Monday, March 02, 2015

Awesome Response To Phone Scammer

Jay Smith posted his awesome response to a phone scammer.

Here's the text of his post mirrored below (may be mildly NSFW due to an f-bomb):
I typically don't answer my cell phone if I don't know the number, but I was expecting a phone call from the area code displayed, so I answered. Sigh.

Me: Yes?

Dude: May I speak with Mr. Jason Smith, please?

Me: (immediately know where this is going) May I ask who is calling?

Dude: Is this Mr. Smith?

Me: I assume I may NOT ask who is calling. That's not very nice of you.

Dude: This is David with [redacted] about an important legal matter that has come across my desk and it is urgent that you resolve this issue immediately today because a process server is on his way to your place of business right now with a warrant for your arrest related to your property at [redacted, but I've never lived there]. Now, sir, you have one opportunity to stop the server from coming to your office...

Me: A process server? Oh. Dear. With an arrest warrant? Well, we can't have that.

Dude: It is important that you resolve this matter of $625.75 today. Are you willing to pay your obligation and avoid being arrested at your place of business?

Me: My place of business is the International Space Station. Are you sending the server up in a rocket?

Dude: Excuse me?

Me: I am currently in low Earth orbit, David. It might be easier if you contact my attorney and send him the paperwork and we'll work it out when I get back. That's if we can destroy this asteroid before it hits...oops, I wasn't supposed to say anything about that.

Dude: (pause) Mr. Smith? I am trying to assist you from being arrested today. Do you wish my help or not?

Me: Sure. What's the case number? Who is the plaintiff?

Dude: I do not have that information. You will need to call the 800 number I'm about to give you.

Me: Oh good. I'll forward that to my lawyer and the local sheriff's office and they can call for me. I'm a little busy saving the world.

Dude: You may not wish to do that. You may want better to settle this matter quietly.

Me: Really? I'm sure they'll both be interested to learn someone is acting on arrest warrants without them. What's your last name, Dave?

Dude: Sir, if you contact the police directly they will be forced to enforce the arrest warrant. You will not want that, I think.

Me: That's okay. There's no Space Sheriff in my jurisdiction anyway. And if things go "boom" it won't matter anyway. Your last name, Dave?

Dude: Will you take down this number, please?

Me: By the way, are you within a thousand miles of Mongolia?

Dude: Mr. Smith...

Me: Because if you are, I envy you. If this thing hits you won't even realize it. Me? I get to sit up here with five desperate assholes and watch the world burn.

Dude: [unintelligible]

Me: I mean, you'll see it coming. You'll look up and see this giant gray peanut rising in the east...just getting bigger and bigger until it's like the only thing in the sky and then... "Squish". The entire atmosphere will crush you with the asteroid still like ten miles up. Maybe the oxygen will ignite first...not sure how all that stuff works. I'm just the trigger man on the nukes. If I'm lucky, we'll be screaming over Asia when it hits and get obliterated when the planet's core reaches up and boils us alive. Otherwise we'll be orbiting the ruins of Earth until we run out of air or eat each other.

Dude: You are...

Me: ...probably eat each other after drinking all the scotch. Space scotch.

Dude: Why you lie to me, sir? You are in trouble and are making jokes.

Me: You have to have a sense of humor when you're sitting on 500 megatons of atomic death facing a rock the size of New Jersey. If we do survive this, the radical freons bleeding from the warheads will kill the five of us within a year. I'd almost prefer it if we can crack this rock open, come home and just take a bullet to the head. I mean do you know what happens to a person soaking up this many RADS? I might come home looking like Sloth from The Goonies. I'll be shitting bones. Commander Cornholder just wants to get naked, open the airlock and die jerking it fifty miles above the burning Earth.

Dude: … So you are not willing to settle this debt today?

Me: How about I settle it by saving the god-damned world, Dave? How about I drive these nuclear warheads into the heart of a mother-f*cking asteroid and keep you and your whole debt collection scam from becoming cosmic vapor? Call it even, there, slappy?

(end of call)

Dynamic Pricing At Ski Resorts

"Ski Resorts Experiment With Dynamic Pricing". (Via Marginal Revolution.)

Hacking Cars

Boing Boing: "The time a hacker remotely bricked cars in Texas".

Crazy Pool Vortex

Excellent video from "Physics Girl" on the "Crazy Pool Vortex":

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Ancient Babylonian Customer Service Complaint

"An Ancient Babylonian Customer Service Complaint Inscribed on a Clay Tablet Around 1750 BC". 

Click through to see the translation. The customer was very irate!

