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Google Releases More Windows Bugs

handy_vandal Cryptonomicon: Shanghai Banks (262 comments)

I'm reminded of Neal Stephenson's description of Shanghai banks on the eve of World War 2:

Here you've got the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank of course, City Bank, Chase Manhattan, the Bank of America, and BBME and the Agricultural Bank of China and any number of crappy little provincial banks, and several of those banks have contracts with what's left of the Chinese Government to print currency. It must be a cutthroat business because they slash costs by printing it on old newspapers, and if you know how to read Chinese, you can see last year's news stories and polo scores peeking through the colored numbers and pictures that transform these pieces of paper into legal tender.

As every chicken-peddler and rickshaw operator in Shanghai knows, the money-printing contracts stipulate that all of the bills these banks print have to be backed by such-and-such an amount of silver; i.e., anyone should be able to walk into one of those banks at the end of Kiukiang Road and slap down a pile of bills and (provided that those bills were printed by that same bank) receive actual metallic silver in exchange.

Now if China weren't right in the middle of getting systematically drawn and quartered by the Empire of Nippon, it would probably send official bean counters around to keep tabs on how much silver was actually present in these banks' vaults, and it would all be quiet and orderly. But as it stands, the only thing keeping these banks honest is the other banks.

Here's how they do it ...

Continue reading ...

about two weeks ago

AI Experts Sign Open Letter Pledging To Protect Mankind From Machines

handy_vandal AI Seeks Sociopath for Joint Venture (258 comments)

If I were a malevolent artificial intelligence, I would profile human sociopaths, and approach them with joint venture proposals.

about two weeks ago

Box Office 2014: Moviegoing Hits Two-Decade Low

handy_vandal Beyond Movies (400 comments)

Theater owners should look beyond movies, to some other technology.

The technology should be sufficiently expensive that it's not practical for home use. And, of course, it should be fun for people to do in crowds.

about three weeks ago

Super-Sensitive Motion Sensor Could Be Used To Hunt For Extraterrestrial Life

handy_vandal Obligatory Alien Quote (38 comments)

"Micro changes in air density, my ass."

-- Ripley

about a month ago

Brain Stimulation For Entertainment?

handy_vandal Technical and safety measures (88 comments)

More like: Before brain stimulation makes it to the masses, it has plenty of technical and safety measures to override.

about a month ago

Material Possiblities: A Flying Drone Built From Fungus

handy_vandal No SCOBY Leather. No! (52 comments)

Don't be fooled into thinking that "kombucha leather" (aka SCOBY leather) is suitable for this application.

Kombucha/SCOBY is interesting stuff, and yes, the SCOBY mat can be dried out to make a "leather-like" substance.

That is -- SCOBY leather is "somewhat leather-like" when perfect dry.

It's also hygrophilic, meaning it has an affinity for moisture.

In other words, it's always kind of damp and sticky, even in a relatively dry environment.

Expose it to rain, and you've got a sloppy, slippery, un-leather-like mess on your hands. I say this from personal experience.

Also, it smells like cat urine.

about a month and a half ago

How One Man Changed the Ecology of the Great Lakes With Salmon

handy_vandal Lampreys in the Great Lakes (118 comments)

Four lampreys are native to the Michigan Great Lakes region. Two are parasitic; two not. The two parasitic species, while they cause deep wounds, rarely kill their hosts.

The Sea Lamprey is the relatively recent invader (1930s-40s) which has caused ecological havoc.


about a month and a half ago

Researchers Design DNA With New Shapes and Structures

handy_vandal Cosmic DNA? (47 comments)

Space dust may store information as a double helix.

A new computer simulation shows that dust immersed in ionized gas (i.e., dusty plasmas) can organize itself into double helixes. The simulations suggested that under conditions commonly found in space, the dust particles first form a cylindrical structure that sometimes evolved into helical structures. Along some spirals, the radius of the helix was seen to change abruptly from one value to another and then back again, providing a mechanism for storing information in terms of the length and radius of a section of a spiral.

Hessdalen light

about 2 months ago

Researchers Develop Remote-Controlled Cyber-Roaches

handy_vandal Yesterday's Science Fiction, Today's Fact (35 comments)

I am reminded of a passage from Roger Zelazny's Lord of Light (1967):

He did not move his head, but reached out to crush a beetle that stood near his hand. The tip of a small crystal and two tiny wires protruded through the broken chitin of its back.

An excellent novel, one of my favorites.

