February 6, 2019
[tech] The curious case of the Raspberry Pi in the network closet … ‘The data directory didn’t have any data stored (as in: collected data) but there was a nodejs app which was heavily obfuscated and to this day I can’t tell exactly what it was doing. It seems to talk via a serial connection to the dongle but I can’t extract what data is actually collected. I can only assume that it collected movement profiles of bluetooth and wifi devices in the area (around the Managers office) and maybe raw wifi packets.’
February 5, 2019
[movies] Mann – Magic Act … a tribute compilation to the movies of Michael Mann.
February 4, 2019
[life] Why People Wait 10 Days to Do Something That Takes 10 Minutes … The Atlantic on procrastination. ‘Being conscious of your habits does seem to have an impact on procrastination, but in ways more complicated than I had first assumed. In 2011, the Stanford University researcher Carol Dweck published findings that suggest decision fatigue more negatively affects people who already expect their willpower to be low. People who expect themselves to fail toward the end of the day, in other words, often do. Maybe task delayers could all be better around the house if we simply stopped granting the premise that “bad” is the default with which we are stricken. Procrastination researchers, it should be mentioned, all seem to answer their emails in a timely manner.’
February 1, 2019
[funny] Nihilist Dad Jokes, Part 2 … ‘I bought a cheap elephant ride yesterday… I got it for peanuts! I sat on the beast hoping to excavate some boyish excitement. Yet I felt nothing. When I was young I dreamed of changing the world with my ideas. But people care not for ideas — they value conformity, popularity, and the fantasy of having sex with someone who has never thought about them. So I gave up on philosophy. Now I spew jokes like a trained circus animal.’
January 31, 2019
[true crime] The Haunting of 657 Boulevard in Westfield, New Jersey … This creepy, true-crime story will put you off ever buying a house.
‘Two weeks after the letter arrived, Maria stopped by the house to look at some paint samples and check the mail. She recognized the thick black lettering on a card-shaped envelope and called the police. “Welcome again to your new home at 657 Boulevard,” The Watcher wrote. “The workers have been busy and I have been watching you unload carfuls of your personal belongings. The dumpster is a nice touch. Have they found what is in the walls yet? In time they will.”
January 30, 2019
[tv] Smart TVs Are Dumb … Alex looks at the business model around Smart TVs. ‘Earlier this month, Vizio’s chief technology officer, Bill Baxter, told The Verge that the reason his company can sell TVs so cheaply now is that it makes up the money by selling bits of data and access to your TV after you purchase it. Baxter called this “post-purchase monetization.” “This is a cutthroat industry,” he said. “It’s a 6-percent-margin industry, right? … The greater strategy is I really don’t need to make money off of the TV.” This is why your TV was so cheap.’
January 29, 2019
January 28, 2019
[truecrime] Netflix’s Ted Bundy documentary and the problem with peak true crime … Some criticisms of True Crime documentaries. ‘The portrait painted is of the David Brent serial killers – obviously evil and deranged but also obsessed with the limelight and entirely unaware of the ludicrous figure he cuts as he insists on defending himself at trial. Yet it’s unclear whether Berlinger understands how much of a black hole his protagonist is. The makers of Conversations with a Killer seem almost hypnotised by Bundy. That’s another flaw with “Peak True Crime”: the insistence that we, too, are bedazzled by their subjects (see also Michael Peterson in The Staircase, Marjorie Diehl in Evil Genius etc).’
January 25, 2019
[blogging] “The Linux of social media” — How LiveJournal pioneered (then lost) blogging … A brief history of LiveJournal. ‘When friends started complaining about the unsheared “walls of text” that some of their peers would post, Fitzpatrick added a “post” button so they could space out their paragraphs. There was no way to respond to other people’s output initially, no matter how insipid—until, of course, Fitzpatrick decided that he wanted to make fun of one of his friend’s posts. He next added in the comment functionality just to post “a snarky-ass comment.” “Everything was like that,” Fitzpatrick says. “Current mood, current music, profile pics—it was all screwing around and trying to add whatever new things we could do or what the Web supported at the time.” At a certain point in his college career, around the year 2000, Fitzpatrick realized that LiveJournal had turned from a fun way to mess around with CGI scripts into something approaching an actual business…’
January 24, 2019
[politics] Christopher Steele, the Man Behind the Trump Dossier … Profiling Christopher Steele and the Trump Dossier. ‘Steele, on that January night, was stunned to learn that U.S. politicians were calling him a criminal. He told Christopher Burrows, with whom he co-founded Orbis, that the sensation was “a feeling like vertigo.” Burrows, in his first public interview on the dossier controversy, recalled Steele telling him, “You have this thudding headache—you can’t think straight, you have no appetite, you feel ill.” Steele compared it to the disorientation that he had felt in 2009, when his first wife, Laura, had died, after a long illness, leaving him to care for their three young children.’
