerasimov, please note, not repeat not the now-disgraced former-FSB-director Andrei Gerasimov mentioned above — is used there to explain away all Russian activity, even that which appears self-contradictory, as a deliberately bewildering diversity of tactics used to “achieve an environment of permanent unrest and conflict within an enemy state.” It was cited yesterday in another Black Hat talk, which I was so unimpressed by I’ll diplomatically refrain from discussing further. It is consistently cited by Russian policy analysts to this day.

But the problem with the Gerasimov Doctrine as a cornerstone of modern Kremlinology is that — according to the very person who coined the term! — it never actually existed. (Ironically it stems from a conspiracy theory on General Gerasimov’s part: that the CIA instigated the Arab Spring.) Instead, rather than a campaign informed by a unifying doctrine, Russian activity is

largely opportunistic, fragmented, even sometimes contradictory. Some major operations are coordinated, largely through the presidential administration, but most are not. Rather, operations are conceived and generally carried out by a bewildering array of “political entrepreneurs” hoping that their success will win them the Kremlin’s favor

That sounds like an awfully important distinction to make, and it leads to the most interesting thing (to me) about Ms. Zenz’s talk; her mention that “the Russian government considers Russian cybercriminals to be a strategic asset,” and that one side effect of this treason case is that it has greatly chilled information sharing and cooperation between Russia and the West regarding online threats.

Does this strategic status in turn mean that Russian hackers are likely to be government operatives, and/or Russian infosec companies in bed with their government? I am no Kremlinologist, but it seems to me more that the very question is wrong and should be unasked. Rather, the relatively sharp differences between “private sector,” “government,” and “criminal,” defined in nations with a strong rule of law, don’t really exist in a nation like modern Russia where those distinctions can, and often do, blur together.

from TechCrunch