Having A Unique Name Helps

I’ve been on a genealogical search for, what I reckon must be over six years now, information on my paternal grandfather.

My search has spanned the globe, via phone calls, the Internet, letters, flights and via all manner of friendly & helpful folk, both official and unofficial.

I’ve had religious organisations helping me, the international Red Cross, multiple national archives and records agencies assisting me.

I’ve tracked down towns through old photographs, follow the faintest rumours from Africa to Europe and investigated hunches, no matter how small or obscure.

The trail’s alternated between hopeful & warm to pointless & lifeless.

In six years I’ve learnt very little, and gotten almost nowhere with my goal of obtaining my EU passport, but I have learnt one thing…

It really helps if you have an oddball surname!

As frustrating as it’s been for me, I can only imagine what genealogical enthusiasts go through when hunting for someone with a name such as John Smith.

Enter name to search for: John Smith
Computing: [ ////////// ]
Output: "Mate, you're F*cked!"


Karaoke for Geeks

We’ve all been bored at some stage. We’ve all been REALLY bored at some stage.

I doubt any of you have ever been bored  enough to sit down and conclude that what the world needs is a website filled with user-submitted videos of themselves mimicing modem handshakes (the sound your old modem made when dialing up to the ISP).


In true new school fashion however, you can now sign up to the Facebook Page* and the Twitter feed*.

* Both were defunct at the time of writing this although they are listed on the site.

Feeling challenged?

Submit your Bleeoo!!

Source: Presurfer

Do your Ethics Match your Morals?

Yesterday I came across an online ad’ listing a copy of Mein Kampf for sale.

The seller described the book as a gift given to his grandparents, perhaps questioningly, as a wedding gift.

This got me thinking… We’ll use the ubiquitous and provocational Nazi regime as our primary example here…

Much of the prejudice experienced in our lifetime, a lot of it has been bred into it over generations. This is the reason young people nowadays will, without flinching, without thought and without forethought yell and lobby against any semblance of ration declaring an opposing, alternative or open-ended view upon the Nazi regime.

Anyone wanting to examine the regime and its pre and post history, its tactics and strategies or its idelogies is doomed from the start due to the overwhelming wave of ignorant naysayers.

blah, blah, blah NAZI blah, blah, blah.” “ACK! NAZI! BAD, BAD, BAD!”

I’m fairly certain most of you reading this (many less than than those who started reading this; point in case) are already convinced I’m a Nazi and worthy of abolishment to somewhere fiery.

So we’ve established that we’re dealing with a heated topic here, and that the general populous is largely spewing placeboic vitriol in response.

This begs the question: Can you ethically make money out of something you morally oppose?

Nazi ‘collectibles’ (it’s not memorabilia!) are a huge global business with many thousands of collectors, all in varying degrees.

Some, no doubt, are (personally and mentally at least) followers of the original regime’s policies (Neo Nazis are something else), some are general ‘war’ collectors, a portion are history buffs and some are simply traders.

I would wager however, that a sizeable contingent of the above do not support the Nazi regime. Whether that is as a result of (hopefully unbiased) education leading to that conclusion or the general subjective ignorance is another debate.

If you do not support the Nazi regime, is it righteous to trade and live off of the remnants of it?

If you need some other examples, think of Che Guevara‘s image – prominently displayed on everything from buildings to T-shirts, from photo’ form to Andy Warhol-esque style.

Camouflage design clothing when you are the first to protest against war?

Trading in goods related to a film based on the history of conflict and human/human-inflicted animal suffering?

If you’re guilty of any of these, I’ve got news for you…


Don’t be evil – Be Anonymous

When you search Google,

and click on a link,

your search term is sent to that site,

along with your browser & computer info,

which can often uniquely identify you.

That’s creepy, but who cares about some random site?

Those sites usually have third-party ads,

and those third-parties build profiles about you,

and that’s why those ads follow you everywhere.

