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  • Michael Krakovskiy 2:58 am on January 7, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Brass instrument, , , Harry Harrison, , MIT, , model for the statue supposedly went, Pinky ring, , , , ,   

    For the Beaver to Poop On! 

    An exhaustive article about the “Brass Rat” – MIT class ring featuring the school’s mascot, a rat-looking beaver:

    “The Brass Rat is traditionally worn with the Beaver “sitting” or “shitting” on the wearer until graduation. This represents the hardships imposed on students at MIT. In addition, the skyline of Boston is facing the student, representing the outside world awaiting. After graduation, the ring is turned around, and the Cambridge skyline is visible to the graduate, as a reminder of times spent at MIT.”

    Fans of Harry Harrison can choose to order the Brass Rat in stainless steel instead.

    This must be the ugliest class and overstated ring in existence. The Canadian engineer’s iron ring, by comparison is a marvel of good taste (even though  technically it’s a pinky ring).

    My favorite part of this trivia was the hack of welding the Brass Rat to the finger of the Statue of the Three Lies (as the model for the statue supposedly went to MIT).

     
  • Michael Krakovskiy 3:50 am on January 6, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Agent Z, , Barney Hall, Ben Simpson, Chip butty, , , favorite food, , , Galbi, , , , , , Malcolm in the Middle, , MIT, Night, the Brits, ultimate comfort food, , XYZ   

    Bread and Circuses 2: Korean BBQ and Mark Haddon 

    I did not get much response to my previous installation of Bread and Circuses, the series of articles where I match my favorite books with my favorite food, but since I started already, well, I can’t chicken out now. You can read the first part here.

    Ok, so let’s say it’s 22 century, agents of the corpocracy captured me, and are about to send me to the Litehouse. Michael-47, they say, what kind of a last meal and book would you like?  I’d choose a David Mitchell novel and some pho, but they tell me that they are fresh out. What would my second choice be?

    Korean BBQ and a novel by Mark Haddon, of course.

    Korean food is spicy and strong smelling. It’s not subtle. It’s not refined. But it is the ultimate comfort food. It’s a bit like a little room in a Soviet communal apartment – dingy, smelly, but oh so homey. Also, I’m not sure I’m making myself clear, it’s very, very tasty. To me, the ultimate family meal is Korean BBQ (aka galbi).

    Whenever I feel extra bad and I need a cheer-me-up meal, I drag my wife to K-Town.  A typical meal involves frying bits of high and low grade meat over a special fire pit in the table, wrapping them in lettuce leafs and eating them. My favorite part is the little side dishes called banchan containing high quality kimchi (not the stuff you can find in a jar in a supermarket), various pickles, pancakes, salads, and many steamed, crunchy, slippery, tentacly things I don’t know the name of.  In better places they replenish the little dishes as you consume them. A galbi meal rarely fails to lift my spirits.

    Mark Haddon rose to prominence  for his book  The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, a novel written from the point of view of an autistic boy.  As most programmers I am slightly touched by the engineer’s affliction, so I can understand it very well. Haddon knows a lot about working class British engineers, dysfunctional families and  psychological trouble. His second novel, A Spot of Bother  is about a retired engineer who is losing his mind, yet keeps a stiff upper lip about it.  Haddon’s plots are very interesting, characters likable, and sense of humor outstanding.  These two novels really put of my mind from waiting for David Mitchell’s next novel.

    Once I finished Haddon’s bestsellers I learned that he actually started his career as a children’s writer.  He wrote and illustrated a number of children’s books,  culminating in the so-called Agent Z series. Oh, Agent Z. How I wish there were a few more of these left for me to read. Unfortunately the last one was written in 2001 and it does not look like Haddon is planning to write any more.

    The Agent Z series is somewhat similar to the popular American tv show Malcolm in the Middle. In fact, I suspect that “Malcom” was inspired by “Agent Z”.

