EFF Open House Dec. 10

EFF's annual holiday open house is coming up -- if you're in San Francisco on December 11, drop by and see our newly expanded office-space at 454 Shotwell St.
No, we're not moving! But we are expanding to include the space next door. It is now the newest addition to EFF Headquarters. Come celebrate our new digs and the spirit of the holiday season with us. We'll have great food, beer, musical madness from the Funkmonsters, and the latest news on EFF from the ever-compelling John Perry Barlow and Shari Steele.

This event is free and open to the general public. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (http://www.eff.org) is the leading civil liberties organization working to protect rights in the digital world. For more information, please see EFF's website.

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Technorati: How'm I doin'?

Technorati: a suite of services for making sense of your blog's position in the Internetverse, including googlejuice, googleshare, recent inbound links and so on. Link Discuss Read the rest

Live from Bedlam!

bOING bOING pal Richard Metzger's new book, Disinformation: The Interviews, receives well-deserved praise in the current LA Weekly. Like his site, Disinfo.com, Richard himself is a portal to the fringes of human thought and reason. Link Discuss Read the rest

Interview with Mark Frauenfelder

Journalist Kiruba Shankar interviewed me today. It was fun! Link Discuss Read the rest

Doug Engelbart 1968 Demo

Phil sez: "A video of a demo given by Doug Engelbart at SRI in 1968, of their online computer system. The first appearance of the mouse and includes hyperlinking, collaboration over a network and input by a chording keyboard. It's fascinating to watch the guy demo this groundbreaking stuff live." Link Discuss Read the rest

Profile of a spam king

Ex-con Alan Ralsky makes a terrific living by spamming 250,000,000 email addresses.
"I'll never quit," said the 57-year-old master of spam. "I like what I do. This is the greatest business in the world."

It's made him a millionaire, he said, seated in the wood-paneled first floor library of his new house. "In fact," he added, "this wing was probably paid for by an e-mail I sent out for a couple of years promoting a weight-loss plan."

Ralsky acknowledges that his success with spam arose out of a less-than-impressive business background. In 1992, while in the insurance business, he served a 50-day jail term for a charge arising out of the sale of unregistered securities. And in 1994, he was convicted of falsifying documents that defrauded financial institutions in Michigan and Ohio and ordered to pay $74,000 in restitution.

He lost his license to sell insurance and he declared personal bankruptcy. But in 1997, he sold a late model green Toyota and used the money to pay back taxes on his house and buy two computers.

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Friday Web Zen: Holiday Shopping

(1) Mac Logo sneakers. Fo shizzle my Appizzle. Link

(2) The "Birth of Christ" Guitar. "Gibson’s largest and most majestic guitar model, the ’39 Super 400 is the canvas upon which the story of the Savior’s birth is told through paintings, carvings, engravings, and inlay." Link

(3) "The Easy Expression Bustier, an essential Hands-Free Pumping Bra." Link

(4) Fifteen dangerous toys that the world needs back. Link

(5) Japanese Ice Cream. Link

(6) Geekmaids.com: hire a downsized techie to clean your floors and sort your underwear. Link

Discuss (Thanks, Frank!) Read the rest

Dirt, the final frontier: Scientists to seek "minibeasts" under soil's surface

An international group of researchers today announced plans to venture underground in seven tropical countries to explore the realm of "minibeasts" -- tiny dirt-dwelling organisms that more or less rule life on Earth:
"Millimetres below the surface in the twilight, subterranean world of the earthworm and the nematode, tens of thousands of new species of tiny organisms including bacteria, fungi, insects, mites and worms await discovery," the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said in a press release.

Soil-living organisms play a vital role in land fertility. Land that is poor in these creatures often provides poor yields or is more prone to flood and drought.

They influence how much rainwater soils can absorb, help to eliminate pollutants and disease-causing germs from groundwater and influence soil's ability to absorb carbon from the air -- a vital factor in global warming.

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Get your Thanksgiving on. With, uh, Henry Kissinger and John Poindexter.

There's a new slew of "Get Your War On" comics online, posted 11-26-02.

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1930 Masonic prank catalog

Complete page scans from the 1930 DeMoulin Bros. & Co. Fraternal Supply Catalog No. 439, which sold all sorts of elaborate pranks and stunt props for hazing Mason recruits. The illustrations and descriptions are fabulous. I'm flabbergasted. Bucking goats! Exploding airplanes! Traitor inquisition stands! Electrical shockers. Looking through this catalog makes me realize how much things have changed in 70 years. It's weird to think that this large company even existed. It would be so much fun to play these pranks on people, but even better to be the victim of the pranks. Link Discuss Read the rest

Going away for a while, some parting links

My grandfather died this morning and I'm going home for the funeral and shiva. I'll be blogging sporadically, if at all. Thanks in advance for all your condolences, but this message is mostly a plea to take it easy on me for the next week or so. Just keep emails and calls to a minimum -- nothing but essentials. Blog-suggestions should go to the form, not me. See you all next week.

