Scott Granneman

My high concept Hollywood movie

In Hollywood there’s a meme known as “high concept”, the idea being that you can explain all there is to know about a movie in just a few words, ideally relating to another movie. So, for instance, you might describe a movie you’re looking to get a greenlight for as “Die Hard on a chicken farm” or “Fatal Attraction in a high school”.

So here’s my high concept: “Vampire hackers”.

That’s all you gotta know. You can write the movie in your head just from that.

Is that not awesome or what?!

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High camp … or horror?!?

From Dr. Mysterian’s blog:

Joan Collins describes visiting the actress [Mae West] in the Seventies, a tale that surpasses the soiled Hollywood Gothicism of Sunset Boulevard for sheer ghoulishness. In Collins tale, West, then in her eighties, dressed in kabuki-styled makeup, a long blonde wig to cover a developing humpback, and rubber band wrapped around her face to give her a chin line, didn’t deign to speak with the younger actress, instead sitting on a soiled white sofa, staring sideways at her in silence.

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A CNN for security?

From InfoWorld‘s “AT&T plans CNN-syle security channel“:

Security experts at AT&T are about to take a page from CNN’s playbook. Within the next year they will begin delivering a video streaming service that will carry Internet security news 24 hours a day, seven days a week, according to the executive in charge of AT&T Labs.

The service, which currently goes by the code name Internet Security News Network, (ISN) is under development at AT&T Labs, but it will be offered as an additional service to the company’s customers within the next nine to 12 months, according to Hossein Eslambolchi, president of AT&T’s Global Networking Technology Services and AT&T Labs

ISN will look very much like Time Warner’s Cable News Network, except that it will be broadcast exclusively over the Internet, Eslambolchi said. “It’s like CNN,” he said. “When a new attack is spotted, we’ll be able to offer constant updates, monitoring, and advice.”

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Your typical phisher

From the Wall Street Journal‘s “Phisher Tales: How Webs of Scammers Pull Off Internet Fraud“:

The typical phisher, he discovered, isn’t a movie-style villain but a Romanian teenager, albeit one who belongs to a social and economic infrastructure that is both remarkably sophisticated and utterly ragtag.

If, in the early days, phishing scams were one-person operations, they have since become so complicated that, just as with medicine or law, the labor has become specialized.

Phishers with different skills will trade with each other in IRC chat rooms, says Mr. Abad. Some might have access to computers around the world that have been hijacked, and can thus be used in connection with a phishing attack. Others might design realistic “scam pages,” which are the actual emails that phishers send. ..

One thing that’s different about phishers, he says, is how little they like to gab.

“Real hackers will engage in conversation,” he says. “With phishers, it’s a job.”

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Unthinking employees

From Dave Farber’s Interesting People list:

I think there’s a propensity for employees to believe their company’s stuff is secret even when it’s manifestly obviously it isn’t and can’t be. About forty years ago, a friend and I walked into a Western Union office and asked for a copy of the Morse code. (A friend of my friend had sent him a message encoded in Morse code; it was their form of fun.) The clerk in the Western Union office responded it was company proprietary and he wouldn’t share it with us.

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The Queen buys an iPod

Gad, but this is so British in elocution that it’s almost satirical. Yahoo reports that “Queen plugging into iPod“:

“The Queen loves music and was impressed by how small and handy the iPod is,” a royal insider told the tabloid on Friday.

“Obviously it is quite complicated to download songs, but I’m sure one of the courtiers will do it for her.

“Prince Andrew will probably also help out because he’s a real dab hand with gadgets.”

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Geeking out vs vegging out

From Neal Stephenson, writing in The New York Times:

Modern English has given us two terms we need to explain this phenomenon: “geeking out” and “vegging out.” To geek out on something means to immerse yourself in its details to an extent that is distinctly abnormal – and to have a good time doing it. To veg out, by contrast, means to enter a passive state and allow sounds and images to wash over you without troubling yourself too much about what it all means.

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The difficulties of Arabic

From Slate:

Arabic is a VSO language, which means the verb usually comes before the subject and object. It has a dual number, so nouns and verbs must be learned in singular, dual, and plural. A present-tense verb has 13 forms. There are three noun cases and two genders. Some European languages have just as many forms to keep track of, but in Arabic the idiosyncrasies can be mind-boggling. When Karam explains that numbers are marked for gender—but most numbers take the opposite gender from the word they are modifying—we students stare at each other in slack-jawed solidarity. When we learn that adjectives modifying nonhuman plurals always have a feminine singular form—meaning that “the cars are new” comes out as “the cars, she are new”—I can hear heads banging on the desks around me.

