Tagged: internet

A Hot Tip on Cue from the Swabbie Hobby Lobby

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An update about the True Authorship of the Pirate Resignation Letter– now with 100% more Angus scrotum:

Back in April, in the comment thread of a post about our recondite plans for global dominion, a Popehat visitor using the nick "Will Nobilis" seemed to claim authorship of the well-known Pirate Resignation Letter. In one comment, Will Nobilis wrote,

"…a random web search led me to find out Ken and Patrick (and someone named Mike) wrote about my pirate resignation letter…."

This claim surprised me, so I poked around for other posts by Will Nobilis, and, behold!, appended to Ken's variant of "The Nymph's Reply" there was the following humblebrag from 2011:

"I am glad to see it has made it to a site I frequently enjoy reading and I hope it brought you as much amusement as it did for me to write it and send it to my bosses back then."

In Will's claim I detected a whiff of Alvarez. So I asked him to clarify. I haven't bothered to grep the logs for a visit from him to that page since then, but we haven't noticed his nick or IP since. Whatevs….

This little episode is what prompted my recent post on The Origin of the Pirate Resignation Letter. A few years ago, by the usual means, I had traced the PRL back as far as the early aughties–specifically, to the third of May 18082001–and had come up with a tentative attribution: "As far as I've been able to tell through clever googling in my favorite search engine, the renowned and much beloved Pirate Resignation Letter was written by Chris Castle…." This Castle chap had posted in a forum, now defunct, under the nick "The Bartender" and had stated that

"In the interest of disclosure I should note …[that t]he entirety of the letter was not drafted by solely myself[.] I prefer to think of myself as the 'Producer' of the document".

As if summoned by low-tier conjuration, a Popehat commenter named "The Bartender" bearing email and IP affinity to Castle turned up to comment on the thread (without disclaiming credit): "Thank you for finding this!…" In neither case did the drinkslinger cited a source.

Anyhow, I don't mean to get exercised, but the pilates thickens: there's new evidence that may set the record straight. For comes now a future reader of Popehat, the humble, scoundrel-hatin' Rob G——-, who intimates that all the preceding claimants, real or imagined, are right bastards, and who adduces credible evidence to support his own authorship. He confirms that he was not posting as "Will Nobilis" and that he ain't "The Bartender". By email, RG explains:

A friend of mine sent me a link to a recent post you guys made about the supposed "original" author of the pirate resignation letter.  (To wit: http://www.popehat.com/2013/04/24/origin-of-the-pirate-resignation-letter/)  She suggested I send you a note and square the issue – because I indeed wrote the pirate resignation letter in the winter of 2000.

I've been gratified for over a decade that it's been re-posted and reused more than a few times, but I don't believe I've ever before seen someone attempt to claim authorship, until now.  As such, I direct your attention to the following link on the Internet Wayback Machine:

As a bit of background, I was a miserable IT guy at Merrill Lynch back in the 1990's, and during the waning moments of my career I took to writing resignation letters as a bit of a hobby.  Two of the ones I wrote I later forwarded on to i-resign.com, and the pirate letter was the one I actually did use as my resignation letter from Merrill in December of 2000.  The "Chris" mentioned in the letter was my boss at the time, a guy named Chris O——-, and the word "porcine" was actually "bovine" in the original letter.  (When you work for a company with a large, scrotum-displaying bull as its logo, it's obvious to see the reasons for my use of the term.)  The eventual recipient of my actual resignation letter was a gentleman named John F——-, who had, at time of receipt, long been convinced of my eccentric incompatibility with Merrill.

Someone sent me a link years ago to a reply I suppose you guys did – it was droll and appreciated.  I don't really want any notoriety or "credit," but I wanted to set the record straight – I don't like liars.


Rob G——-
(I have truncated names to protect the privateeracy of the parties embroiled.)
Thanks to Mr. G——- for providing this info and a link to what seems to be the earliest extant occurrence of the PRL. If anyone can show just cause why this resignation letter and this author cannot lawfully be joined together, let him parley now or forever walk the plank.

