Friday, December 12, 2008

Poor Little Rich Kids

The New York Times has always had a reputation for viewing the world through some very expensively tinted spectacles. Even in happier economic times it seemed to have a curious perspective on what constituted financial hardship, like in this article about Silicon Valley millionaires who don't feel rich enough because their neighbours own even bigger houses or drive better Ferraris.

However, the credit crunch seems to be casting the old grey lady even further adrift from ordinary people's concerns. This week alone has seen not one but two brilliantly badly judged tales of monetary suffering. First there was this excellent piece by Frank Bruni on how tough it is in New York to feed two people for under $100 (or around two days' pay on minimum wage). Then today we have this treat focusing on the teenage offspring of formerly wealthy parents who are having to struggle by without such basic necessities as pilates classes and sushi lunches.

Breaks your heart, doesn't it? And all this just weeks before Christmas too. It almost makes you forget about people losing their savings, jobs, and homes.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Geek Who (Nearly) Destroyed the Earth

This story from Wired about Dan Kaminsky, a computer consultant who found an astonishing, fundamental security flaw in the internet's underlying architecture, is interesting for two reasons.

The first is the way that a relatively low-level backroom geek could find a decades-old crack in the system's foundations that had the potential to wipe out not just individual websites or companies, but to destroy the whole structure of the internet and just about everything connected to it.

The second is the unspoken subtext that Kaminsky is starting to regret behaving like such a good boy scout after discovering the problem, and now secretly wishes he had been bad-assed enough to become some sort of international supervillain instead of heading straight to the authorities. You can bet he's now hard at work trying to find a second needle in the haystack.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Malcolm Gladwell: The Kicking Point

As anyone familiar with the work of Dorothy Parker knows, it's much more fun to read reviews that heap derision rather than praise on their subject. Which is why I enjoyed this Andrew Orlowski demolition job "The dumb, dumb world of Malcolm Gladwell: A guru for the brain dead". Even if you don't agree with everything Orlowski has to say, you have to admire the art in his vitriol. And, just in case that title wasn't enough to entice you into reading the whole thing, here's a short extract which serves as a handy distillation of the rest of the piece:
The man [Gladwell] has a 6,300 word disclosure statement on his website. All it needs is: "I've got nothing to say, move along."