Sadly, the Avon edition that I used to own was the absolute worst example of typographical errors I have ever seen: at least a dozen cases of misplaced or duplicated lines. Bad enough that I could no longer enjoy re-reading a book so grievously mangled by the publisher.

Don't say it -- stop -- I'll say it myself: the book was full of bugs.

about 3 months ago

Incapacitating Chemical Agents: Coming Soon To Local Law Enforcement?

handy_vandal Evolutionary pressure (152 comments)

Evolutionary pressure will tend to select for individuals who can survive and resist these agents.

Five generations, maybe ten, and we'll have a sub-population of insurgents who drink incapacitant agents from breakfast.

about 3 months ago

IBM Pays GlobalFoundries $1.5 Billion To Shed Its Chip Division

handy_vandal Mod Parent +Malt Vinegar Services (84 comments)

Made me laugh! One more time:

They'll drop their famous fish division next and try to make up all their revenue in malt vinegar services.

about 3 months ago

'Why Banana Skins Are Slippery' Wins IgNobel

handy_vandal Magnetic poo (127 comments)

Dogs only poop magnetic fields if you feed the dogs magnetized shavings. Which I do.

about 4 months ago

New Study Projects World Population of 11B by 2100

handy_vandal Mod Parent Up (326 comments)

Hell, we can't even get food to people going hungry in the US without a political shit storm happening from people who think it's the same thing as communism.

Too true. We could be the heroes of mankind, or at least heroes of a proud and healthy nation: so doable, yet so not done. It hurts.

about 4 months ago

Net Neutrality Is 'Marxist,' According To a Koch-Backed Astroturf Group

handy_vandal Cold War Joke (531 comments)

Under Capitalism, Man exploits Man.

Under Communism, it's the other way around.

about 5 months ago

California Passes Law Mandating Smartphone Kill Switch

handy_vandal California, the Gateway Drug of States (233 comments)

... the inefficiency of producing phones solely for California means the kill switch is expected to be adopted by phone makers on handsets sold across the U.S. and around the world.

First they tempt you with California legislation.

Next thing you know, you're hooked on NAFTA, ACTA, and God knows what other Profit-Seeking Acronyms (PSA's).

I suppose we should feel lucky that Amazon is not using United Nations Black Drones to deliver tracking devices (such as your new phone) to your door ... or wherever they know you are ....

about 5 months ago

Chinese Researchers' 'Terror Cam' Could Scan Crowds, Looking for Stress

handy_vandal Face Recognition in Casinos (146 comments)

"One of the most important advances in casino technology comes from facial recognition systems, where guests entering the gambling area are photographed and their visages are compared with an ever-growing database of known cheaters and suspicious people."

- Link

about 5 months ago

Researchers Make Fruit Flies Perform Aerobatics Like Spitfire Pilots

handy_vandal Pliny the Elder: bees use pebbles to stabilize (51 comments)

"Carrier bees wait for favourable breezes. If a storm arises, they steady themselves with the weight of a little pebble held in their feet; some authorities say that it is placed on their shoulders ...."

- Pliny the Elder: Naturalis Historia

about 6 months ago

Extracting Audio From Visual Information

handy_vandal We tend to scoff at the beliefs of the ancients (142 comments)

"We tend to scoff at the beliefs of the ancients. But we can't scoff at them personally, to their faces, and this is what annoys me."

- Jack Handey

about 6 months ago


handy_vandal hasn't submitted any stories.



handy_vandal handy_vandal writes  |  more than 11 years ago
I'm some guy who's liked -- loved, adored -- computers since he was a kid. I was a teenager in the early-mid seventies ... writing BASIC on a 300 baud TTY, playing Dogfight over PLATO, reading Computer Lib and The Network Nation ... that should place me.

Roundabout the mid-nineties, when email was becoming a commonplace and the World Wide Web was taking off, I thought:

Finally -- it's about time ...!

Well, the Golden Age of the Nineties had to end. With the coming of twenty-first century globalization, my former lucrative career as a freelance programmer has seriously dried up. I still manage to make part of my living as a coder -- which is a good thing, I love coding for it's own sake, love it like a novelist loves writing novels. But it looks like the party is mostly over, chances are if I want to stay in the IT game, I'll end up writing specs and outsource the work to India.

I like irony, really I do. It's much better than a world without irony. Irony is funny plus sad in one pill. Only problem is, I forget whether it's the blue pill or the red pill ....


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