Monthly Archives: March 2009

Snorkel Sub

I went for a long walk today on the beach. I got my submarine plans in the mail today — I might do that as a quick (well, not that quick) project in the new space to get un-rusty at building things. The Aquasub is a “snorkel sub”, meaning that it sits just a little under the water, with pontoons that stay on the surface… so it’s not really a submarine, but still quite fun. There’s actually a company in Austria that builds a bigger snorkel sub that looks like it has potential as a tour vessel. Not quite as cool as a DIY K-350 sub, but harder to get killed in. The subs I really like though are the “flying” ones by Graham Hawkes, who even has a design for an underwater plane that can go down to the bottom of the Mariana Trench




I read that synthetic blood has been successfully created. This is good news for ethical vampires — no more surviving on rats, Louie… Which reminds me, I read a couple years ago that Tom Cruise was looking into buying rights to do another Interview with a Vampire movie. I’d download that. I’m interested in how the new They Live remake is going to be, but I just don’t think it needs to be remade.

I don’t have a whole lot of sympathy for people whose houses are turning demonic due to using cheap Chinese drywall. I hope it will serve as a lesson to buy local –slash– buy American in all things. Part of the reason America is falling apart is that it’s used its wealth inertia to create a culture that is far too import heavy, achieved by exploiting nations who pay their workers less and have less regulation (all for the sake of greed and having pointlessly big houses and endless possessions). Until we have global equality in terms of standard of living, global trade and globalization in general is bad for everyone in different ways — except of course for the corporatocracy that scrapes its hefty house percentage off the top.

Maybe I’m being too “sensitive” but I really get bothered when I see the term “Krautrock” like I did in this recent BoingBoing post. I actually got censored in the comments there by their moderators, which underscores what I was trying to say — that ethnic slurs against Germans are acceptable. The term “Krautrock” was invented by British DJs and sources from the slur “Kraut” (some German bands like Faust later used the term as well, but came to reject and regret it when it went mainstream)… When I was a kid I spoke with a German accent as it was my first language, and when we moved to a small community in which many kids came from families that bore the scars of war, I was regularly beat up by kids ten years older than me on the school bus for being a “kraut”.

So I pointed out in the comments that using the term “krautrock” is about as sensitive as using the term “nigger music“. Someone responded that German bands used the term (which is a dubious claim — at best I’d say “accepted”) and I responded that plenty of black artists used “nigga/nigger” — which doesn’t give some white yuppie the right to throw it around without pissing people off. The moderator at BB admonished me for my comments, censored the first one, and outright deleted the second… Nice… So I guess their policy is what I’ve experienced — that certain kinds of ethnic slurs are more acceptable than others. I’m assuming that the poster of the entry just didn’t know any better (a la gypped or jewed), but the moderator is a jackass. That said, it’s been my experience that being a moderator has the emergent property of jackassery, so it’s probably not an innate quality.

I’m trying to read a bunch of XUL documentation but my legs hurt a lot and it’s really hard to focus…


Short interview with a 419 scammer

419scammerI saw the conversation in the picture on the right on BB today, so I thought it was about time to post this. A while back I got an email from a “friend” claiming to be stranded on vacation, having his wallet stolen, and asking me to send emergency money so he could get home — promising of course to pay me back on his return. This is a fairly common email scam, and the sender’s IP address was from Nigeria, so I wrote him back and engaged him in a conversation about what he was doing. He initially told me he was “a young black male of 16 yrs old and in college, living with my foster parents who don’t have any money for my upkeep so i do this to feed and pay my fees” and agreed to talk in more detail (at which point these initial details changed). Following is our conversation, presented completely unedited.


What sort of person are you?
I am 18 yrs of age, from a family of five, Parents and three kids. I happen to be the first child. I am a regular person, not handicapped.

What do you do every day?
The only things i do everyday is eat, use the internet and sleep.

Do you have another job or are you a student?
I am a student. i the money i make from the internet is helpful in funding my school needs

How did you get started with online scams?
It all started when I found out others where doing it. I believe online scams started due to the local scams out here in Nigeria. Since the internet is such a big place, people felt they could meet more people and rich one at that.

Are you part of a group of people or do you work on your own?
I work on my own, but we do work in groups most times, just to make the victims believe at least.

What would happen if you were caught?
I don’t know, I always try to be optimistic that I can never be caught.

How do you decide who to email?
I just email anybody, email addresses are everywhere all over the internet.

What type of scam works best?
The scam that works best is advanced fee fraud.

Do you have internet access at home, or do you work from an Internet Cafe?
Work at an internet cafe, its not expensive compared to what you be making. An hour is set at about a dollar

Why do you think this is so popular in Nigeria?
Cause we certainly have to eat and the leaders are not doing what they ought to.

What type of person is most likely to reply?
Old, young and most especially the greedy ones are the targets.

Will you keep doing this work for a long time, or will you quit when you have made enough money?
Really i’m not hoping to do this forever. Just trying to get some capital or something. but the majority are hoping to continue this for as long as they can. Its kind of like an option for not going into the streets and picking guns like every other country does.

