The Null Device


You know you're growing old when you're in a band venue, along with a bunch of fresh-faced kids sitting/standing around in their social groups, and start to wonder what the hell you're doing there among them, a stranger in a strange land.


The latest business model from Japan: Wakaresaseya, or "breaker-uppers", who work for firms with names like Office Shadow, and, for a fee, specialise in breaking up people's relationships, using various cloak-and-dagger tactics:

The person a client hopes to banish--the "target," in industry parlance--often is lulled into a trap through a seemingly chance meeting in a bar, at a party, on a flight. A moment of weakness captured by a camera hidden in a cigarette box or behind a lapel is enough to upend his or her life. Though breaking up is hard to do, these firms boast 95% success rates.
One of the toughest cases for Daiko Research Office involved a husband who refused to leave his mistress despite repeated efforts at discrediting her. Finally, after two years, the firm lured the pair into a promising business deal using dummy offices, business cards and secretaries. It saddled them with $160,000 in debt and presented him with a choice: Give her up or pay the debt in full.


A Turkish publisher is being prosecuted under anti-terrorism laws for publishing a translation of several lectures by Noam Chomsky. The government alleges that the lectures, which criticise Turkey's treatment of its Kurdish minority, constitute separatist propaganda, which is illegal. (via Plastic)


Astronomers have discovered that, on average, the universe is turquoise. (via Found)


War on Economic/Copyright Terrorism: Jon Johansen, who published DeCSS, has been charged with computer crime for bypassing DVD access-control mechanisms. The law under which he is charged has been used to prosecute crackers breaking into banks; there is no precedent applying it to copy-control mechanisms, but Hollywood and the US Government are pushing hard for one. (And you don't want to get in the way of the US Government; just ask the Afghans.) If convicted, Johansen faces 2 years in prison. (Though presumably he should be thankful he is not going to be extradited to the US; Norwegian prisons are probably more humane than US federal prisons.) The usual pirasymps are lobbying for the charges to be dropped.

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Swiss game theorists have found that wrath makes the world go 'round; in particular, anger, and the tendency to punish cheats (even if it costs one personally), contribute greatly to social cohesion, and allow people to cooperate without being exploited by freeloaders.


According to New Scientist, the recording racket are having second thoughts about copy-restricted CDs, with BMG abandoning research into such technologies. Though they still have the chutzpah to assert that levies on blank media are not linked to consumers having any right to copy music.