Archive for the 'History' Category

Reviving Old Raleigh 3-Speed Pedals On the Cheap

One of my relatives recently decided to take up bicycling. While this is good, because exercise is a good thing, blah blah blah, I was tasked with both finding them a suitable bicycle, and ensuring its functionality.

Their criteria was fairly simple: It had to be a diamond frame (i.e. a “men’s bike”), it had to have upright handlebars, and it could have no more than five speeds. (I have no idea why, either. I just do what I’m told.)

My criteria was a bit more complicated: It had to actually fit them, it had to be in decent mechanical shape, it had to not use a buttload of proprietary-sized parts or need obscure proprietary tools to work on, and it had to not be a super attractive theft-magnet, because they are probably only going to use a cable lock, not a u-lock, and we’d both feel bad if it got stolen.

I almost wavered on the last one – there was a gorgeous 1950s BSA three-speed on Craigslist, fully restored, for $150 – but in the end I persevered, and we wound up with…
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Published in: Geekiness, General, History | on May 20th, 2012 | 1 Comment »

Fifty Years Ago Today…

Fifty years ago (26 Dec 1961):

Moscow, Dec 26, UPI – Premier Khrushchev has urged lesser Soviet officials to tell him when he is wrong and not meekly to accept his directives.
His declaration–apparently a further effort to wipe out the paralyzing “cult of personality”–was made last week at a conference of agricultural officials in the Ukraine and published yesterday by Pravda.
Mr. Khrushchev’s remark was provoked by P.A. Vlasvuk, president of the Ukrainian Academy of Agriculture.
Mr. Vlasvuk had apparently claimed that in a criticized method of crop rotation, he had followed suggestions made by Mr. Khrushchev.
To this Mr. Khrushchev replied: “Is it I who must be the highest authority in questions of agricultural science? You are president of the Ukraine’s Academy of Agriculture and I am secretary of the central committee of the (Communist) party. In these questions it is you who should help me, and not I you.”
“I can make a mistake but you, if you are an honest scientist, you should tell me ‘Comrade Khrushchev you do not understand that question altogether correctly.’ If you explain to me how to correctly understand a question, then I would thank you for it.”

A day ago. Roughly. (25 Dec 2011):

MOSCOW, December 25 (RIA Novosti) Russian Prime Minister and presidential candidate Vladimir Putin still enjoys the support of the majority of Russians, his spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in an interview with AFP news agency on Sunday after the biggest opposition protest in Moscow.
“Putin still has the support of a majority. And we should treat the opinion of a majority with respect,” Peskov was quoted by AFP as saying.

I just found the contrast amusing…

Published in: General, History | on December 26th, 2011 | Comments Off on Fifty Years Ago Today…

Flemish Flower Dipping

I think we can all agree that the 1960s were a strange period in history, defined by the music, the fashion, the politics, the war, the social revolution, and the general overall strangeness. Nowhere is this better exemplified than the “New Wave” of science fiction authors who came to the forefront in the latter part of the decade…

No, wait, wrong essay.

Nowhere, in fact, is this better exemplified than the arts and crafts of the period, which remain strangely fascinating in a so-terrible-it’s-kitschy sort of way. Amid all the things we remember from crafts of the ’60s – the yarn, the yarn! – it’s interesting to stumble across things which have been damned near erased from the collective consciousness.

Take, for instance, Flemish Flower Dipping, an incredibly 1960s way of taking fake plastic flowers and… well, uglifying them, let’s be honest:
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Published in: General, History | on November 23rd, 2011 | 3 Comments »

Weirdness, Florida Style, 1940

I was searching around for something the other day, and, to make a long story short, wound up reading the June 28th, 1940 edition of the Sarasota (Florida) Herald-Tribune. Now, Florida is weird – just ask Carl Hiassen – and the distant past is, metaphorically speaking, a foreign country… even by those standards, the following two related stories are (I think) fairly entertaining.

Oh, and if two old newspapers are a bit of a “tl;dr” for you… scroll down; there’s a cute 71-year-old cat picture at the end.
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Published in: General, History | on November 16th, 2011 | Comments Off on Weirdness, Florida Style, 1940

Virtual Counterfeiting

Recently I had an interesting conversation, if you can call it that, on Twitter (hey, kids – follow me @mendacities, kthxbai) about how very few things have security designed in or sometimes even included, at least at the beginning. Essentially, there’s a kind of obvious trend for new technology to be exploitable in all kinds of interesting and sometimes alarming ways. Often you want to smack someone and ask what they were thinking.

My view is that visionaries – inventors, designers, the people who come up with new stuff – are, at heart, optimists. They think the best of people, and the idea that their products can be misused and abused and exploited never enters their minds – or if it does, it gets discounted immediately, because they’re, well, optimists.

I think that security-related fields – law enforcement, cyber-security, and so on – attract a lot of deeply bitter cynics who have no romantic ideas about human nature, and understand that there is almost nothing people will not exploit, just because they can.

I mean, consider phone phreaking. Leave aside the blue boxes and the red boxes and the beige boxes and the spotted mauve polkadot boxes with white racing stripes; in the mid 1990s, you could make free local calls on a lot of cellphones by shorting the mouthpiece element, I think it was, to earth ground of the chassis, with a straightened paperclip. The fix, if I recall correctly, was installation of a $0.01 diode. Why hadn’t it been there to begin with? Nobody on the technical side of things were cynical enough to think anyone would ever discover it…

Anyway, here’s a first-hand story of one of the most bone-headed moves ever made by a large American retailer…
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Published in: General, History, Security | on October 27th, 2011 | Comments Off on Virtual Counterfeiting