AI Masters Space Invaders

"Google's AI Masters Space Invaders (But It Still Stinks at Pac-Man)"

The Weird World of Carbon Fiber

"The wild weird world of carbon fiber: How can something that starts out like cloth end up being so strong and light?"

Twisted Light

How scientists are twisting and squeezing light and tying it into knots.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

New Twist On Game Theory?

"Game Theory Calls Cooperation into Question"

Illusions From Johansson

"Mind-Bending Optical Illusions By Swedish Photoshop Master Erik Johansson". (Via N.L.)

The Tangled Roots of English

NYT: "The Tangled Roots of English"

Asian Penalty in College Admissions

The LA Times discusses the "Asian Penalty" when applying to elite colleges:
Lee's next slide shows three columns of numbers from a Princeton University study that tried to measure how race and ethnicity affect admissions by using SAT scores as a benchmark. It uses the term “bonus” to describe how many extra SAT points an applicant's race is worth. She points to the first column.

African Americans received a “bonus” of 230 points, Lee says.

She points to the second column. “Hispanics received a bonus of 185 points.”

The last column draws gasps.

Asian Americans, Lee says, are penalized by 50 points — in other words, they had to do that much better to win admission.

“Do Asians need higher test scores? Is it harder for Asians to get into college? The answer is yes,” Lee says.

Zenme keyi,” one mother hisses in Chinese. How can this be possible?

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

DNA Privacy From Police

"Your DNA is everywhere. Can the police analyze it?"

12 Essential Hotel Room Safety Tips

"12 Essential Hotel Room Safety Tips"

Boston and Waze

Wired: "Boston Is Partnering With Waze to Make Its Roads Less of a Nightmare". (Via H.R.)

61 Incredible Things Robots Can Now Do

"61 Incredible Things Robots Can Now Do".

(Via Rand Simberg who also notes, "The implications for military applications are pretty terrifying.")

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Social Impact of the Photocopier

"How the Photocopier Changed the Way We Worked -- and Played".

Some excerpts:
Employees would sneak their own personal items on the machine, copying their IRS returns, party invitations, recipes. Chain letters began demanding participants not only forward the letter, but send out 20 copies—because, hey, now anyone could! And people quickly realized they could make paper replicas of physical objects, placing their hands—or, whipping down their pants, their rear ends—on the copier glass. This copying of objects could be put to curiously practical purposes. Instead of describing the physical contents of a perp’s pockets when jailing him, police would just dump them onto the 914’s glass and hit copy...
Secrets were harder to keep, documents easier to leak. Daniel Ellsberg used a copier to reproduce the Pentagon Papers (even having his children help make the replicas at a friend’s office). Fearful of the copier’s power, the Soviet Union tightly controlled access to the machines...

How That Alcoholic Drink Is Made

"How the most popular alcoholic drinks around the world are made". (Via H.R.)

$6 Watch Worth $35K

Man finds rare watch selling at Goodwill for $6. Recognizes its value and resells it for $35,000. Nice!

I think this is a completely legitimate way to leverage one's knowledge, as discussed by Diana and Greg in this podcast episode from a few years ago, "Profiting from the Ignorance of Others".

Lost Sherlock Holmes Story

"Lost Sherlock Holmes story found in an attic in Scotland".

Here's the full text of the story.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Great SIM Heist

The Great SIM Heist: How Spies Stole the Keys to the Encryption Castle"

As Bruce Schneier summarizes: "NSA and/or GCHQ hacked into the Dutch SIM card manufacturer Gemalto, stealing the encryption keys for billions of cell phones. People are still trying to figure out exactly what this means, but it seems to mean that the intelligence agencies have access to both voice and data from all phones using those cards."

Friday, February 20, 2015

Real-Life Q

"Meet the 'Real-Life Q' Who Built Secret Spy Gadgets for a Living".

Among his favorite inventions:
How about a miniature transmitter, disguised in bird droppings. It splats against someone's window. You know how birds come along and shit on your window, it's sort of a whiteish, blackish, greyish mess and you see a little drip at the bottom? Imagine that drip is actually highly conductive silver paint. That long drip is actually the antenna, and in that gob is a very tiny transmitter with a tiny battery. A birdshit transducer was one of my favorites.
(Via H.R.)

Kill Switches And Phone Theft

"Kill switch reduces smartphone theft"

The Internet in 1969

Vala Ashfar: "Map of the entire Internet in 1969"

Cockatoo Imitates Arguing Couple

"Peaches the cockatoo reenacts her previous owners' marital spats"