Britannica Blog

That is, the Encyclopedia Britannica. They have a blog now — with some pretty interesting stuff that changes fairly frequently.

“Ideas that Matter” — indeed. Go have a look.

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Defeating the ‘N-Word’

When I was driving home today, I heard a conversation on NPR with Paul Moody talking about how he wasn’t going to use the ‘n-word’ in his comedy routines any longer. This in the wake of the well publicized Michael Richards tirade.

This all made me think of an incident when I was in college. A group of us were hanging out with a young black guy from Baltimore in one of the common areas of the dorm. At some point a couple of hillbilly baseball players got some alcohol in them and starting dropping the n-bomb within earshot. More than likely they were trying to get some type of reaction from him which they thought would be great fun.

Finally one of the guys who was sitting around talking to him asked uncomfortably “Doesn’t it bother you when people use that word?”

His response was priceless. He smiled and said: “It doesn’t bother me at all. I figure he is saying a lot more about himself than he is anything about me.”

Simple, eloquent and to the point. And I have never forgotten the lesson.

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I gotta say, with Russians apparently flying around with radioactive substances to poison those whose opinions they want to silence combined with people leaving Improvised Explosive Devices on the side of the highway here is lovely Cincinnati that I definitely feel the world is much safer with all of the security measures put in place after 9/11.

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New Flickr Stuff

The flickr blog announced this week a couple of useful new features. The first one addresses a bit gap that I have had with getting people to use flickr — how to post private pictures, but invite a select group to come to flickr to view them without having to sign up for a flickr account. This is solved by the addition of the ‘Guest Pass’ which allows you for any photoset to invite up to 50 people to view that set. You can also at a later time expire the guest pass.

I also note in the link provided for this feature a neat little trick: you can create a flickr URL of the form where ‘me’ would normally be a specific flickr username. The ‘me’ URL will take you to your own flickr sets if you happen to be logged into flickr at the time.

The other two are not as big a deal, in my opinion: they have revamped, which is the scaled down version of flickr meant to be accessed from a mobile phone. I have never used the mobile version to upload photos but find it a good diversion when stuck in an airport or some such place. Mobile allows you to catch up on comments and contacts photos among other functions.

The camera finder seems like flickr just closing the loop on external companies that were using the flickr API to mine this sort of data (as previously posted). Not to miss a trick, er, opportunity, flickr also links the camera info into the yahoo shopping site to make it easy for you to add a few dollars to the Yahoo coffers if you decide to buy.

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Jack The Ripper found?

The BBC has a posting showing the e-fit (basically a police sketch) for what is believed to be Jack the Ripper’s face. Using modern forensic techniques, they have a level of confidence that they know where he lived and how he evaded police at the time. Shame it is 118 years too late.

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Robert Pirsig Interview

I found this interview with Robert Pirsig to be very interesting. I guess I also never realized how semi-autobiographical Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance really was for him.

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High Tech Passport Failure

It seems the UK version of the high tech passport has failed the first hurtle — a writer at the Guardian and a tech expert managed to crack the passport security with relative ease. Seem those who hatched the security scheme made the rather naive mistake of going to great lengths to secure the communications between the RFID reader and the passport, but used information that is available on the printed passport as the ‘key’ to unlocking that communication. Just dumb.

Fatally, however, the ICAO suggested that the key needed to access the data on the chips should be comprised of, in the following order, the passport number, the holder’s date of birth and the passport expiry date, all of which are contained on the printed page of the passport on a “machine readable zone.” When an immigration official swipes the passport through a reader, this feeds in the key, which allows a microchip reader to communicate with the RFID chip. The data this contains, including the holder’s picture, is then displayed on the official’s screen. The assumption at this stage is that this document is as authentic as it is super-secure. And, as we shall see later, this could be highly significant.

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