William Tenn

Here’s a great essay on the (SF) writing of William Tenn. I know the Bellevue library has some of his collections, and now I’m going to have to dig them out. The bit about John W. Campbell saying “No” to his story Brooklyn Project, a piece about an oppressive security regime, is apropos to our times, and over fifty years in advance of it.

(I also just found out about the Internet Speculative Fiction Database at isfdb.org. Oh my. The forthcoming books list is really nice….).

Symantec Spam Leak

Like many people who own domains, I salt e-mail addresses so I know if addresses are redistributed. An address that I supplied to Symantec a while back has indeed been leaked to spammers.

I guess it’s not terribly surprising. It must be incredibly easy for someone inside a corporation to do a “SELECT EMAIL FROM CUST-TABLE” and stick the result on a zip disk or keychain USB drive. Probably not anyone in engineering; it’s usually the marketing and sales types with the loose morals.

There are various ways to fight this, and when you’re dealing with internal threats, defense-in-depth is the way to go. Restricted access is a starting point. Internal salting (invented “trigger” accounts, e-mail to which would indicate a leak) would be a great idea, too.

But before you get too clever, my guess is that these addresses were “just sitting on a share” inside the company. Occams razor, and never ascribe to malice what is better explained by stupidity…

Vehicle theft rates

Cryptome has the 2003 vehicle theft rates (actually uses 2002 data). The Neon looks terrible, until you realize that only 24 of the particular model were made, and one poor bastard had his stolen. The real Neon is still not that great (8 per 1,000 cars stolen); the Stratus looks like the most stolen vehicle around. Subaru is comfortably ranked near 1 per 1,000.

No one stole any Aston-Martins, Ferraris or Rolls Royces in 2002, it looks like, but about 30 Porsches were nipped.

Ex Libris again

Books again. The Coyote Kings and the Space Age Bachelor Pad by Minister Faust is, 100pp in, very good indeed; a couple of not very motivated but very, very bright young black men get themselves into rather cosmic trouble. The writing is surprising, simply stuffed with references to other SF works, and moves along well.

Cube Farm, by Bill Blunden, tells the story of a Cornell physics grad who winds up (1) washing dishes, (2) working for Lawson Software in the Twin Cities, and trying to decide which job was worse. I’ve always wondered about firms like this; Lawson seems pretty screwed up, and Blunden goes on to prove it. The company is family owned, and at one point in the 1980s one of the family management saw that compilation time (of days) was a problem, and caused all of the comments to be removed from their source code in an effort to speed up turnaround time (can you say “Criminally stupid”? I knew you could). CF is a decent description of software development and politics in a disfunctional company, and don’t let it happen to you.

Carlucci (Richard Paul Russo) is a collection of the three “Carlucci” novels, including Destroying Angel (one of my favorites). These are gritty near-future Mickey Spillane type stories set in San Francisco, where the hero keeps getting beaten up, patched up, and going back for more, to a background of bio-tech and designer drugs. Kind of like Gibson, without all the computer nonsense.

Games, Diversions & Perl Culture is a cute book, essentially the “Best of the Perl Journal.” Like Programming Pearls and Programming on Purpose it is a good selection of smallish problems, often with surprising solutions. There are also some strikingly funny problems, such as simulating typographical errors, and a story about how a Perl programmer nearly lost WWIII. My only problem with the book: Not enough source code.

Selected titles from The Queue: Nick Sagan’s Idlewild (won an award last year), and Derek Lundy’s The Way of a Ship (Lundy wrote the terrifying Godforsaken Sea, about sailing alone in the brutal Souther Ocean; Ship is about sailing a square-rigger around the Horn in modern-day, and is brimming with information and atmosphere — as well as further terror — about what it’s like to work on such a ship).