The Null Device
I just found out that there is an entire blog devoted to Commodore 64 music; and it seems to be surprisingly busy too. Some of the things on it include C64 music nights (and there's one in Manchester this weekend; had I known about it sooner...), new music software which manages to squeeze ever more out of the C64 hardware, homebrewed MIDI interfaces, C64s grotesquely hacked into rack-mounted synths, instructions on making one's own cartridges, ways of using quirks of the C64 hardware to make sound, people selling C64 game ringtones, and links to creative projects like Casionova, an 8-bit Kraftwerk covers compilation and more.
Not to mention a Commodore-branded entry onto the media player market, which doesn't actually play C64 software or chiptunes. You'd think that whoever owns the brand would have done more than commissioning a generic media player and slapping the chickenhead logo onto it. I wonder if it's of any better quality than the "Commodore" DVD+Rs I bought last year, which burned perfectly well but failed to read afterward.
Drivers on a heritage steam railway in Somerset are fed up with having to stop their trains to clear the cremated remains of train buffs off the tracks:
At least eight mounds of ash, most accompanied by flowers, have been found on the track since the start of the summer. They are believed to be the mortal remains of steam enthusiasts whose last wish was to be laid to rest within earshot of a locomotive.The operators of the West Somerset Railway have offered train enthusiasts the more considerate alternative to have their ashes shovelled into the engine's firebox and puffed out of the funnel.
A fascinating article from the CIA describing, in some detail, the working career of a spy in the Soviet Union, from his volunteering to help the US in the late 1970s, through his delivery of key details of Soviet aircraft technology, and ultimately to his arrest in 1985 (he was subsequently found guilty of high treason and executed), and describing points of tradecraft such as methods of covert communication under the noses of the KGB, as well as mundane details of his daily life and psychological motivations:
Another technique that was used to defeat KGB surveillance was to disguise the identity of the case officer being sent out to meet with Tolkachev. This technique was first used in this operation in June 1980. John Guilsher drove to the US Embassy building at about 7:20 p.m., ostensibly having been invited to dinner at the apartment of an Embassy officer who lived there. Once inside, he disguised himself so that when he later left the compound in another vehicle, he would not be recognized by KGB surveillants waiting outside. Checking to ensure that he was free of surveillance, Guilsher, while still in the vehicle, changed out of his western clothes and made himself look as much as possible like a typical, working-class Russian by putting on a Russian hat and working-class clothes, taking a heavy dose of garlic, and splashing some vodka on himself. Guilsher then left his vehicle and proceeded on foot and by local public transportation to a public phone booth, where he called the agent out for a meeting at a prearranged site.
The periodically heavy KGB surveillance on various case officers, often without any apparent logic, did, however, force the CIA to become more creative in its personal-meeting tradecraft. A new countersurveillance technique that was used for this operation involved what was called a "Jack-in-the-Box" (JIB). A JIB (a popup device made to look like the upper half of a person) allowed a case officer to make a meeting with an agent even while under vehicular surveillance.
Typically, a JIB would be smuggled into a car disguised as a large package or the like. Subsequently Tolkachev's case officer and other station personnel would set out in the car many hours before a planned meeting with the agent. Following a preplanned route, the driver at some point would make a series of turns designed to provide a brief period when the trailing surveillance car would lose sight of the car containing the case officer and other CIA personnel. After one of these turns, Tolkachev's case officer would jump from the slowly moving vehicle, at which time the driver would activate the JIB. The JIB would give the appearance to any trailing surveillance team of being the missing case officer. The car would then continue its route, eventually arriving at a given destination, usually the home of one of the other CIA personnel in the car. The JIB, again concealed in a large package, would then be removed from the car.
One of Tolkachev's former case officers recalls that Tolkachev would periodically brainstorm on the subject, suggesting wildly improbable scenarios, such as having the CIA fly a specially made light aircraft into a rural area of the Soviet Union, where Tolkachev and his family could be picked up. When discussing that particular possibility, he noted that the only problem might be that such an aircraft designed to evade Soviet aircraft detection systems might have trouble accommodating his wife, due to her weight!The piece concludes, quoting grudging praise from KGB officers for the way the CIA ran this model agent, and noting that his son is apparently now a prominent architect in Russia, suggesting that he successfully protected his family from the consequences of his capture.