Abbie Hoffman’s Steal This Book is a page turner. Loads of historically resonant words, including these handy phreaking tips:
“AT&T, like all public utilities, passes itself off as a service owned by the people, while in actuality nothing could be further from the truth. Only a small percentage of the public owns stock in these companies and a tiny elite clique makes all the policy decisions. Ripping-off the phone company is an act of revolutionary love, so help spread the word.”
“You can make a local 10 cent call for 2 cents by spitting on the pennies and dropping them in the nickel slot. As soon as they are about to hit the trigger mechanism, bang the coin-return button. Another way is to spin the pennies counter-clockwise into the nickel slot. Hold the penny in the slot with your finger and snap it spinning with a key or other flat object. Both systems take a certain knack, but once you’ve perfected the technique, you’ll always have it in your survival kit.
If two cents is too much, how about a call for 1 penny? Cut a 1/4 strip off the telephone book cover. Insert the cardboard strip into the dime slot as far as it will go. Drop a penny in the nickel slot until it catches in the mechanism (spinning will help). Then slowly pull the strip out until you hear the dial tone.
A number 14 brass washer with a small piece of scotch tape over one side of the hole will not only get a free call, but works in about any vending machine that takes dimes. You can get a box of thousands for about a dollar at any hardware store. You should always have a box around for phones, laundromats, parking meters and drink machines.”
The prospect of the $50 barrel of oil is focusing the minds of the West’s policy makers and business leaders nicely. The last time we had a proper oil crisis the rich economies comprehensively cocked it up and wound up more dependent on oil and its fragile producer network than ever before – one of the twentieth century’s great missed opportunities (try to picture the world now with the oil producers reduced to suppliers of a secondary energy source… It’s a different place all together and one in which 9/11 and Iraq would probably never have happened).
This time I think we’ll get it right, though. The planet-wide rush for alternatives – hydrogen in particular – will be faster and more widespread than anyone expects. You will be driving a hybrid SUV or a fuel cell car in ten years and the Northern European economies, in particular, will get the majority of their domestic power from renewables within twenty-five (the NIMBYs, meanwhile, will need to be marginalised – we have no choice this time round).
Business Week on the unexpected revival of solar power. The Economist’s excellent survey of the car industry (Economist surveys are free, I think, but may require free registration), including this piece about electric cars. James Surowiecki in Wired Magazine points out that Hybrids are already selling fast with practically no advertising, no real Government subsidy and no track record. MSNBC on a fascinating and possibly Quixotic effort to kick-start hydrogen without waiting for fuel cells by converting ordinary internal combustion engines to run on H².
This last, from a firm entertainingly called Intergalactic Hydrogen is particularly interesting because it looks like it might be one of those tipping point projects. They don’t want to convert us all. They’ll probably convert thousands to tens-of-thousands of rich Americans to hydrogen – for reasons of altruism, fashion or paranoia – but they’ll seed suburbia with hydrogen refueling stations and they might just produce the kind of critical mass necessary to trigger mass adoption.
Lots of handsome Bulgarian paper money from a huge private collection of old bank notes, bonds and so on. Bank note design is a fascinating collision of authenticity (not a forgery), accountability (‘promise to pay’) and aesthetics (National pride, solidity, ‘bankability’, history). How will a nation communicate these values once physical currencies are history and States lose their monopoly over their production?
Brad DeLong (who is, like, you know, the Dickens of economists or something – at least in terms of output – and, as far as I know, is also the only economist who links to this weblog so is obviously all right by me) has a reassuring, post-Moore’s Law take on the ‘deflation anxiety’ afflicting much of his profession – from Wired Magazine
If you’ve ever used a warm, comfortable, expensively-stocked book shop as a showroom for books you’ll later buy more cheaply online and felt slightly dirty about it, you’ll recognise Mike Lee’s feelings. He even has a word for it: shopshifting.