Archive for October, 2015

“It hasn’t been my day for a couple years”

Been on a Jawbreaker jag today. Forgot just how easily this song can slay me. Reminds me of everyone I’ve ever known on a crash course of their own devising. As the old toast goes:

“To the lost and the damned; may we all find our way home.”

“Guys stop working for just a second”

Posting this both because the video came up in conversation with my lady the other night, and also because it’s one of the best songs of the modern era.

If the only meaningful thing the 21st century gives us is “Maps” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, it will still have been totally worth it.

“Say ‘police’ if you have to”

Scene: A group of “detectives” are trying to find someone who meets the right criteria for someone to steal their identity and take over their life.

Back in Tokyo,… Funaki took the day off work and the Isakas joined in as well, searching the printout for women in their twenties.

“Say ‘police’ if you have to,” Funaki instructed. “Ask the women listed if two years back some close relation might have met with an accident or been badly injured somehow. Get them talking, no matter what it takes.”

It was past eleven, time to call it a day, when they got a break.

Funaki cupped his hand over the receiver. “We’re in business!” he called to Honma, who was over by the window, tentatively stretching his legs. Then, speaking into the phone again, he said, “Hold on, I’ll turn you over to the officer in charge.”

Emi Kimura was twenty-four years old. The printout gave her occupation as “freelancer.” At first she spoke in a sweet, almost child-like voice. She interrupted Honma to ask, “Is this for real? This isn’t Candid Camera or something?”

“No. Look, I’m sorry to bother you like this. I don’t know if you’ll be able to help us or not, but let me explain. We traced you through some customer data provided by a company called Roseline. I believe you know the name?” Honma paused. “Ms. Kimura, I’m sorry, but these questions are important for an investigation we’re working on. You don’t come from a large family, and you live by yourself, is that correct? And both your parents have passed on.”

Emi’s voice trembled. “How do you know all that?”

So far so good, Honma nodded to Funaki. “My colleague, the person you spoke to a minute ago, asked if you had any close relatives who might have had an accident or some kind of personal tragedy in the last two years. You said you had. Could you tell me more about that?”

It took a moment for Emi to Answer. “It was my sister.”

“Your sister.”


Honma quietly repeated, “Yes?”

Emi was clearly getting upset. “Listen, I’m going to hang up. I mean, how do I know this isn’t some kind of crank call? How do I know you’re actually detectives?”

Honma hesitated. Funaki grabbed the phone away from him and rattled off the number of the direct line to Investigation. “Got that? Here’s what I want you to do. Ring up and say our names. Ask if there are any detectives by those names on the force. Tell whoever answers that you need to get in touch with Inspector Honma immediately. Ask them to have him call you back as soon as he can. Only give a totally made-up name and phone number. Don’t give your real ones. The officer will contact us to say you called. The we’ll call you back at your real number and give you the false name and number he tells us. Just to make sure there’s no mistake, that we are who we say we are. Fair enough?”

Emi agreed and hung up.

“When you’re in a hurry, take a side road,” Funaki said. He reached for a cigarette and lit up. …

Emi picked up on the first ring. Honma kept his voice as neutral as possible. “Hello? Is this Akiko Sato? At 5555-4444?”

“You’ve got to wonder about that girl’s powers of imagination,” Funaki whispered.

But Emi Kimura was in no mood for flip remarks. She burst into tears.

I love this scene (from Miyuki Miyabe’s All She Was Worth) as a model for social engineering. Imagine you’re Emi Kimura. You’re being asked about an emotional topic: the death of a loved one. The callers say they are cops and gives you a way to authenticate them. The authentication check succeeds. You’re talking about difficult-to-confront, emotional material with an authority figure who has authenticated themselves successfully.