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15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense

This is a fabulous list that I’m going to keep in mind as I try to grit my teeth when I hear ignorance on the radio, TV, & in person.

Embarrassingly, in the 21st century, in the most scientifically advanced nation the world has ever known, creationists can still persuade politicians, judges and ordinary citizens that evolution is a flawed, poorly supported fantasy. They lobby for creationist ideas such as “intelligent design” to be taught as alternatives to evolution in science classrooms. As this article goes to press, the Ohio Board of Education is debating whether to mandate such a change. Some antievolutionists, such as Philip E. Johnson, a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley and author of Darwin on Trial, admit that they intend for intelligent-design theory to serve as a “wedge” for reopening science classrooms to discussions of God.

Besieged teachers and others may increasingly find themselves on the spot to defend evolution and refute creationism. The arguments that creationists use are typically specious and based on misunderstandings of (or outright lies about) evolution, but the number and diversity of the objections can put even well-informed people at a disadvantage.

To help with answering them, the following list rebuts some of the most common “scientific” arguments raised against evolution. It also directs readers to further sources for information and explains why creation science has no place in the classroom. [Scientific American: 15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense]

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Articles read on 25 November 2003

Crypto-Gram Newsletter of 15 November 2003

"I don’t believe that airplane hijacking is a thing of the past, but when the next plane gets taken over it will be because a group of hijackers figured out a clever new weapon that we haven’t thought of, and not because they snuck some small pointy objects through security."

The Big Here and Long Now, by Brian Eno

"The Long Now is the recognition that the precise moment you’re in grows out of the past and is a seed for the future. The longer your sense of Now, the more past and future it includes. It’s ironic that, at a time when humankind is at a peak of its technical powers, able to create huge global changes that will echo down the centuries, most of our social systems seem geared to increasingly short nows."

The End of the Modern Era, by Vaclav Havel

"The end of Communism is, first and foremost, a message to the human race. It is a message we have not yet fully deciphered and comprehended. In its deepest sense, the end of Communism has brought a major era in human history to an end. It has brought an end not just to the 19th and 20th centuries, but to the modern age as a whole." : Using it with Style

"We will examine how the styles work within and how they can be used to make your job easier when it comes to word processing."

KDE, Mac Os X, Windows: What can we learn (copy or improve) from them? (PDF)

Howard Rheingold: Smart Mobs

"Smart mobs use mobile media and computer networks to organize collective actions, from swarms of techo-savvy youth in urban Asia and Scandinavia to citizen revolts on the streets of Seattle, Manila, and Caracas. Wireless community networks, webloggers, buyers and sellers on eBay are early indicators of smart mobs that will emerge in the coming decade. Communication and computing technologies capable of amplifying human cooperation already appear to be both beneficial and destructive, used by some to support democracy and by others to coordinate terrorist attacks."

Problems with the Book of Mormon

"Written by a former believer in the book of Mormon, this article reveals serious objective weaknesses in any truth claims concerning the Book of Mormon."

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Articles read on 20 November 2003

The CUPS printing system

The Linux Process Scheduler

"Learn all of your favorite Linux scheduling ins and outs: policy, the scheduling algorithm, preemption and context switching, real-time scheduling, and Scheduler-Related System Calls."

The final irony,3605,985375,00.html

"’Isn’t it ironic?’ You hear it all the time – and, most of the time, actually no, it isn’t. Hypocritical, cynical, lazy, coincidental, more likely. But what is irony and why did pundits think it would die two years ago, after September 11? Zoe Williams meticulously, sincerely, unironically, hunts it down."

Patch and Pray

"It’s the dirtiest little secret in the software industry: Patching no longer works. And there’s nothing you can do about it. Except maybe patch less. Or possibly patch more."

Open-Source King of Data Backup

"But is Rsync an industrial-strength tool that enterprises can substitute for commercial back-up wares? That depends on the size and scale of a network. It is, however, an indispensable utility, useful for many online file-transfer applications."

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Demolishing time via the Net

This is really old, but if it was true then, think about what must be going on now.

A group of computer programmers at Tsinghua University in Beijing is writing software using Java technology. They work for IBM. At the end of each day, they send their work over the Internet to an IBM facility in Seattle.