January 23, 2019
[movies] 20 Creepiest Movie Nuns … ‘Killer Nun (1978) – Say what you will about “Killer Nun,” it certainly lives up to its title. Following the removal of a pesky brain tumor, Sister Gertrude begins exhibiting signs of odd behavior, including anonymous sex with strangers, fits of psychotic rage, and an obsession with the torture of martyred saints. Things take a turn for the worse when she’s accused of throwing a geriatric patient off the roof of a hospital. Swedish bombshell Anita Ekberg gives the deranged title character her all, particularly in the scene where she crushes an old woman’s dentures under her foot while yelling “Disgusting!” over and over again.’
January 22, 2019
[comics] More from Grant Morrison’s Captain Clyde [Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7] … The remaining scans of Morrison’s earliest work have been posted online.
January 21, 2019
[media] Vice Media Was Built on a Bluff … A profile of Vice Media. ‘All this left Smith heading into 2017 in a position he hadn’t planned to be in: still owning his company, which was now populated by employees 20-plus years his junior who didn’t care that he’d once been in a punk band called Leatherassbuttfuk.’
January 18, 2019
[internet] The secret rules of the internet … Fascinating look at the moderation of content on social networks. ‘Joi Podgorny is former vice president at ModSquad, which provides content moderation to a range of marquee clients, from the State Department to the NFL. Now a digital media consultant, she says founders and developers not only resist seeing the toxic content, they resist even understanding the practice of moderation. Typically cast off as “customer-service,” moderation and related work remains a relatively low-wage, low-status sector, often managed and staffed by women, which stands apart from the higher-status, higher-paid, more powerful sectors of engineering and finance, which are overwhelmingly male. “I need you to look at what my people are looking at on a regular basis,” she said. “I want you to go through my training and see this stuff [and] you’re not going to think it’s free speech. You’re going to think it’s damaging to culture, not only for our brand, but in general.” Brian Pontarelli, CEO of the moderation software company Inversoft, echoes the observation. Many companies, he told us, will not engage in robust moderation until it will cost them not to.’
January 17, 2019
[comics] Interview with Katsuhiro Otomo … The creator of Akira interviewed. ‘I wanted to draw this story set in a Japan similar to how it was after the end of World War II—rebelling governmental factions; a rebuilding world; foreign political influence, an uncertain future; a bored and reckless younger generation racing each other on bikes. Akira is the story of my own teenage years, rewritten to take place in the future. I never thought too deeply about the two main characters as I made them; I just projected how I was like when I was younger. The ideas naturally flowed out from my own memories.’
January 16, 2019
[comics] Grant Morrison’s Captain Clyde [Part One | Part Two | Part Three] … scans of Grant Morrison’s earliest published work – a Scottish Superhero – appear online.
January 15, 2019
[life] Urinal protocol vulnerability … The maths behind Urinal Protocol from xkcd. ‘This leads us to a question: what is the general formula for the number of guys who will fill in N urinals if they all come in one at a time and follow the urinal protocol?’
January 14, 2019
[crime] What’s the single, best piece of true crime writing you’ve read? … Great list of must-read True Crime stories from Reddit.
January 11, 2019
[life] How Not to Be Stupid … A look at avoiding situational stupidity. ‘When it comes to overloading our cognitive brains, the seven factors are: being outside of your circle of competence, stress, rushing or urgency, fixation on an outcome, information overload, being in a group where social cohesion comes into play, and being in the presence of an “authority.” Acting alone any of these are powerful enough, but together they dramatically increase the odds you are unaware that you’ve been cognitively compromised.’
January 10, 2019
[books] Twenty Rules for Writing Detective Stories … Written in 1928 by S.S. Van Dine. ‘A professional criminal must never be shouldered with the guilt of a crime in a detective story. Crimes by house-breakers and bandits are the province of the police department–not of authors and brilliant amateur detectives. Such crimes belong to the routine work of the Homicide Bureaus. A really fascinating crime is one committed by a pillar of a church, or a spinster noted for her charities.’
