Ramblings & ephemera

Security decisions are often made for non-security reasons

From Bruce Schneier’s Crypto-Gram of 15 July 2004: There was a single guard watching the X-ray machine’s monitor, and a line of people putting their bags onto the machine. The people themselves weren’t searched at all. Even worse, no guard was watching the people. So when I walked with everyone else in line and just […]

Clay Shirky on the changes to publishing & media

From Parul Sehgal’s “Here Comes Clay Shirky” (Publisher’s Weekly: 21 June 2010): PW: In April of this year, Wired‘s Kevin Kelly turned a Shirky quote—“Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution”—into “the Shirky Principle,” in deference to the simple, yet powerful observation. … Kelly explained, “The Shirky Principle declares […]

These are their brilliant plans to save magazines?

From Jeremy W. Peters’ “In Magazine World, a New Crop of Chiefs” (The New York Times: 28 November 2010): “This is the changing of the guard from an older school to a newer school,” said Justin B. Smith, president of the Atlantic Media Company. The changes, he added, were part of an inevitable evolution in […]

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 […]

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. […]

Philip Larkin on achieving happiness

From Robert Phillips’s interview of Philip Larkin in “The Art of Poetry No. 30” (The Paris Review: Summer 1982, No. 84): INTERVIEWER Do you feel happiness is unlikely in this world? LARKIN Well, I think if you’re in good health, and have enough money, and nothing is bothering you in the foreseeable future, that’s as […]

Tom Stoppard on the advantages of being famous

From Shusha Guppy’s interview of Tom Stoppard in “The Art of Theater No. 7” (The Paris Review: Winter 1988, No. 109): INTERVIEWER Now that you are [famous], do you still feel excited by it, or do you think it isn’t that important? STOPPARD Oh, I like it. The advantages are psychological, social, and material. The […]

John Steinbeck on finishing a book

From Nathaniel Benchley’s interview of John Steinbeck in “The Art of Fiction No. 45” (The Paris Review: Fall 1969, No. 48): I truly do not care about a book once it is finished. Any money or fame that results has no connection in my feeling with the book. The book dies a real death for […]

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 […]

Dan Ariely on irrational decision making

From Dan Ariely’s “Dan Ariely asks, Are we in control of our own decisions?” (TED: 24 June 2009): I’ll give you a couple of more examples on irrational decision making. Imagine I give you a choice. Do you want to go for a weekend to Rome? All expenses paid, hotel, transportation, food, breakfast, a continental […]

A summary of Galbraith’s The Affluent Society

From a summary of John Kenneth Galbraith’s The Affluent Society (Abridge Me: 1 June 2010): The Concept of the Conventional Wisdom The paradigms on which society’s perception of reality are based are highly conservative. People invest heavily in these ideas, and so are heavily resistant to changing them. They are only finally overturned by new […]

Microsoft’s real customers

From James Fallow’s “Inside the Leviathan: A short and stimulating brush with Microsoft’s corporate culture” (The Atlantic: February 2000): Financial analysts have long recognized that Microsoft’s profit really comes from two sources. One is operating systems (Windows, in all its varieties), and the other is the Office suite of programs. Everything else — Flight Simulator, […]

Lovely – Microsoft will let companies create ad-filled desktop themes

From Jeff Bertolucci’s “Windows 7 Ads: Microsoft Tarts Up the Desktop” (PC World: 13 November 2009): Microsoft has announced plans to peddle Windows 7 desktop space to advertisers, who’ll create Windows UI themes–customized backgrounds, audio clips, and other elements–that highlight their brand, Computerworld reports. In fact, some advertiser themes are already available in the Windows […]

Bernie Madoff & the 1st worldwide Ponzi scheme

From Diana B. Henrioques’s “Madoff Scheme Kept Rippling Outward, Across Borders” (The New York Times: 20 December 2008): But whatever else Mr. Madoff’s game was, it was certainly this: The first worldwide Ponzi scheme — a fraud that lasted longer, reached wider and cut deeper than any similar scheme in history, entirely eclipsing the puny […]

Australian police: don’t bank online with Windows

From Munir Kotadia’s “NSW Police: Don’t use Windows for internet banking” (ITnews: 9 October 2009): Consumers wanting to safely connect to their internet banking service should use Linux or the Apple iPhone, according to a detective inspector from the NSW Police, who was giving evidence on behalf of the NSW Government at the public hearing […]

Malware forges online bank statements to hide fraud

From Kim Zetter’s “New Malware Re-Writes Online Bank Statements to Cover Fraud” (Wired: 30 September 2009): New malware being used by cybercrooks does more than let hackers loot a bank account; it hides evidence of a victim’s dwindling balance by rewriting online bank statements on the fly, according to a new report. The sophisticated hack […]

Why Picasso charged a million dollars

Image via Wikipedia From Josh Olson’s “I Will Not Read Your Fucking Script” (The Village Voice: 9 September 2009): There’s a great story about Pablo Picasso. Some guy told Picasso he’d pay him to draw a picture on a napkin. Picasso whipped out a pen and banged out a sketch, handed it to the guy, […]

You need to know if your product is a luxury or a premium

From Seth Godin’s “Luxury vs. premium” (Seth Godin’s Blog: 17 May 2009): Luxury goods are needlessly expensive. By needlessly, I mean that the price is not related to performance. The price is related to scarcity, brand and storytelling. Luxury goods are organized waste. … That doesn’t mean they are senseless expenditures. Sending a signal is […]

Various confidence scams, tricks, & frauds

From “List of confidence tricks” (Wikipedia: 3 July 2009): Get-rich-quick schemes Get-rich-quick schemes are extremely varied. For example, fake franchises, real estate “sure things”, get-rich-quick books, wealth-building seminars, self-help gurus, sure-fire inventions, useless products, chain letters, fortune tellers, quack doctors, miracle pharmaceuticals, Nigerian money scams, charms and talismans are all used to separate the mark […]

How security experts defended against Conficker

From Jim Giles’ “The inside story of the Conficker worm” (New Scientist: 12 June 2009): 23 October 2008 … The dry, technical language of Microsoft’s October update did not indicate anything particularly untoward. A security flaw in a port that Windows-based PCs use to send and receive network signals, it said, might be used to […]