July 27th, 2013
Islam's Medieval Underworld:
The year is – let us say – 1170, and you are the leader of a city watch in medieval Persia. Patrolling the dangerous alleyways in the small hours of the morning, you and your men chance upon two or three shady-looking characters loitering outside the home of a wealthy merchant. Suspecting that you have stumbled across a gang of housebreakers, you order them searched. From various hidden pockets in the suspects' robes, your men produce a candle, a crowbar, stale bread, an iron spike, a drill, a bag of sand – and a live tortoise.
The reptile is, of course, the clincher. There are a hundred and one reasons why an honest man might be carrying a crowbar and a drill at three in the morning, but only a gang of experienced burglars would be abroad at such an hour equipped with a tortoise. [...]
January 25th, 2013
The BBC, courtesy of figures produced by More or Less, provides the hard statistics to demonstrate that Jessica Fletcher was the world's greatest serial killer:
|Midsomer County (assuming its population equivalent to Oxfordshire, where it's filmed)
||32 per million (average of 2.6 murders an episode, eight episodes a year – so 21 people murdered each year). So Midsomer's crime rate equivalent to Chile or Turkey)
||10 per million
|Honduras (world's highest murder rate)
||910 per million
|Cabot Cove (setting for CBS's Murder, She Wrote – pop: 3,500)
||1,490 per million
Granted she always managed to find some poor devil to take the fall, but you don't end up in the vicinity of so many murders by coincidence.
Seriously, the article makes some good points about how little murder as depicted on TV resembles the crime in real life.
July 8th, 2012
The world's biggest corporate fines, visualised in proportion to each company's annual income.
Really puts the Barclays LIBOR-fixing fine into perspective.
October 11th, 2011
Adam Butcher's Internet Story:
A series of shocking events unfolds when a young man creates a public treasure hunt for his own amusement and a video blogger decides to pursue the riddles across country.
It's only nine minutes long, but well worth a look.
[Via Waxy.org Links/]
December 12th, 2010
Sledgehammer and Whore:
[...] This is a story of a Procedural. Specifically, mine.
Last Sunday night the wife and I were sound asleep at 1145pm after a night of Entourage, True Blood and Schadenfreude. Because I have the iPhone4 and thus cannot use it as a phone, I had forwarded my cell phone to our home phone. At approximately 11:47:52, the phone rings and my wife answers it. Here is the call as has been best reconstructed:
WIFE: Hello…Who is this?
WOMAN: I need to speak to Josh.
WIFE: What? Why? Who is this?
WOMAN: Let me speak to Josh. He owes me money.
WIFE: Money? Call back in the morning.
WOMAN: I need to talk to him now. I'm in his office. He owes me money.
WIFE: (to me, handing over the phone) It's for you.
WOMAN: Josh? I need my money. I'm in your office.
ME: I don't know what the fuck you are talking about. What office?
WOMAN: Your office. In Larchmont. I'm there.
ME: You're in my office? At midnight. On Sunday? Describe my office.
At which point the woman gives me a very detailed description of my writing office–a second floor one room/one bathroom space that I rent because as much as I love my family…well, The Shining.
ME: Okay, fine, you're in my office. Why? And again, who are you?
WOMAN: You know why I'm in your office, Josh. You've been here with me for the last three or four hours.
[Via Longform.org's Best of 2010: The 10 Most Ridiculously Entertaining Reads of 2010, which is well worth a few minutes of your time.]
July 28th, 2010
A cry for funding if ever I heard one:
[...] Writing in IEEE Computer, Professor Noel Sharkey, from the University of Sheffield's Department of Computer Science, along with former Crimewatch presenter Nick Ross and Senior Interpol Advisor, Marc Goodman, warn of a coming robot crime wave in which military and police robots could be open to abuse from criminals.
Professor Sharkey urges fellow scientists and engineers working in robotics to be mindful of crime prevention and build in components in the software to assist with forensic analysis. He and his co-authors call for the police to consider building information databases that could track and trace robot crime, similar to our current fingerprint database system.