Origin of the Pirate Resignation Letter

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As far as I've been able to tell through clever googling in my favorite search engine, the renowned and much beloved Pirate Resignation Letter was written by Chris Castle and delivered to James Bear (deceased), former managing partner of Knobbe, Martens, Olson & Bear, LLP.

After using the letter, Castle shared it with his friend, user "Otter Von Pop" of the (now defunct) BirdSunEye.com forum, and that user posted it on 17 October 2003 both as a forum post and as a Word doc attachment.

Later that morning, Chris Castle, posting as "The Bartender" confirmed the story and reported on the (first ever!) recipient's humorless (or brilliantly funny!) reply.

Harvested from the past and hosted right here on Popehat is that original forum thread:

Original Pirate Resignation Letter Thread

Enjoy this bit of net.history! And if you have anything to add about the people or circumstances, please share what you know in the comments.

UPDATE: There's a new pretender to the helm!

What's the Frequency, Flik?

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The internet is pretty slick. Every attached computer has a unique address sort of like a phone number. (Sometimes, entire sub-networks lurk behind a single address through the miracles of IP and routing and such, just as entire switchboards of phones may lie behind the phone number of a main switchboard, but that's another story.)

Thanks to Transmission Control Protocol (TCP), files can be sent from one address to another with amazing efficiency. The brilliance of TCP's design lies in this: the rate at which stuff is sent automatically throttles up or down in response to network latency as measured by response time!

The Office – S5/E9: The Surplus from Vimeo.

Let's break it down. TCP is cool because "transmission control" sounds like "mission control" and that sounds like something NASA would have. But TCP is also cool because of how it works. Grossly simplified, it works like this:

  • You want to send that document requesting a pony to someone who has sent you a blind solicitation.
  • The networky stuff in your computer breaks the document into a bunch of "packets". Just like real parcels sent through UPS or Fedex or that other service, each packet is wrapped with a label explaining where it came from, where it's going, and so forth.
  • The packets follow various routes to their destination. As they arrive, the recipient (i.e., networky stuff on the other guy's computer) sends a receipt (called an "ack") to the sender. Meanwhile, the recipient uses the wrapper info to figure out whether all the packets have arrived, to put them in their correct order, and finally to reassemble the document. Transmission Accomplished!
  • The best part is the flow control. The sender starts by spraying out some packets and timing how long it takes to get a receipt for them. If the receipts come quickly, the sender sends more packets at a time. If the receipts come slowly, the sender sends fewer packets at a time (even stopping cold, if necessary). And since there's an ongoing flow of shipments and receipts and timing, the sender can avoid flooding the network but can also avoid letting bandwidth go to waste! Faster and faster! Slower and slower! No, faster! Slower! Strike that! Reverse it!

Flik, from Pixar's A Bug's Life

Now, here's the trippy science factoid du jour: researchers at Leland Stanford Junior University have discovered that Harvester Ants (including, apparently, the most venemous insect in the world) have been using TCP all along… behind Vint Cerf's and Bob Kahn's backs! Says the press release:

the rate at which harvester ants – which forage for seeds as individuals – leave the nest to search for food corresponds to food availability.

A forager won't return to the nest until it finds food. If seeds are plentiful, foragers return faster, and more ants leave the nest to forage. If, however, ants begin returning empty handed, the search is slowed, and perhaps called off.

They also found that the ants followed two other phases of TCP. One phase is known as slow start, which describes how a source sends out a large wave of packets at the beginning of a transmission to gauge bandwidth; similarly, when the harvester ants begin foraging, they send out foragers to scope out food availability before scaling up or down the rate of outgoing foragers.

Another protocol, called time-out, occurs when a data transfer link breaks or is disrupted, and the source stops sending packets. Similarly, when foragers are prevented from returning to the nest for more than 20 minutes, no more foragers leave the nest.

Further research into what these critters might teach us will be undertaken at the newly funded FourmiLab. Meanwhile, I leave you with a meditation on Proverbs 6:6 by e. e. cummings: go(perpe)go from his 1935 manuscript No Thanks (in George James Firmage, ed., E. E. Cummings: Complete Poems, 1904-1962, Revised, NY: Norton, 1994, p. 403 or thereabouts).

¡Órale, Cisco! ¿Eres mi amigo?

