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, BADBAD!”

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.