Professor Sharkey said: "Robots could assist a vast range of crime from drugs vending to assault and murder to voyeurism and burglary. Robots can't even be detected by the passive IR alarm systems in most of our houses. More pressing though, is the danger that criminals or terrorists will hack into armed military or police robots and pose a threat to life."
"The new crime wave might be 10 or 20 years away, but we should have no doubt it is coming. Robots will be used for crimes because they offer two elements that have always promoted crime: temptation and opportunity. We must act quickly and decisively to head off a pandemic of robot crime."
[Via Kevan Davis]
July 17th, 2010
Charlie Brooker on last week's news scrum in Rothbury:
The hunt for Raoul Moat got the news so flustered, it shrieked its reports at a pitch several hundred octaves above satire. Beneath a photograph of Britain's Most Wanted Man as an infant, The Sun ran the caption "Cute baby … but two-month-old Moat clenches his fists". On the front page, his estranged mother apparently wished him dead.
Moat was so enraged by this kind of coverage, he threatened to kill a member of the public for each inaccurate report he came across, like an extremist wing of the Press Complaints Commission. The police requested a news blackout on stories relating to Moat's private life. Soon the rolling news networks were reduced to filling hours of airtime with speculation about what kind of campsite he might have built. To make this seem exciting, they'd yabber that "the net" was "closing", or read out exhaustive lists of how many the guns the police had.
July 8th, 2010
How can you resist a news story that includes this comment from the German police?
"What motivated him to throw a puppy at the Hell's Angels is currently unclear," a police spokesman said.
[Via The Law West of Ealing Broadway]
March 20th, 2010
Andrew O'Hagan reflects on his first significant article for the London Review of Books, suddenly and terribly topical all over again:
I've been thinking all week about Jon Venables. In some way, I find it too distressing to write down what the case means to me, when so many people believe the young man is simply a lost cause, a person in the grip of evil. The papers have been ringing asking for comment: the messages go to voicemail. Outside, buses pass in quick succession, the passengers reading their newspapers and seeming very sure of something: 'Once Evil, Always Evil,' says the Mirror. I keep thinking of Meursault, who didn't know why he did it, who didn't see the size of the damage, who wasn't able to opt for survival, with the sun beating down and explaining nothing.
When I first wrote about the killing of James Bulger, in the LRB in March 1993, I was in my early twenties and it was the first proper piece I'd written for publication. The nation was in an uproar and something about the boys on the CCTV footage made me uneasy about myself. The editor sent me home to think about it, and over that day and long night I came to see my unease was to do with familiarity. Venables and Thompson were not only like the boys I knew, but like the boy I had been, and their crime was an extreme version, different in degree but not in essence, from things we had done on the housing estate outside Glasgow where I grew up. The amoral meandering of the boys was something I recognised. [...]
February 16th, 2010
Sydney Padua presents Lovelace and Babbage Vs. The Organist Pt 2, in which Babbage redefines the problem of crime, invents CCTV and wrecks his partnership with Ada Lovelace.
So geeky. So good.
February 4th, 2010
Being mugged is one thing. Being mugged and failing to notice that you've been stabbed is something else entirely:
Mugging victim Julia Popova calmly went home after being robbed on her way home from work – without realising she had a six inch knife stuck into her neck.
Yes, they do have a photo. And yes, it's as bad as you think it is.
October 6th, 2009
Perhaps it would be best if we just shut down all online banking systems now:
New malware being used by cybercrooks does more than let hackers loot a bank account; it hides evidence of a victim's dwindling balance by rewriting online bank statements on the fly, according to a new report.
The sophisticated hack uses a Trojan horse program installed on the victim's machine that alters html coding before it's displayed in the user's browser, to either erase evidence of a money transfer transaction entirely from a bank statement, or alter the amount of money transfers and balances. [...]
Alternatively, and more realistically, banks need to start routinely requiring confirmation of transactions via some means not involving the user's web browser: ringing the user on a preset phone number to confirm that they authorised any transaction to a new recipient, or any transaction over a certain value.
[Via Bruce Schneier]