Monthly Archives: October 2013

A Nightmare Scenario

The coming rise of predatory, parasitic spambooks — Charlie Stross via Cory Doctorow.

In the future, readers will not go in search of books to read. Feral books will stalk readers, sneak into their ebook libraries, and leap out to ambush them. Readers will have to beat books off with a baseball bat; hold them at bay with a flaming torch: refuse to interact: and in extreme cases, feign dyslexia, blindness or locked-in syndrome to avoid being subjected to literature.

Code implodes into text, and it is only a matter of time before we see books that incorporate software for collaborative reading. Not only will your ebook save your bookmarks and annotations; it’ll let you share bookmarks and annotations with other readers. It’s only logical, no? And the next step is to let readers start discussions with one another, with some sort of tagging mechanism to link the discussions to books, or chapters, or individual scenes, or a named character or footnote.

Once there is code there will be parasites, viral, battening on the code. It’s how life works: around 75% of known species are parasitic organisms. A large chunk of the human genome consists of endogenous retroviruses, viruses that have learned to propagate themselves by splicing themselves into our chromosomes and lazily allowing the host cells to replicate themselves whenever they divide. Spammers will discover book-to-book discussion threads just as flies flock to shit.

But then it gets worse. Much worse.

Someone has an evil, evil imagination.

Posted in Sufficiently Advanced Technology | Leave a comment

Eggs. Basket.

One of the big problems with top-down, logical, designs for national identification systems is that they tend strongly towards a single point of failure.

Fatal crypto flaw in some [Taiwanese] government-certified smartcards makes forgery a snap.

Not the last story like this we’re going to see.

Posted in ID Cards and Identification | 1 Comment

Tom Lehrer Lives

Some kind soul has put on YouTube an entire 1967 performance by Tom Lehrer — in Copenhagen of all places. (Is rhythmic clapping still a custom there today?)

Enjoy it now before someone takes it down.

Incidentally, it seems Tom Lehrer is still around:

Most people assume that Tom Lehrer is dead, just as he has always wished us to think. Lehrer is by no means dead, but he turns 85 this month. After he retired at the peak of his fame in 1960, he gleefully collected all newspaper references to “the late Tom Lehrer,” and a CD box set of his collected works that came out in 2000 was called “The Remains of Tom Lehrer.”

LEHRER HAS REMAINED, if not a recluse, an intensely private man. Nobody knows much about him except his songs, exactly as he likes it. He grew up in Manhattan, the privileged Jewish son of a necktie manufacturer, attended a prep school and then Harvard, where he spent seven years pursuing a doctorate he never got (“I wanted to be a graduate student forever”). After he stopped performing, he produced a handful of songs for “The Electric Company” (“Silent E” is still fondly remembered by yuppies) and this or that riff, like his Jewish Yuletide carol, “Hanukkah in Santa Monica.”

Those songs never get old for me. But I had to explain to one my kids once, many years ago, who Brezhnev was.

Posted in Completely Different | 1 Comment

Junior International Law Scholars Association Call for Papers

Colleague Markus Wagner passes along this info:

The Junior International Law Scholars Association (JILSA) is holding its annual meeting on Friday, January 31, 2014, at Berkeley Law School. JILSA is an informal network composed mostly of junior scholars at American law schools who get together annually for a self-funded workshop. Junior scholars and fellows interested in presenting works in progress at the meeting should email proposals to Jean Galbraith and Markus Wagner by Friday, November 8. Please send a working title/abstract and provide a sense of the shape the paper is in. Proposals to present early stage works are also welcome.

There is actually a whole network of excellent conferences for junior legal scholars in a variety of subjects these days. I don’t think they existed when I was junior enough to qualify — if they did, I was certainly blissfully ignorant of them.

Posted in Talks & Conferences | 1 Comment

U Miami Cafeteria Workers Get a Raise

The union says it’s a huge victory. It’s a win, but I’d call it a medium win.

Below I reproduce the SEIU’s press release, then add some comments.
Continue reading

Posted in U.Miami | Leave a comment

Dan Does Pivot TV

Question 1 from the interviewer: “How can you be so wrong?”

But it actually goes quite well.

(Link in case the embed doesn’t work for you.)

Posted in Dan Froomkin | 2 Comments