Ramblings & ephemera

Ghost brides in China

From Reuters’ “China arrests men for murdering “ghost” brides” (26 January 2007): BEIJING (Reuters) – Chinese police have arrested three men for killing two young women to sell their corpses as “ghost brides” for dead single men, a Chinese newspaper reported, warning the dark custom might have claimed many other victims. Yang Donghai, a 35-year-old […]

The widespread corruption at the heart of Greek culture

From Michael Lewis’s “Beware of Greeks Bearing Bonds” (Vanity Fair: 1 October 2010): In just the past decade the wage bill of the Greek public sector has doubled, in real terms—and that number doesn’t take into account the bribes collected by public officials. The average government job pays almost three times the average private-sector job. […]

Arguments against gay marriage make no sense

From Theodore B. Olson’s “The Conservative Case for Gay Marriage” (Truthout: 12 January 2010): What, then, are the justifications for California’s decision in Proposition 8 to withdraw access to the institution of marriage for some of its citizens on the basis of their sexual orientation? The reasons I have heard are not very persuasive. The […]

A summary of Galbraith’s The Affluent Society

From a summary of John Kenneth Galbraith’s The Affluent Society (Abridge Me: 1 June 2010): The Concept of the Conventional Wisdom The paradigms on which society’s perception of reality are based are highly conservative. People invest heavily in these ideas, and so are heavily resistant to changing them. They are only finally overturned by new […]

The Irish Church lies in creative – and evil – ways

From Patsy McGarry’s “Church ‘lied without lying’” (Irish Times: 26 November 2009): One of the most fascinating discoveries in the Dublin Archdiocese report was that of the concept of “mental reservation” which allows clerics mislead people without believing they are lying. According to the Commission of Investigation report, “mental reservation is a concept developed and […]

David Foster Wallace on the impossibility of being informed & the seduction of dogma

From David Foster Wallace’s “Introduction” (The Best American Essays 2007): Here is an overt premise. There is just no way that 2004’s reelection could have taken place—not to mention extraordinary renditions, legalized torture, FISA-flouting, or the passage of the Military Commissions Act—if we had been paying attention and handling information in a competent grown-up way. […]

Bernie Madoff & the 1st worldwide Ponzi scheme

From Diana B. Henrioques’s “Madoff Scheme Kept Rippling Outward, Across Borders” (The New York Times: 20 December 2008): But whatever else Mr. Madoff’s game was, it was certainly this: The first worldwide Ponzi scheme — a fraud that lasted longer, reached wider and cut deeper than any similar scheme in history, entirely eclipsing the puny […]

What Google’s book settlement means

Image via Wikipedia From Robert Darnton’s “Google & the Future of Books” (The New York Review of Books: 12 February 2009): As the Enlightenment faded in the early nineteenth century, professionalization set in. You can follow the process by comparing the Encyclopédie of Diderot, which organized knowledge into an organic whole dominated by the faculty […]

A beheading in Saudi Arabia

Image via Wikipedia From Adam St. Patrick’s “Chop Chop Square: Inside Saudi Arabia’s brutal justice system” (The Walrus: May 2009): This is Saudi Arabia, one of the last places on earth where capital punishment is a public spectacle. Decapitation awaits murderers, but the death penalty also applies to many other crimes, such as armed robbery, […]

Various confidence scams, tricks, & frauds

From “List of confidence tricks” (Wikipedia: 3 July 2009): Get-rich-quick schemes Get-rich-quick schemes are extremely varied. For example, fake franchises, real estate “sure things”, get-rich-quick books, wealth-building seminars, self-help gurus, sure-fire inventions, useless products, chain letters, fortune tellers, quack doctors, miracle pharmaceuticals, Nigerian money scams, charms and talismans are all used to separate the mark […]

Stolen credit card data is cheaper than ever in the Underground

From Brian Krebs’ “Glut of Stolen Banking Data Trims Profits for Thieves” (The Washington Post: 15 April 2009): A massive glut in the number of credit and debit cards stolen in data breaches at financial institutions last year has flooded criminal underground markets that trade in this material, driving prices for the illicit goods to […]

Storm made $7000 each day from spam

From Bruce Schneier’s “The Economics of Spam” (Crypto-Gram: 15 November 2008): Researchers infiltrated the Storm worm and monitored its doings. “After 26 days, and almost 350 million e-mail messages, only 28 sales resulted — a conversion rate of well under 0.00001%. Of these, all but one were for male-enhancement products and the average purchase price […]

Small charges on your credit card – why?

photo credit: Andres Rueda From Brian Kreb’s “An Odyssey of Fraud” (The Washington Post: 17 June 2009): Andy Kordopatis is the proprietor of Odyssey Bar, a modest watering hole in Pocatello, Idaho, a few blocks away from Idaho State University. Most of his customers pay for their drinks with cash, but about three times a […]

Could Green Dam lead to the largest botnet in history?

From Rob Cottingham’s “From blocking to botnet: Censorship isn’t the only problem with China’s new Internet blocking software” (Social Signal: 10 June 2009): Any blocking software needs to update itself from time to time: at the very least to freshen its database of forbidden content, and more than likely to fix bugs, add features and […]

Green Dam is easily exploitable

From Scott Wolchok, Randy Yao, and J. Alex Halderman’s “Analysis of the Green Dam Censorware System” (The University of Michigan: 11 June 2009): We have discovered remotely-exploitable vulnerabilities in Green Dam, the censorship software reportedly mandated by the Chinese government. Any web site a Green Dam user visits can take control of the PC. According […]

Interviewed for an article about mis-uses of Twitter

The Saint Louis Beacon published an article on 27 April 2009 titled “Tweets from the jury box aren’t amusing“, about legal “cases across the country where jurors have used cell phones, BlackBerrys and other devices to comment – sometimes minute by minute or second by second on Twitter, for instance – on what they are […]

German twins commit the perfect crime

From “Twins Suspected in Spectacular Jewelry Heist Set Free” (Spiegel Online International: 19 March 2009): Saved by their indistinguishable DNA, identical twins suspected in a massive jewelry heist have been set free. Neither could be exclusively linked to the DNA evidence. German police say at least one of the identical twin brothers Hassan and Abbas […]

Criminal goods & service sold on the black market

From Ellen Messmer’s “Symantec takes cybercrime snapshot with ‘Underground Economy’ report” (Network World: 24 November 2008): The “Underground Economy” report [from Symantec] contains a snapshot of online criminal activity observed from July 2007 to June 2008 by a Symantec team monitoring activities in Internet Relay Chat (IRC) and Web-based forums where stolen goods are advertised. […]

Some facts about GPL 2 & GPL 3

From Liz Laffan’s “GPLv2 vs GPLv3: The two seminal open source licenses, their roots, consequences and repercussions” (VisionMobile: September 2007): From a licensing perspective, the vast majority (typically 60-70%) of all open source projects are licensed under the GNU Public License version 2 (GPLv2). … GPLv3 was published in July 2007, some 16 years following […]

Open source & patents

From Liz Laffan’s “GPLv2 vs GPLv3: The two seminal open source licenses, their roots, consequences and repercussions” (VisionMobile: September 2007): Cumulatively patents have been doubling practically every year since 1990. Patents are now probably the most contentious issue in software-related intellectual property rights. … However we should also be aware that software written from scratch […]