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About 2 months ago, Cisco pushed to its consumer-grade routers a firmware upgrade that stripped away the ability to log into and configure the routers locally. Instead, consumers thus upgefirmed were treated to a Cloud Connect signup page where they could establish an account that would centralize management of consumers' routers in Cisco's servana.

By the fifth of July, Cisco had backpedaled. "Did we say mandatory? Did we push that firmware? Oopsie. Our bad." They then made it clear that any consumer could opt out and maintain local control of his consumer-grade router by simply following the friendly instructions, which begin "We are sorry to see you downgrading to our Classic software (non-Cloud)…."

Now, via Ars Technica, comes word of the latest fad in centralized management of the people's resources.

…wireless researchers in Germany proposed a way to improve the communications abilities of first responders…: creating an “emergency switch” that lets government employees disable the security mechanisms in the wireless routers people have set up in their own homes. This would allow first responders to use all the routers within range to enhance the capabilities of the mesh networks that allow them to communicate with each other.

…The residents’ wireless traffic would still remain private, in theory…..

This even though bandwidth is already set aside for that purpose.

I, for one, regret that I have but one subnet to allocate for my country. But just to hedge, I'll be printing up a selection of bumper stickers and t-shirts featuring salient slogans:

Think globally

Killswitch locally

Government is Just a Name for the Things

we relinquish to nonaccountable bureaucracies

It Takes a Village

To Distributively Deny a Service

We Don't Need To Show You No Stinking Passwords

since you already have root

Anyhow,  I'm all for it. First Defenders, after all. And The Children.

What could possibly go wrong?

Above And Below The Law II: Electric Boogaloo

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I love the internet.

Unlike many of you, I remember days when home internet access was limited to a few superbrains and no one else.  (A middle school friend's dad had it.  He designed the electrical systems on the ALVIN submersible, as well as a lot of stuff he refused to talk about even to his son.)

And only the internet could have made possible what I read this morning: supremely erudite Cato Institute scholar Walter Olson, commenting on Lindsay Lohan's Twitter feed.  Though the two seem to be ideological twins, Olson is critical of Lohan's research methodology on federal sentencing policy.

In the 1970s you had to read underground magazines, circulated only in certain Chicago book and record stores, to enjoy this sort of thing.  Today it's available to everyone.

I Guess John Edwards Wasn't Available

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By now news has broken that the Obama administration hired a New York personal injury lawyer by the name of Eric Turkewitz as the first "White House law blogger."  Yes, the White House will soon have another weblog.

Turkewitz is perhaps best known to the world as the lawyer who sued a Staten Island liquor store on behalf of an alleged robber, who slipped on an icy sidewalk trying to flee the scene of his crime.  He maintains a plaintiffs' personal injury and medical malpractice law firm in Manhattan.  He's quite well known on the web for the "New York Personal Injury Attorney Blog," where Turkewitz spouts off his opinions on everything from oral sex to cross examining doctors for profit.

I've encountered Turkewitz on the web in the past, and even linked to him.  He's a skillful lawyer.  He's an entertaining blogger.  He's probably a decent man, despite the damage he has wreaked upon America's already overburdened insurance industry.  But as the White House's new "public voice" on the law, I predict Turkewitz will be an unmitigated disaster.

First, he's a security risk.  Those who follow legal blogging have suspected for some time that Turkewitz was in talks to take such a position.  He's hinted as much on his blog (which went strangely silent a week ago), on Twitter, and in comments at others' blogs, where he suddenly ramped up the pro-administration rhetoric, even rabidly defending his future masters' attacks on the auto industry in the (now infamously debunked) California Toyota accelerator caseTypically, a man who has been offered a sensitive government position doesn't let the world know it while he's being investigated by the FBI.  What will Turkewitz leak the next time the Obama administration vets nominees for the Supreme Court, as is widely expected to happen this summer if John Paul Stevens retires?

Second, he's not just a security risk because he's loose lipped.  A careful reading of Turkewitz's record as a blogger raises questions about his patriotism, especially as it pertains to the War on Terror.  Consider past reckless statements on Professor John Yoo, whom Turkewitz described as a "torture lawyer".  As I understand it (a friend who serves on staff for the Senate Judiciary Committee confirms the administration was moving to hire a legal commentator for the web), Turkewitz won't be serving the press office, but the office of White House counsel.

