Ramblings & ephemera

Things to say instead of cussin’

“Dear heavenly day in the morning!” “Ye gods!” “Oh fudge!” “Dirty words!” “Cheese and crackers!” “Gee willikers!”

Protected: Why we cuss

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50 years of change due to senior citizens

From Charles C. Mann’s “The Coming Death Shortage” (The Atlantic: 1 May 2005): The twentieth-century jump in life expectancy transformed society. Fifty years ago senior citizens were not a force in electoral politics. Now the AARP is widely said to be the most powerful organization in Washington. Medicare, Social Security, retirement, Alzheimer’s, snowbird economies, the […]

Notes on getting into well-guarded events using social engineering

From Bruce Schneier’s “How to Crash the Oscars” (7 March 2006): If you want to crash the glitziest party of all, the Oscars, here’s a tip from a professional: Show up at the theater, dressed as a chef carrying a live lobster, looking really concerned. … “The most important technique is confidence,” he said. “Part […]

All stories have the same basic plots

From Ask Yahoo (5 March 2007): There are only so many ways to construct a story. Writers who believe there’s only one plot argue all stories “stem from conflict.” True enough, but we’re more inclined to back the theory you mention about seven plot lines. According to the Internet Public Library, they are: 1. [wo]man […]

The military’s 8 P’s

From James B. Stewart’s “The Real Heroes Are Dead” (The New Yorker [11 February 2002]: 58): … he was simply following the “Eight P’s,” a mnemonic that had been drummed into them in the military: “Proper prior planning and preparation prevents piss-poor performance.”

That’ll work too

From Jay McInerney’s “White Man at the Door” (The New Yorker [4 February 2002] 57): [Matthew Johnson, head of Fat Possum Records, has] got a damaged lung, bad teeth, a couple of hernias, and a back catalogue of death threats. His dentist once held up a toothbrush and asked him if he’d ever seen one, […]

More on Slab City

From Evelyn Nieves’s “Slab City Journal; For Thousands, a Town of Concrete Slabs Is a Winter Retreat” (The New York Times: 18 February 2001): Every winter, when the Winnebagos and pickups shake the desert off Beal Road like a small earthquake, Ben Morofsky gets wistful for the 120-degree days of summer, and the peace of […]

The end of days in Slab City

From Charlie LeDuff’s “Parked in a Desert, Waiting Out the Winter of Life” (The New York Times: 17 December 2004): Directions to purgatory are as follows: from Los Angeles drive east past Palm Springs into the bowels of the Mojave Desert. Turn south at the stench of the Salton Sea. Proceed down Highway 111 to […]

Thoughts for a Lovecraftian tale

Cthulhu in ancient Rome Tennessee farmer David Lang’s disappearance into thin air Lovecraft’s victims’ tendency to write in diary/account as things happen to them: “It devours me!” A forgotten skeleton

More on memory

Memories are passive fragments. — Scott Granneman

The airplane graveyard

From Patrick Smith’s “Ask the pilot” (Salon: 4 August 2006): The wing is shorn off. It lies upside down in the dirt amid a cluster of desert bushes. The flaps and slats are ripped away, and a nest of pipes sprouts from the engine attachment pylon like the flailing innards of some immense dead beast. […]

The Piraha language of Brazil

From Wikipedia’s “Pirahã language“: The Pirahã language is a language spoken by the Pirahã – an indigenous people of Amazonas, Brazil, who live along the Maici river, a tributary of the Amazon. Pirahã is believed to be the only surviving member of the Mura language family, all other members having become extinct in the last […]

The origins of 2600

From Nicholas Thompson’s “Who Needs Keys?” (Legal Affairs: November/December 2004): The event was organized by 2600, a quarterly magazine whose name refers to one of the great discoveries in hacker history: that the plastic whistles given away free in boxes of Cap’n Crunch cereal in the early 1970s could be slightly modified to create sound […]

US SSN = Canadian SIN

From Michael Erard’s “The Strange Tale of Charlie Smoke” (Legal Affairs: November/December 2002): … Social Insurance Number – the Canadian equivalent of a Social Security Number …

Your job? Waiting in line for others.

From Brian Montopoli’s “The Queue Crew: Waiting in line for a living” (Legal Affairs: January/February 2004): ON CAPITOL HILL, a placeholder is someone paid by the hour to wait in line. When legislative committees hold hearings, they reserve seats for Congressional staffers, for the press, and for the general public. The general-public seats are the […]

Bruce Schneier on steganography

From Bruce Schneier’s “Steganography: Truths and Fictions“: Steganography is the science of hiding messages in messages. … In the computer world, it has come to mean hiding secret messages in graphics, pictures, movies, or sounds. … The point of steganography is to hide the existence of the message, to hide the fact that the parties […]

Laws & enforcement in virtual worlds

From James Grimmelmann’s “Life, Death, and Democracy Online“: … The necessity of a ‘Quit’ option is obvious; no adventure game yet invented can force an unwilling player to continue playing. She can always give the game the three-finger salute, flip the power switch, or throw her computer in the junk heap. … Banishment is the […]

Computer commands as incantations

From Julian Dibbell’s “A Rape in Cyberspace: How an Evil Clown, a Haitian Trickster Spirit, Two Wizards, and a Cast of Dozens Turned a Database Into a Society“: After all, anyone the least bit familiar with the workings of the new era’s definitive technology, the computer, knows that it operates on a principle impracticably difficult […]

Nice pun #4

Big wheel keep on Turing