What are your plans for the future?
Every thing. A Nigerian has dreams than every kid in every part of the world. I’m always aiming at the sky, just wanna be some sort of celebrity wherever i find myself. But mainly a Medical practitioner.

Do you think you are a good person?
i know its bad, Its really bad. But I know I’ll get out real soon because i’m not built for this, I have dreams.

Do you have regrets about doing this work? Is it hard to do it?
Its really hard, even harder than for us than those who do honest jobs. I can’t say i have regrets, I don’t think i’ve ever had them. i only stop at times and think like, look at what i’ve become. not really impressed with me.

Do your friends and family know what you do?
Do they know? My family don’t know, but my friends know. its hard to find any one of my friend who don’t do this. its either they do this, or they get involved in lottery.

What do you do with the money that you get and where do you tell people the money came from?
They know where it comes from. its only those that don’t know me that thinks my parents are rich or something. i use it to get a good life while it lasts and do all other projects i need to do.

I only buy stuffs online and ship to the usa and then get it sent to me in nigeria on percentage. and better the receiver sells it within the usa and sends my percentage down here. Ranging from jewelry to laptops….

How much does it cost to live in Nigeria?
3 square meals isn’t more than 30 dollars and monthly tenement rate depends on the vicinity. You know there are some developed areas and some aren’t and some are kind of middle classes. it really varies. The rich spend much while the poor spend less. The areas differ. Poor families get stucked up in little rooms at 500 USD a year i.e for a room. a room and a sitting room is 1000 USD for a year and stuffs like that.

What would you like the world to know about people who do these email scams?
Its not fun, and we kind of do this to survive. Some have this orientation; “We are trying to pay the whites back for stealing from africa”.



Something more optimistic… Because the new work/live space that we have is more than big enough to do car work in (it has a garage door into its main space), I’ve been thinking about doing that. I thought about different power systems –

  • Electric, my original plan… Costs $10,000+ to do for dubious performance. Too expensive for too little benefit.
  • Biodiesel, which many have suggested… What’s the point? I don’t really see a huge savings environmentally over an efficient diesel or gas engine.
  • Traditional Gas Internal Combustion… An efficient engine will get you 40+ mpg, but of course it still uses gas pumped from the guts of the earth and all the troublesome politics and infrastructure that comes with that.

The solution that I really like is gasification, which I know I’ve posted about in the past. Basically what this process does is convert coal or biomass (wood, garbage) or other carbon-rich materials into a gas mix of carbon monoxide and hydrogen (ie. wood gas). The nice thing about this gas is that it can be ignited in a normal gas internal combustion engine with very little modification. According to Wikipedia, 1 kg of wood produces the equivalent of .365 litres of petrol, so a car that gets 40 mpg (for example, a VW kit car) would get about 4 miles per kilogram of wood — or about 7,000 miles per cord (4′x4′x8′) of wood. With wood costing $175 a cord, that’s quite bearable — to say nothing of how much free waste wood and biomass is out there. If you assume gas costs $2/gallon, then the gasification system actually costs you 50% less. Oh, and emissions are also lower.

So on that note, I’m really thinking about picking up a small gasification system like the ones offered by ALL Power Labs, because it seems to me like the most sensible “alternative power” vehicle is a hybrid gasoline/gasification driveline with a home gasification system (rather than mounting it in the vehicle itself)

German Adler Diplomat 3 with Gas Generator

ALL Power Labs Gasification Kit

Wood Powered Sports Car?

You can purchase ALL Power Labs’s for $350 to $2395 depending on how complete you’d like it. Gasification is being rapidly re-discovered — it was last popular in the West during WWII when gasoline became hard to get, especially in Germany — and I suspect many will discover that it makes a lot more sense than many of the options on the table for powering automobiles (and many other things — this is also how low-emissions coal power works).

Brother, life’s a bitch… and she’s back in heat.

I watched They Live again today, and it’s as relevant now as it was in the eighties — more so, probably.

I think it’s “funny” that we think that the economy can be bailed out… As I understand it, new money is created out of debt, and that debt is paid off (and later amplified) by increases in productivity and consumption. Essentially a global bubble slash pyramid slash Ponzi scheme. However, we’re hitting a point where birth rates are flattening out and the scheme isn’t growing fast enough to support itself any more, so the system is starting to malfunction. It’s so deeply integrated into everything though that I don’t know how we can extract ourselves from the system.

The level of CHANGE needed seems way beyond what people will tolerate… I feel like the bailout is built around this idea that “everything is going to be just fine” if we just plug our ears. You can’t inject money into a flawed system to save its users any more than you can pick yourself up by your shoelaces.

But still, we have more wealth than we know what to do with… We make more food, shelter, and luxury than the people of Earth can use. I read recently that Sacramento, which has a huge homeless population and is thinking about “making permanent” its tent city simultaneously has a huge rental vacancy rate — so the problem isn’t that we can’t provide for people, the problem is that our system chooses not to. But we are technically able to do it.

So I don’t know…