There, programmers build on it and use the Internet to zap it 5,222 miles to the Institute of Computer Science in Belarus and Software House Group in Latvia. From there, the work is sent east to India’s Tata Group, which passes the software back to Tsinghua by morning in Beijing, back to Seattle and so on in a great global relay that never ceases until the project is done.

‘We call it Java Around the Clock,’ says John Patrick, vice president of Internet technology for IBM. ‘It’s like we’ve created a 48-hour day through the Internet.’

Source: Maney, Kevin. "Technology is ‘demolishing’ time, distance". USA Today (24 April 1997). Accessed 25 April 1997.

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How to add value to information

This is really old, but it’s still interesting & worth considering.

"So what can content producers do to make their Internet services more valuable? If, as the AEA/NASDAQ study proclaims, the IT industry has already generated $866 billion this decade, how do we get some of that?

The answer is by adding value to information, by becoming the manufacturers of information products that somehow transform and package information, the new raw material. How?

Well, there are two ways to add value to information. The first way is to provide information consumers with a way to access and manipulate information, so the raw information becomes more meaningful. On the Web you can do this by building databases with tremendous flexibility, searchability, and customization. Think about the way Bloomberg first allowed subscribers to generate analytical graphs and other kinds of models to real-time market data. That’s a valuable added service that makes something out of the raw material of real-time market quotes.

The second way you can add value to raw information is by transforming it into knowledge. How do you do that? By building up context, applying institutional knowledge, and otherwise adding perspective and vision to the raw stuff to make it into something bigger and better. … It’s also what high-end editorial products like newspapers have always done." [Source: Chervokas, Jason. Email from The New York Internet Newsletter (21 November 1997)]

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How willingly we fool ourselves

This comes from a Wall Street Journal article titled “People Believe a ‘Fact’ That Fits Their Views Even if It’s Clearly False”:

… what we remember depends on what we believe. “People build mental models,” explains Stephan Lewandowsky, a psychology professor at the University of Western Australia, Crawley, who led the study that will be published in Psychological Science. “By the time they receive a retraction, the original misinformation has already become an integral part of that mental model, or world view, and disregarding it would leave the world view a shambles.” Therefore, he and his colleagues conclude in their paper, “People continue to rely on misinformation even if they demonstrably remember and understand a subsequent retraction.”

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The broken-wand ceremony

When a magician dies (a real, entertainment magician, not one who practices white or black magic, which I don’t believe in anyway), there is a traditional broken-wand ceremony, in which members of the Society of American Magicians break the dead person’s wand, symbolizing that it has lost its magic. The broken-wand ceremony was first held in 1926 after Houdini’s death.

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Solving the unsolvable problem

Now this is interesting – it definitely says something about our ability to work around restrictions, provided we remain unaware that the restrictions exist in the first place.

One day in 1939, George Bernard Dantzig, a doctoral candidate at the University of California, Berkeley, arrived late for a graduate-level statistics class and found two problems written on the board. Not knowing they were examples of “unsolvable” statistics problems, he mistook them for part of a homework assignment, jotted them down, and solved them. (The equations Dantzig tackled are perhaps more accurately described not as unsolvable problems, but as unproved statistical theorems for which he worked out proofs.) Six weeks later, Dantzig’s statistic professor notified him that he had prepared one of his two “homework” proofs for publication, and Dantzig was given co-author credit on another paper several years later when another mathematician independently worked out the same solution to the second problem. [The Unsolvable Math Problem]

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Brian Eno on the MSFT Windows 95 sound

Brian Eno composed the famous sound that plays when you start up Windows 95 (Don’t remember it? You can download it here.). Here’s what he had to say about composing it:

The idea came up at the time when I was completely bereft of ideas. I’d been working on my own music for a while and was quite lost, actually. And I really appreciated someone coming along and saying, ‘Here’s a specific problem — solve it.’ The thing from the agency said, ‘We want a piece of music that is inspiring, universal, blah-blah, da-da-da, optimistic, futuristic, sentimental, emotional,’ this whole list of adjectives, and then at the bottom it said ‘and it must be 3¼ seconds long.’ I thought this was so funny and an amazing thought to actually try to make a little piece of music. It’s like making a tiny little jewel. In fact, I made 84 pieces. I got completely into this world of tiny, tiny little pieces of music. I was so sensitive to microseconds at the end of this that it really broke a logjam in my own work. Then when I’d finished that and I went back to working with pieces that were like three minutes long, it seemed like oceans of time.

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