    Agent Z is the pseudonym assumed by three British school kids who specialize in elaborate pranks. They are: Ben Simpson, the ‘handsome’ one of the crew, too smart and creative for his own good daydreamer from a lower middle class family; Barney Hall, a fat practical kid from an upper middle class family, who understands the adult psychology and is usually the brains of the outfit; and Jenks Jenkinson, a super skinny, wound up and ratty kid from a working class family who nevertheless has great fighting spirit.

      They take their revenge on bullies, boring teachers, nasty neighbors and relatives. Being kids, they don’t always stay anonymous under the cover of Agent Z organization, but usually get away with enough dignity to triumph over their tormentors.

    These books are infused with British culture, and I learned many interesting things.  For instance, it turns out that the Brits call ballpoint pens “biros” – honoring its Hungarian inventor (I guess that theory about Hungarian Martians is not that far from the truth).

    I also learned about chip butty (one of Ben’s favorite foods). Believe it or not, a chip butty is a sandwitch made out of two white (!) buttered (!!) pieces of bread, french fries (!!!) and ketchup (!!!!).

    Why am I so hung up on the Agent Z? Well, in my youth I had two friends, a good looking one and a crazy one, and together we formed the XYZ secret society. We did pull off a few pranks. MIT is home to a very powerful and very secret society that specializes in pranks, I followed their fine work for years. Hacks and pranks are ingrained  in the souls of all engineers.

    One of my favorite parts of the books is the illustrations that the author drew himself. Haddon is a very talented illustrator.

    Agent Z Goes Wild is hard to find for some reason. I got my copy at abebooks.com.

     
  • Michael Krakovskiy 8:24 am on May 20, 2005 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Bucktooth, , gopher, GopherVR, Hyper-G, , Internet Gopher, , , Minnesota, MIT, Natural History, , pre http, Sarah Compton, University of Minnesota, University’s Bell Museum of Natural History,   

    Down The Gopher Hole 

    Today, for some reason I remembered about gopher:// protocol. And was I surprised to find out that there are still gopher sites operating: gopher://erwin.complete.org/1/Software/Gopher/servers.

    Gopher is a pre http:// protocol that was created at University of Minnesota an named after its mascot, Goldy Gopher.

    Goldy is apparently not really a gopher:
    ““He’s actually a chipmunk,” said Sarah Compton, a student worker at the University’s Bell Museum of Natural History.

    The museum has created a mock criminal lineup comparing five stuffed rodents alongside a stuffed Goldy Gopher.

    Although this comparison makes Goldy’s mistaken identity seem obvious, other rodents have been mislabeled as gophers since before Minnesota became a state.”

    Well, it could have been worse. If MIT or Caltech geeks created it, we would have had beaver:// protocol on our hands.

    Browsing about a little I found this gem:

    “Happily, most web browsers will still understand Gopher, but they are at best suboptimal. No major web browser understands Gopher+, for one thing.

    Because of security bulletin MS02-047, Gopher support is NOW DISABLED IN INTERNET EXPLORER 6 and higher. Rather than fix the buffer overrun in the Gopher protocol handler, Microsoft, in typical fashion, simply decided to disable it entirely. Instead of spending another paragraph or two on a droll rant about how high up their rear ends the heads of Microsoft technical designers are, we’ll just talk dispassionately about the impact of this security flaw: while the risk of an exploit is low in our very friendly community, it is not impossible, and the flaw is apparently damaging enough to be graded Critical. Nevertheless, if you want to reenable it, download the registry file from the clients directory here at Floodgap, or go into RegEdit, drill down to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Internet Settings, and enter a key named EnableGopher
    with type DWord and value 00000001. The reg file is available from gopher://gopher.floodgap.com/9/gopher/clients/ie6/iegopher.zip

    Rooting around I found some protocols that I haven’t even heard of, like “Hyper-G“. Man, why do I like to dig up this obscure stuff?

     
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