Ramblings & ephemera

How changes in glass changed working conditions

From Nicholas Carr’s “(re)framed” (Rough Type: 3 June 2011): I’m reminded of an interesting passage in the book Glass: A World History: As we have seen, one of the rapid developments in glass technology was the making of panes of window glass, plain and coloured, which was particularly noticeable in the northern half of Europe […]

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. […]

John Steinbeck on how Europe & America view poverty

From Nathaniel Benchley’s interview of John Steinbeck in “The Art of Fiction No. 45” (The Paris Review: Fall 1969, No. 48): I wonder whether you will remember one last piece of advice you gave me. It was during the exuberance of the rich and frantic twenties and I was going out into that world to […]

Why did Thomas Jefferson bring a stuffed moose to France?

From David G. Post’s “Jefferson’s Moose” (Remarks presented at the Stanford Law School Conference on Privacy in Cyberspace: 7 February 2000): In 1787, Jefferson, then the American Minister to France, had the “complete skeleton, skin & horns of the Moose” shipped to him in Paris and mounted in the lobby of his hotel. One can […]

4 sources of tension between science and religion

From Steven Weinberg’s “Without God” (The New York Review of Books: 25 September 2008): But if the direct conflict between scientific knowledge and specific religious beliefs has not been so important in itself, there are at least four sources of tension between science and religion that have been important. The first source of tension arises […]

A history of the negative associations of yellow

From Allen Abel And Madeleine Czigler’s “Submarines, bananas and taxis” (National Post: 24 June 2008): Depicted in frescoes and canvases from the early Middle Ages onward in the robes of the betrayer of the Christ, “Judas yellow” devolved into an imprint of depravity, treason and exclusion. … By the 12th century, European Jews were compelled […]

CCTV in your plane’s cabin?

From Michael Reilly’s “In-flight surveillance could foil terrorists in the sky” (New Scientist: 29 May 2008): CCTV cameras are bringing more and more public places under surveillance – and passenger aircraft could be next. A prototype European system uses multiple cameras and “Big Brother” software to try and automatically detect terrorists or other dangers caused […]

Criminals working together to improve their tools

From Dan Goodin’s “Crimeware giants form botnet tag team” (The Register: 5 September 2008): The Rock Phish gang – one of the net’s most notorious phishing outfits – has teamed up with another criminal heavyweight called Asprox in overhauling its network with state-of-the-art technology, according to researchers from RSA. Over the past five months, Rock […]

The NSA and threats to privacy

From James Bamford’s “Big Brother Is Listening” (The Atlantic: April 2006): This legislation, the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, established the FISA court—made up of eleven judges handpicked by the chief justice of the United States—as a secret part of the federal judiciary. The court’s job is to decide whether to grant warrants requested by […]

The importance of booze to the Pilgrims

From Sam Anderson’s “A History of Hooch“, a review of Iain Gately’s Drink: A Cultural History of Alcohol (6 July 2008): Elizabethan England had a pub for every 187 people. (By 2004, the country was down to one for every 529 people.) The Pilgrims’ Mayflower was actually “a claret ship from the Bordeaux wine trade,” […]

Money involved in adware & clicks4hire schemes

From Chapter 2: Botnets Overview of Craig A. Schiller’s Botnets: The Killer Web App (Syngress: 2007): Dollar-Revenue and GimmyCash are two companies that have paid for installation of their Adware programs. Each has a pay rate formula based on the country of installation. Dollar-Revenue pays 30 cents for installing their adware in a U. S. […]

How the Greek cell phone network was compromised

From Vassilis Prevelakis and Diomidis Spinellis’ “The Athens Affair” (IEEE Spectrum: July 2007): On 9 March 2005, a 38-year-old Greek electrical engineer named Costas Tsalikidis was found hanged in his Athens loft apartment, an apparent suicide. It would prove to be merely the first public news of a scandal that would roil Greece for months. […]

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 […]

Surveillance cameras don’t reduce crime

From BBC News’ “CCTV boom ‘failing to cut crime’” (6 May 2008): Huge investment in closed-circuit TV technology has failed to cut UK crime, a senior police officer has warned. Det Ch Insp Mick Neville said the system was an “utter fiasco” – with only 3% of London’s street robberies being solved using security cameras. […]

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 […]

The origin of broadcast journalism

From Nicholas Lemann’s “The Murrow Doctrine” (The New Yorker: 23 & 30 January 2006: 38-43): There is a memorable entry in William Shirer’s Berlin Diary in which he describes – as, in effect, something that happened at work one day – the birth of broadcast journalism. It was Sunday, March 13, 1938, the day after […]

A new way to steal from ATMs: blow ’em up

From Bruce Schneier’s “News” (Crypto-Gram Newsletter: 15 March 2006): In the Netherlands, criminals are stealing money from ATM machines by blowing them up. First, they drill a hole in an ATM and fill it with some sort of gas. Then, they ignite the gas — from a safe distance — and clean up the money […]

How Europeans & Americans view water

From Gideon Lewis-Kraus’s “The Water Rush” (Oxford American): Europeans drink water for what’s in it, for its minerality, while Americans tend to drink water for what’s not in it.