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 […]

A nanny’s man-in-the-middle attack

From Bruce Schneier’s Crypto-Gram of 15 April 2004: Here’s a story of a woman who posts an ad requesting a nanny. When a potential nanny responds, she asks for references for a background check. Then she places another ad, using the reference material as a fake identity. She gets a job with the good references—they’re […]

HDTV’s widely adopted by American households

From Alex Mindlin’s “Room to Grow as Homes Add HD TVs” (The New York Times: 21 November 2010): High-definition televisions have entered American homes with startling speed; 56 percent of households now have at least some HD channels and an HD set, according to Nielsen. Among consumer technologies, that speed of adoption is rivaled only […]

Ray Bradbury on an encounter that changed his life

From Sam Weller’s interview of Ray Bradbury in “The Art of Fiction No. 203” (The Paris Review: Spring 2010, No. 192): Circuses and carnivals were always passing through Illinois during my childhood and I was in love with their mystery. One autumn weekend in 1932, when I was twelve years old, the Dill Brothers Combined […]

Ambient awareness & social media

From Clive Thompson’s “Brave New World of Digital Intimacy” (The New York Times Magazine: 5 September 2008): In essence, Facebook users didn’t think they wanted constant, up-to-the-minute updates on what other people are doing. Yet when they experienced this sort of omnipresent knowledge, they found it intriguing and addictive. Why? Social scientists have a name […]

Looking at others’ lives for clues to what might have been

From Tim Kreider’s “The Referendum” (The New York Times: 17 September 2009): The Referendum is a phenomenon typical of (but not limited to) midlife, whereby people, increasingly aware of the finiteness of their time in the world, the limitations placed on them by their choices so far, and the narrowing options remaining to them, start […]

The Yakuza’s influence in Japan

From Jake Adelstein’s “This Mob Is Big in Japan” (The Washington Post: 11 May 2008): Most Americans think of Japan as a law-abiding and peaceful place, as well as our staunch ally, but reporting on the underworld gave me a different perspective. Mobs are legal entities here. Their fan magazines and comic books are sold […]

Social networks can be used to manipulate affinity groups

From Ronald A. Cass’ “Madoff Exploited the Jews” (The Wall Street Journal: 18 December 2008): Steven Spielberg. Elie Wiesel. Mort Zuckerman. Frank Lautenberg. Yeshiva University. As I read the list of people and enterprises reportedly bilked to the tune of $50 billion by Bernard Madoff, I recalled a childhood in which my father received bad […]

Abuse of “terrorist” investigative powers

From BBC News’ “Council admits spying on family” (10 April 2008): A council has admitted spying on a family using laws to track criminals and terrorists to find out if they were really living in a school catchment. A couple and their three children were put under surveillance without their knowledge by Poole Borough Council […]

An elderly Eskimo & his unusual knife

From Wade Davis’ “Wade Davis: an Inuit elder and his shit knife” (Boing Boing: 26 September 2008): The Inuit didn’t fear the cold; they took advantage of it. During the 1950s the Canadian government forced the Inuit into settlements. A family from Arctic Bay told me this fantastic story of their grandfather who refused to […]

Syrian-style torture via family connections

From D. Ghirlandaio’s “Comment to Stephen Griffin’s ‘Torture and the Ticking Time Bomb’” (10 October 2006): The Syrians had a technique for the ticking bomb scenario. Give the man who knows where the bomb is a cell phone. “Call your mother.” At the mother’s house, a man picks up the phone.

Larry’s synaesthesia

A quote from Larry Lieberman, my father-in-law, in January 2003: "It was so loud in there, I couldn’t see a thing!"

Ben contemplates fatherhood

From Ben Jones’ Benblog, February 2003: I was also thinking it strange, the idea of being a businessman. How, when I have children, and people ask what their daddy does, they’ll say, “Oh, he’s a businessperson.” Maybe I’ll wait until I retire for little ones, just so they can say, “Oh, he gardens. And writes. […]

My brother Gus and I, #12

True story: Gus and I stand at the entrance of the Indiana University Bookstore, where we must find a temporary locker for our bags. The locker require money. Gus: I need a quarter. Do you have a quarter? Me: No, but I’ve got a dollar. Will that help? Gus: Not unless it’s shaped like a […]