January 9, 2019
[comics] Tintin in Neo-Tokyo … Tintin and Akira Mashed Up.
January 8, 2019
[games] Bandersnatch: the game that killed a company and inspired a Black Mirror episode … The true story of the never-released ZX Spectrum game Bandersnatch. ‘In fact, according to programmer John Gibson in a 2001 interview, it was looking likely that even with 176K, “[Bandersnatch] was around half finished and we’d already used up all the ROM so a major design rethink would have been necessary to get it finished.” As such, the final package was more likely to cost around £60 – ten times what a normal game would cost. Would you drop £450 on a Switch game? With every passing week, Bandersnatch was growing more arms and legs and was turning into something much bigger than anyone could have anticipated. This was no longer a simple game release: it was suddenly part game, part hardware launch, part box full of merchandise and other tat.’
January 7, 2019
[moore] Alan Moore Interview from June 1988 … A scan of an interview from the British fanzine FA. Moore is interviewed by Martin Skidmore. It’s contains some interesting comments on how he feels about Killing Joke just after it’s release and also why he stopped doing conventions and his dsyfunctional relationship with fandom at the time. ‘It’s a forty-page Batman story, a forty-page Joker story, that I wrote two or three years ago, around the time I was writing the first couple of issues of Watchmen. Sometimes stories work, sometimes they’re good, sometimes they’re not so good. You can put a lot of effort into a thing and it just doesn’t work sometimes. You can’t write perfect stories every time. With that particular one, I worked at it as hard as I could, there was something at the end of it that seemed a bit heavy, a bit depressing, but at the same time there were some bits of it I really did like. In terms of Batman stories it wasn’t as good as the story I wrote about Clayface. It wasn’t as good as the story I did with Batman in Swamp Thing. My feeling on it is that if you came across that in a normal, floppy, forty-page DC Batman Annual, I’m sure it’d seem okay.’
January 4, 2019
[books] Who Are the Forgotten Greats of Science Fiction? … interesting list of overlooked science fiction authors and their books of note. ‘Leigh Brackett (December 7, 1915–March 18, 1978) was lauded for her planetary adventures (she moved her Eric John Stark adventures to the extra-solar world Skaith when space probes rendered her pulp-era Solar System implausible) but that was only one aspect of her work. In addition to writing SF and mysteries, she was a successful script writer. Her credits include The Big Sleep, Rio Bravo, The Long Goodbye, and an obscure little film called The Empire Strikes Back. Her planetary adventures tended to be long on action and short on clear moral boundaries. I am particularly fond of her post-apocalyptic The Long Tomorrow.’
January 3, 2019
[blogs] Go click: jwz’s 50 most popular blog posts from 2018
January 2, 2019
[retro] Building a Spotify player for my Mac SE/30 … a pretty astounding use for an old Mac!
January 1, 2019
[funny] Richard Scarry’s 21st Century Busy Town Jobs / More Busy Town Jobs … both from Ruben Bolling.
December 31, 2018
[til] 52 things I learned in 2018 … Fifty-two TIL from Tom Whitwell. ‘Unicode, the international standard for letters, characters and emojis, has 137,439 entries. It includes a group of ‘ghost characters’ (妛挧暃椦槞蟐袮閠駲墸壥彁) which have no known meaning. It’s believed they are errors introduced by folds and wrinkles during a paper-based 1978 Japanese government project to standardise the alphabet, but are now locked into the standard forever.’
December 30, 2018
[comics] Alan Moore film aims to ‘dispel Northampton’s anonymity’… BBC News on Alan Moore and Mitch Jenkins new film “The Show”. ‘I hope to rescue Northampton with a strenuous application of imaginations…’
December 27, 2018
[comics] Stan Lee’s True Legacy Is a Complicated Cosmic Mystery … Douglas Wolk takes another look at Stan Lee. ‘But of all the characters with whom Lee is associated, his greatest—and the only one he created entirely on his own—was “Stan Lee”: an egomaniac who thought it was funny to pretend he was an egomaniac, a carnival barker who actually does have something great behind the curtain. Artist John Romita, who worked with Lee on Daredevil and Spider-Man, put it nicely in a 1998 interview: “He’s a con man, but he did deliver.”’