If a "ticking time bomb" scenario arises, if Bin Laden or some other high Al Qaeda figure is captured and interrogated, will Turkewitz, as a member of the White House legal team, be able to restrain himself?  Or will he denounce fellow government lawyers as torture artists?

Third, if Turkewitz's past is any indicator, you can forget about changing the tone in Washington, or any hint of civility.  The next time the administration (or perhaps Turkewitz himself) disagrees with a court, can we expect the mockery and hostility that led Turkewitz to denounce a past Supreme Court nominee as "error-riddled" and an "embarrassingly silly hypocrite"?

Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, why has the White House chosen a medical malpractice lawyer to speak for it on legal issues?  Is this some sort of payback to Fred Baron and the rest of the plaintiffs' trial lawyer bar?  Is this evidence of some new "health care reform" initiative for the benefit of lawyers who prey on the medical profession?  To my knowledge Turkewitz has never practiced as a constitutional lawyer.  Why has the White House (Obama is also a lawyer, heavily indebted to the trial bar for his election) chosen this man, who is no more qualified to speak about the Constitution than the Geto Boyz, to be its voice on issues such as free speech, national security, and the constitutionality of the health insurance mandate?

This is just the tip of the iceberg where the White House's new law blogger is concerned.  Eric Turkewitz has maintained a public voice for years.  Expect Republicans, and others who care about the dignity of the law, to dig up far more as Turkewitz becomes the administration's new mouthpiece.

It's a shame.  A White House law blog could be a great idea, a tool to engage with citizens about the part of their government many understand least.  But to put it in the hands of a character assassin like Eric Turkewitz?  Rather than "Hope" and "Change", this looks like business as usual for Washington.

Update: 4/2/2010 I suppose I should have guessed that this was an April Fools Day joke on the part of Mr. Turkewitz.  Sneaky New York lawyers, can't trust a one of them.

As documented by Turkewitz, it also appears that you can't trust certain New York newspapers.  I was sure we'd get the right-wing blogosphere with this post, and the media would ignore it.  It turns out (I have a few emails from bloggers I'd tried to deceive, commending Turkewitz's joke and saying "Thanks, but no thanks," to me) that bloggers are a litle more in touch with the calendar than certain big time journalists.

And I Thought I Was Wasting Time. In Fact, I Was Advancing The Cause Of SCIENCE!

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If you've played World of Warcraft for any appreciable length of time (I know that a number of our readers have), would you please consider responding to this anonymous survey?

The survey is promulgated by one of my wife's graduate assistants.  It is not intrusive, nor will it consume a great portion of your day.  It is part of a larger research project on the ways in which self-selecting groups (hence Warcraft) use the internet to obtain desired information from dumps of voluminous yet widely dispersed data.

A randomly selected participant will receive a small cash prize.  I declined my eligibility for the prize, so your odds of winning are that much higher.  As a bonus, by increasing the size of the sample, you will enhance the survey's validity, thereby assisting a promising researcher in her career.

It Says A Lot About Twitter…

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That the email letting me know that [someone on the Popehat blogroll] is following our Twitter account has this as its third sentence:

If you believe [someone on the Popehat blogroll] is engaging in abusive behavior on Twitter, you may report [someone on the Popehat blogroll] for spam.

I enjoy using Twitter, and someday, perhaps as a Friday timewaster, I'll post a big list of links to everyone we follow on the service.  They'll give readers an instant reading list of interesting things to read, in 140 characters or less.

But I'd guess that over 90% of the accounts that have followed our own were spammers.  In other words, it's about as useful as Usenet.  Twitter would be well served by some stringent bot protection, but that would run counter to its "Billions and billions served" claims.

At least with McDonalds. shareholders can determine exactly how many hamburgers are served, and can be assured that real humans are paying for them*, if not eating them.

*My dogs get Chicken McNuggets on the drive home from visits to the veterinarian.

