Ramblings & ephemera

Hanoi’s last blacksmith

From Seth Mydans’s “A Lone Blacksmith, Where Hammers Rang” (The New York Times: 25 November 2010): HANOI, Vietnam — He is the last blacksmith on Blacksmith Street, dark with soot, his arms dappled with burns, sweating and hammering at his little roadside forge as a new world courses past him. The son and grandson of […]

Taxi driver party lines

photo credit: 708718 From Annie Karni’s “Gabbing Taxi Drivers Talking on ‘Party Lines’” (The New York Sun: 11 January 2007): It’s not just wives at home or relatives overseas that keep taxi drivers tied up on their cellular phones during work shifts. Many cabbies say that when they are chatting on duty, it’s often with […]

US government makes unsafe RFID-laden passports even less safe through business practices

From Bill Gertz’s “Outsourced passports netting govt. profits, risking national security” (The Washington Times: 26 March 2008): The United States has outsourced the manufacturing of its electronic passports to overseas companies — including one in Thailand that was victimized by Chinese espionage — raising concerns that cost savings are being put ahead of national security, […]

How the settlers changed America’s ecology, radically

From Charles C. Mann’s “America, Found & Lost” (National Geographic: May 2007): It is just possible that John Rolfe was responsible for the worms—specifically the common night crawler and the red marsh worm, creatures that did not exist in the Americas before Columbus. Rolfe was a colonist in Jamestown, Virginia, the first successful English colony […]

Modern piracy on the high seas

From Charles Glass’ “The New Piracy: Charles Glass on the High Seas” (London Review of Books: 18 December 2003): Ninety-five per cent of the world’s cargo travels by sea. Without the merchant marine, the free market would collapse and take Wall Street’s dream of a global economy with it. Yet no one, apart from ship owners, […]

Out now: Microsoft Vista for IT Security Professionals

Microsoft Vista for IT Security Professionals is designed for the professional system administrators who need to securely deploy Microsoft Vista in their networks. Readers will not only learn about the new security features of Vista, but they will learn how to safely integrate Vista with their existing wired and wireless network infrastructure and safely deploy […]

14 governments the US has overthrown in 110 years

From Robert Sherrill’s “100 (Plus) Years of Regime Change” (The Texas Observer: 14 July 2006): [Stephen Kinzer’s] Overthrow is an infuriating recitation of our government’s military bullying over the past 110 years – a century of interventions around the world that resulted in the overthrow of 14 governments – in Hawaii, Cuba, the Philippines, Puerto […]

Transcendence, described by the East & West

From Steve Paulson’s “The disbeliever” (Salon: 7 July 2006): But it does raise the question, what do you mean by spiritual? And what do you mean by mystical? By spiritual and mystical — I use them interchangeably — I mean any effort to understand and explore happiness and well-being itself through deliberate uses of attention. […]

A new fraud: faking an entire company

From David Lague’s “Next step in pirating: Faking a company” (International Herald Tribune: 28 April 2006): At first it seemed to be nothing more than a routine, if damaging, case of counterfeiting in a country where faking it has become an industry. Reports filtering back to the Tokyo headquarters of the Japanese electronics giant NEC […]

Japanese nuclear secrets revealed on P2P network

From Mike’s “That’s Not A New Hit Song You Just Downloaded — It’s Japan’s Nuclear Secrets” (techdirt: 23 June 2005): While IT managers may not see the importance of security software for themselves, you would think they would be a little more careful with things like interns and contractors. Not so, apparently. Over in Japan, […]

India’s transgendered folks

From Henry Chu’s “Bullied by the Eunuchs” (Los Angeles Times: 7 June 2006): I was being hit up for a handout by one of this country’s many hijras. They are eunuchs or otherwise transgendered people by birth, accident or choice. Something between male and female, they are shunned by Indian society as unclean. Many make […]

Ways different cultures view technology

From Spare me the details (The Economist: 28 October 2004): Genevieve Bell, an anthropologist who works for Intel, the world’s biggest semiconductor-maker, has been travelling around Asia for three years to observe how Asians use, or choose not to use, technology. She was especially struck by the differences in how westerners and Asians view their […]

Offshoring danger: identity theft

From Indian call centre ‘fraud’ probe (BBC News: 23 June 2005): Police are investigating reports that the bank account details of 1,000 UK customers, held by Indian call centres, were sold to an undercover reporter. The Sun claims one of its journalists bought personal details including passwords, addresses and passport data from a Delhi IT […]

How to travel to the most isolated human settlement on earth

From Adam Goodheart’s “The Last Island of the Savages” (The American Scholar, Autumn 2000, 69(4):13-44): This is how you get to the most isolated human settlement on earth [North Sentinel Island, in the Andaman Islands]: You board an evening flight at JFK for Heathrow, Air India 112, a plane full of elegant sari-clad women, London-bound […]