That’s creepy too, but who cares about some herpes ads?

Your profile can also be sold,

and potentially show up in unwanted places,

like insurance, credit & background checks.

But there’s more.

Remember your searches?

Google also saves them.

Your saved searches can be legally requested,

and then come back to bite you (happens).

Or a bad Google employee could go snooping (happens).

Or Google could get hacked (happens).

That’s why we don’t send your searches to other sites.

Or store any personal information at all.

That’s our [DDG] privacy policy in a nutshell.

So don’t get tracked when searching.

Use DuckDuckGo instead.

Privacy is just one of many reasons why it’s awesome.

That li’l excerpt is from Don’TrackUs, a promo’ site for the DuckDuckGo search engine. If you weren’t aware of how these things work and thought that Googling and ‘Liking’ all and sundry was good fun, I hope your eyes are a little wider now? 😉

At what stage does ‘Don’t be evil‘ become being evil? I wonder…

DDG has a fantastic approach to ‘clean’ search with an easy-to-read and detailed explanation of what’s on offer, why you need it and what it’s protecting you from.

Staying mostly anonymous requires a holistic approach though, so be sure to check out the neat-o Firefox add-ons on the DNT site and think before you click.


Green Art: Binh Danh

Binh Danh received his MFA from Stanford University in 2004 and has emerged as an artist of national importance with work that investigates his Vietnamese heritage and our collective memory of war, both in Viet Nam and Cambodia—work that, in his own words, deals with “mortality, memory, history, landscape, justice, evidence, and spirituality.” His technique incorporates his invention of the chlorophyll printing process, in which photographic images appear embedded in leaves through the action of photosynthesis. His newer body of work focuses on the Daguerreotype process.

Binh Danh has been included in important exhibitions at museums across the country, as well as the collections of the Corcoran Art Gallery, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, the deYoung Museum, and the George Eastman House, among many others. He received the 2010 Eureka Fellowship from the Fleishhacker Foundation and is represented by Haines Gallery in San Francisco, CA and Lisa Sette Gallery in Scottsdale, AZ.

For those of you want the short and layman version, Binh has succeeded in creating picture-perfect artworks using flora as his substrate.

Photo negatives and the substrate are combined and left to develop in the sun over a number of days.

Due to the texture of the flora, an average of four out of every five developed prints are discarded due to imperfections.

A number of Binh’s prints have been preserved in resin.

Now that’s pushing art to the next level.

Visit Binh’s website at binhdanh.com

You can find his exhibition history here.

The Grathio Gadgets

The title to this post could just as easily have have been ‘Awesome Gadgets You Never Knew You Needed‘.

Steve Hoefer is the epitome of a gadget freak. The difference though, is that he creates his own gadgets – and often comes up with unusual solutions to passed-over problems in the process.

Based in San Francisco, Steve describes himself as an “inventor and creative problem solver “.

In reality, that means he spends his time tinkering with all manner of interesting technology, from game programming to circuit board wizardry and general tech’ fabrication.

You can get the full story on Grathio and Steve here.

Here are some of Steve’s fantastic creations and solutions:

1. The Book Light

* Make your own! Instructions here.

2. Secret Knock Detecting Lock

* Make your own! Instructions here.

3. Touch Screen Glove Mod’

This 5 minute hack solves a problem of modern electronics: capacitive touch screens (like in the iPhone, iPad, and others) don’t work well with gloves. By simply sewing through the fingertip a few times with conductive thread you give the screen enough capacitance to detect your touch without having to take off your gloves.  (Or without having to use your nose, like I was doing when I got the inspiration for this mod.)  The conductive thread is great because it’s not unpleasant to touch, it won’t scratch the screen, and it’s non destructive to most gloves.

This idea was so popular that several merchants contacted me to let me know it was responsible for a spike in conductive thread sales and at least one opened up a new product line of conductive thread samplers for projects just like this.

* Make your own! Instructions here.