  • After the person at the Investigations precinct confirms their names and the two detectives are able to relay the fake name and number back to you, are you now convinced that they’re actually cops?
  • What’s the issue with the authentication challenge they presented? What revision to the proposed process would you give to have better certainty of their identities?
  • If you did start divulging personal details to them, what wouldn’t you say? Or more importantly, how would you know if you’d already said too much or to the wrong people?
  • Now, pretend you’re actually cops who need to interview Emi as a witness to a potential crime. Time is of the essence. What could you do to better convince Emi that you’re legitimate?
  • And now, as an attacker. You’re a social engineer trying to find out details so you can steal Emi’s identity. What revisions, if any, would would you make to the approach above?

Paint Stripper (NSFW)

Paint Stripper from Tim Fitzgerald on Vimeo.

“But I’m free to answer, so yes, we’re free.”

No one ends up in Norwich by accident. If you’re here, it’s because you’re meant to be. There’s no other reason, no way anyone can happen to be just passing through. Located as we are in the bump of Norfolk that juts out into the North Sea, we stand alone, we stand apart. Some might say that makes us insular. I disagree. When you are the only city for miles and miles around, you attract the different ones. The ones who never really fitted in with their town or village. They come to the nearest city and they find their place here.

I was last in Norwich just a few months ago. It seems, though, a lifetime away at the moment. My friend Meagan and I had first gotten to know each other in Norwich over a decade ago. Happening to be in Europe at the same time, we spent a few days there together.

It truly is an odd place. I think one reason I’ve always felt at home there is its isolated, rebellious nature. It embodies something that I cherish in myself: a stray-dog sense of self-possession and independence. A notion that going one’s own way is the only way.

Christ how I love that stony, meandering city tucked out in the broads. I love it out of proportion. I love its rivers almost as much as I love the Columbia, though they’re one twentieth the size. I love its cathedrals, though I’m an avowed Atheist. I love its cramped little pubs and its winding go-nowhere alleys.

It’s an unaccountable city. There’s no clear reason for it to be as enchanting as it is. Nor for the enmity and derision it receives. No one throws shade quite as assuredly as a Londoner who learns you’ve just returned from Norwich.

The time before that that I was in Norwich, I was with a girlfriend who, I think, was trying to Figure Me Out. We laid on the castle green, closed our eyes and drifted a moment under the Anglian sky. We were only there for a day and we spent most of it walking a lazy circle around town. It felt a little like reserving my place. Or like checking in with a friend.

Before that, there’s a long gulf back to when I attended the university for awhile. The University feels like a very different world from the city itself. Which might be why I walked into town every opportunity I got. I lost forty pounds in six months, I reckon, just from the constant long walks, either into the town or out towards the broads. When in town, I used to like to walk through Tombland, or down near Bishopgate and the Cow Tower. I spent hours tracing a track by the river, trying as hard to know myself as to know the city.

I don’t know when I’ll get back that way. But it’s a matter of when, not if. And when I do, I expect to find it much as I left it. Peculiar, slightly insular, and entirely its own.

“When the nighttime comes I see you straining”

I really can’t recommend the new Silversun Pickups album highly enough. It’s every bit as raucous, noisy, dreamy, and gorgeous a thing as you could hope for. Available from all your finest local Internet record shops.

“You say you want someone to be wasting your time”

At this point, I’m fair convinced that MØ and Diplo could record random street noise and it would somehow still be groovy as hell.

But Video Games are going to make us all asocial shut-ins!

Seriously impressive teamwork. This game looks hella fun. Now I just need a few more friends who game and a few more hours in the day to try this out…

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Magic Blue Smoke

House Rules:

1.) Carry out your own dead.
2.) No opium smoking in the elevators.
3.) In Competitions, during gunfire or while bombs are falling, players may take cover without penalty for ceasing play.
4.) A player whose stroke is affected by the simultaneous explosion of a bomb may play another ball from the same place.
4a.) Penalty one stroke.
5.) Pilsner should be in Roman type, and begin with a capital.
6.) Keep Calm and Kill It with Fire.
7.) Spammers will be fed to the Crabipede.