Censorship: Not Evil

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At least according to Google:

For most of the past week, when someone typed "Michelle Obama" in the popular search engine Google, one of the first images that came up was a picture of the American first lady altered to resemble a monkey.

On Wednesday morning, the racially offensive image appeared to have been removed from any Google Image searches for "Michelle Obama."

I'm about to reprint the image, below the jump.  Be warned, gentle readers, that it is very offensive.


Help Me Out Here, People

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Is this a story about police overreaching?  Or is it a story about the horny idiocy of young men, one in particular, who are so stupid that they can be taken in by an internet photo of a pretty girl? Could it be a story about the internet becoming a virtual Oceania, where Google and Facebook replace the Telescreen?  Or more prosaically, is it a story about the incompetence of criminal defense lawyers?  If I'd been Adam Bauer's lawyer, I'd have forced the state to try this case, though I'm not a criminal attorney.  (My trial experience comes from insurance defense, but that would be enough to get the charges against Bauer dismissed.)  Or is it a cautionary tale about the foolishness of laypeople who represent themselves in court?

Am I missing something?  Could it be all of these, and more?

Marc Randazza, My Weird, Scary Hero

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We'd have covered the lawsuit filed by University of Miami law professor Donald Jones against the legal gossip site Above the Law yesterday, except that we were busy.  And everyone else got to it first.

Suffice it to say that the lawsuit was ridiculous.  It betrayed fundamental misunderstandings of law, and the nature of the internet on the part of its author. The best blogposts on the matter were written by Ben Sheffner, analyzing the demerits of the suit, and Eric Turkewitz, who played against type and provided wise, conciliatory counsel to the plaintiff, the sort of advice one might expect from, oh I dunno, a law professor.

(And by, "against type" I don't mean Turkewitz isn't wise.  I mean that his conciliatory advice doesn't play into the stereotype of a plaintiff's personal injury attorney, but I digress…)

The suit was dismissed, voluntarily and without prejudice, one day after news of it broke on the web.  We're pleased to note that Above the Law was represented by longtime Popehat friend Marc Randazza, who blogs on the First Amendment among other things at the Legal Satyricon.  Randazza got the case dismissed with one letter.

Randazza, an "adjunct" professor himself (meaning he actually practices law) has long maintained that the legal academy does a poor job of educating its students.  Non-adjunct, "academic" professors, tenured or not, are often so removed from the practice of law (at least as it relates to litigation) that they have little of practical benefit to offer the eager young minds who pay their exorbitant salaries.

I think this case proves Randazza's point.

If You Die Tomorrow, How Will Facebook Remember You?

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Poor Mr. X.  I feel for your family and friends.  I don't know much about you or them, but I'm sure I'll meet a number of them when your estate files suit against my client.  In the meantime, this is what I do know about you.

You were a fan of Megan Fox.  I'm sure your wife was pleased by that.

You liked to insert a device known as a "bierstick" into your mouth.

bierstickYou had degrading tastes in soft-core pornography.

You had a prostate condition.

And that's about it.  Your obituary is already behind a firewall, so as far as the internet is concerned your tombstone is shaped like a beer-injecting plastic penis.  Long may it stand.

As for the rest of you, I know your mother told you always to wear clean underwear, in case you were in an accident.  But are you wearing a clean Facebook page?

h0w D0 i luv U? 1et me c0unt tha wayz :)

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How would the sort of man who doesn't get responses on OK Cupid reinterpret the classics of romantic poetry and novels?

"if a hotti3 lieks a man & dont ende@vr 2 conceel it OMG he must hit it"

"shl i cmp@r U to a sumrz d@ lol?"

"no i no i shud think wel of myself :-< but that isnt enuff if othrz dont luv me i wud rathr dye then live kthxbye"

"1 day i wr0te hr name up0n tha strand but came tha wavez & washed that sh1t away – wtf"

"yo my l1ps iz 2 b1ush1n p11gr1mz r3@dy st@nd 2 sm00v d@t ruff tuch wit @ t3ndr k1zz"

Of course they're all charming in person, it's not fair to judge a man by his spelling and grammar, and why are you so stuck up anyway, and they'd just love to exchange photos with you.

Hat tip: Flowing Data, through David and Ken.