88 Names: Matt Ruff's MMORPG heist novel is "Snow Crash meets the King and I"

Matt Ruff is one of science fiction and fantasy's most consistently brilliant and innovative authors, whose recent work includes The Mirage (an incredible alternate history in which the Global War on Terror is kicked off when Christian crusaders from the blighted, tribal USA fly a plane into the United States of Arabia's Twin Towers in Dubai, giving the hawkish CIA chief Osama bin Laden the chance to launch the all-out war he's been champing for), and Lovecraft Country (an anti-racist reimagining of Cthulhu set in Jim Crow America where the real horror is white supremacy -- now being adapted for TV by Jordan Peele). In his new novel, 88 Names, Ruff adds to the canon of MMORPG heist novels (Charlie Stross's Rule 34, Neal Stephenson's Reamde, and my For the Win, to name three) with a unique take that he dubbed "Snow Crash meets The King and I."

The team of elite jewel thieves and the retired cop that helped bring them down

Writing for The Atlantic, Geoff Manaugh has a lengthy new article about a team of elite jewel thieves operating in Florida. The story is full of absurdly-cinematic details.

The burglars were able to operate for years by moving from town to town, confident the local authorities would not notify each other of the crimes. And when the authorities did investigate, they sometimes did so sloppily, such as overlooking a drill hole in a safe, causing suspicion to fall on the only people who knew the safe's combination. A retired detective started to investigate the burglaries, but found himself largely shunned by active officers, and even fed false information.

Eventually, suspicion fell on known thieves, including a man who may flown for the DEA, and a man working as a safe and lock technician.

The ensuing investigation included the chase of a man driving a truck loaded with palm trees, and an FBI dive team that had to be disguised lest they be spotted by the conspirators.

Read the whole thing here. Read the rest

ROM image of ultra-rare Atari arcade game dumped and released for MAME

Only a few working cabinets exist of Akka Arrh, an early-80s Atari arcade game that failed in test markets and was not mass-produced. Tucked away in private collections, no ROM image existed of the otherwise fully-functional prototypes—until, the story has it, a repair worker dumped and exfiltrated them.

One well-placed arcade collector with direct knowledge of the extant Akka Arrh cabinets and their owners (who asked for anonymity to "avoid burning bridges") told me "it does sound like this really happened." That source tells me that the victim of the alleged theft is sharing essentially the same story as atariscott with other Akka Arrh owners (who, unsurprisingly, all know each other).

"They were told it was theft from the tech who had access, and apparently there were rumblings about this tech being shady ahead of this release," the collector tells Ars. "It wasn't their board that was dumped, but [they] were pretty upset when the ROMs were released, given the rarity of the machine."


Arcade Heroes blogger and arcade owner Adam Pratt has his own take, which he shared with Ars:

As it comes across online, it sounds like something is missing... That a technician would come in to a collection to fix something else, break into the Akka Arrh machine, pull out all of the ROMs, burn them one-by-one (which requires a ROM burner and a computer), then put everything back unnoticed doesn't seem plausible to me. Chances are, [Evans] or one of the other two collectors happened to have backed up the ROMs when they first got the machine and that backup either got out, or one of the collectors finally decided to anonymously upload the ROMs.

Read the rest

Philadelphia science museum employees accused of stealing $50,000 worth of bugs

The Philadelphia Insectarium and Butterfly Pavilion is missing $50,000 worth of bugs; the loss wasn't immediately discovered because bugs are small and the Insectarium often moves its specimens around for exhibitions, lendouts, etc. -- but when 80-90% of your collection goes missing, you notice. Read the rest

Video of failed bank break-in in France


A gang of masked thieves attempted a late-night heist at a bank (or some other building) in Pernes-les-Fontaines (southeastern France). They succeeded in partially ramming through the wall with a large flatbed truck, but then the truck got stuck. They ended up lighting the truck cab on fire and taking off in two cars. Someone caught the whole thing on video and posted it to YouTube.

It's a scene out of one of Donald Westlake's Dortmunder novels. Read the rest

Europe's banks want to store billions in cash to fight back against negative interest

The economic orthodoxy of austerity means that governments facing recession can't just spend their way out of it by creating New Deal-like stimulus that gets the economy moving again: instead, they handed trillions to banks and then watched in dismay as the banks failed to lend any of that out to small businesses and entrepreneurs. Read the rest

Ocean's Ocho: an Ocean's Eleven movie with an all-woman lead cast

In 2001, Steven Soderbergh rebooted the 1960 Rat Pack classic Ocean's 11, kicking off a string of sequels of varying success (the good ones are very good, the bad ones aren't utterly terrible). Now, Gary Ross is making Ocean's Ocho, an all-female "spinoff." Read the rest

Sex Criminals: Robin Hood bank robbers who can stop time when they orgasm

Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky's creator-owned comic Sex Criminals is a filthy, hilarious heist story about a couple who discover that they can stop time while orgasming, and keep it frozen until they become horny again -- so they use their power to rob banks in order to rescue a library from foreclosure (naturally). The first two series of the comic are collected in Big Hard Sex Criminals, a fabulous hardcover whose plain pink wrapper comes off to make it look like you're reading a book on DIY pet euthanasia.

London: the urban explorer/jewel thief's guide

In April, Geoff "BLDGBLOG" Manaugh will publish A Burglar's Guide to the City, a new book about London's rich history of heists and the network of tunnels, catacombs, sewers, and caves that London such a paradise for would-be superthieves. Read the rest

Well-planned bank heist fails

In a daring, Hollywood-style bank heist, a crack team of thieves occupied offices above their target, covered its windows to make it look like they were working on renovations, cut through a concrete floor to gain access to a secure area, bypassed an alarm system, and used hockey bags to exfiltrate $293,000 from the vault within. Then they were arrested in a field. [Reuters] Read the rest

$400,000 in diamonds stolen

They're still figuring out whether it was a well-planed heist or simply an everyday burglar's lucky day. Read the rest