I'm not blogging today, but if I was, here are the links I'd post:

Notes on Iain M. Banks's Culture

Fox CEO's Comdex speech deconstructed

Short story in Salon, announcement that Salon will do reprints from Coppola's Zoetrope mag

Abbie Hoffman's Steal This Book online

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Housekeeping: QuickTopic is down

QuickTopic, the service that hosts our "Discuss" links, is down. I've dropped 'em a line, and imagine they're working on it now. Sorry folks, no discussion until it's back up. Discuss Read the rest

Wacky/gorgeous online gallery of burning matchstick art

Artist David Mach creates sculptures from the colored heads of matches, then sets them on fire:
"I made my first matchhead in 1982. Kinskihead was a response to a reviewer comparing one of my magazine installations to a weekend modeller making a ship or the Eiffel Tower out of matches. The reviewer talked about matches as if their rightful place was at the bottom of the materials league. I was puzzled by this and immediately attracted to this underdog. Of course the reviewer was referring to modellers who don't use matches but just matchsticks, small pieces of wood. Live matches offer an entirely different proposition. The first head, Kinskihead, was set alight by mistake. It was originally made out of blue and red matches but once burnt they became different shades of grey ash. What interests me is the violence and power involved in that change and the fact that this performance comes from such a cheap, throwaway, almost non-material...

There doesn't seem to be any limit to the subject matter and of course they all have that lethal incendiary device capability. In fact you can describe three clear lives to these sculptures: the original head with colour; the performance of burning it; and the burned head, instantly aged black and white version of the original. Not bad for a nothing material."

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F--k hip hop: eulogy for "the last black arts movement"

Heard this interesting media/culture/money rant read aloud on Garth Trinidad's always-500%-brilliant "Chocolate City" radio show tonight, here in Los Angeles. Excerpt:
“Balling” shouldn’t be renting a mansion; it should be owning your own distribution company or starting a union. Bill Cosby’s bid to buy NBC was more threatening than any screwface, jewelry-clad MC in a video could ever be.

As a DJ, it’s hard. I pick up the instrumental version of records that people nod their head to... and mix it with the a cappella version of artists with something to say. It is expensive and frustrating. But I feel like the alternative is the musical equivalent to selling crack: spinning hits because it’s easy, ignoring the fact that it’s got us dancing to genocide.

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Stock-bubble as Big Con

Commenting on the WSJ's revelation that analysts and investment banks colluded when evaluating stocks, Dan Gillmor writes:
The wink-wink, nudge-nudge culture of Wall Street in the late 1990s wouldn't have given this e-mail a second thought. After all, didn't everyone know that the investment bankers were in bed with their supposed "analysts" of companies paying them millions in fees?

No, not everyone knew. Only the in-crowd knew. And the way they acted was disgraceful -- not that people like this appear to have any fundamental notion of shame, of course.

The people who didn't know were the general public. Yes, the small investors got greedy, but they were led into it by the sharks who have pocketed billions.

In traditional "Big Con" grifts, the roper and the inside man work to convince the mark that by participating in some bit of harmless larceny, he will become immensely wealthy. The mark gets sucked into the scam and is eventually fleeced of every cent he can lay hands on.

Con artists say, "You can't cheat an honest man," because every mark believes that he is participating in a scam -- and he is, only it's not the scam he thinks he's participating in. An honest man, with no interest in ripping off a bank, or a betting parlor, or a rich, foolish stranger, or a small stock-exchange, will never be roped and never be suckered and never lose a nickle to the players.

This is the same specious rationalization used to describe the small investors who "got greedy." Analysts, bankers, VCs and snake-oil salesmen created an enormous con -- Enron even had show-rooms filled with fake traders that they staffed when the press came on tours -- that led millions to believe that there really was money to be had in playing the markets. Read the rest

Casemods go retro

Nice blog devoted to unusual casemods involving retro form-factors and equipment. Love this "V8" AMD box. Link Discuss (Thanks, Kermit!) Read the rest

What's the deal with Enoch Root?

Enoch Root, the shadowy deus-ex-machina/Ascended Master of Neal Stephenson's brilliant Cryptonomicon is the subject of much debate. Root appears to die midway through the book, in a scene set during WWII, only to reappear in modern times. Inquiring minds want to know: did Stephenson make a boo-boo? Is there more than one Enoch Root? Is he immortal? Here is a great deal of speculation on the subject, from both informed sources and astute guessers:
Here's my guess: Enoch Root is an alchemist who carries the philosopher's stone around in a cigar box. He really did die in WWII but was re-vivified by the stone. Consider:

1. Enoch's age is difficult to discern, and he does not seem to get older.

2. The contents of the cigar box seem to have healing powers.

3. When Detachment 2702 is in Italy, Enoch Root says that he can speak Italian but would sound like a "16th century alchemist" or something similar (don't have the book in front of me). At first, I assumed that he learned scholarly Italian, but perhaps he was telling the literal truth.

4. The symbol on the cover of Cryptonomicon is one used by alchemists.

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