Review: A Burglar’s Guide to the City

A Burglar's Guide to the City
A Burglar’s Guide to the City by Geoff Manaugh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve always been a fan of Geoff Manaugh’s BLDGBLOG, which is only nominally a study of architecture through strange lenses. (One of the first posts as I write this looks at an art study of the bacteria on money and how it travels through society and compares to seeds being transmitted through ancient boat ballast.)

And who doesn’t love burglary and heist movies – I’m in it for the naughtiness of penetrating forbidden places and urban exploration.

This book is a loving review of how architecture affects burglary, how burglary affects architecture, how the architecture of a city affects the burglary and then affects how policing responds. The helicopter patrols of L.A. sprawl are a response just as the vertical patrols of giant housing projects reflect their own landscapes.

We delve into locks, lockpicking, escaping, getaways, tunnels through earth, air, traffic, and buildings themselves.

At the end is the sobering reflection that all of this is only interesting as the edges of burglary, the mythical kind of burglary. Real burglary is too often full of ugly nastiness, destruction and damage to the lives of those burgled.

I really enjoyed the discussions on Nakatomi space and turning on burglar eyes to see architecture in a different way – it’s an easy read and I’d recommend it.

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Who watches the watchmen?

The Justice Department and FBI have formally acknowledged that nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials in which they offered evidence against criminal defendants over more than a two-decade period before 2000.

 

The cases include those of 32 defendants sentenced to death. Of those, 14 have been executed or died in prison, the groups said under an agreement with the government to release results after the review of the first 200 convictions.

Source: FBI admits flaws in hair analysis over decades – The Washington Post

It happened before 2000. There was other evidence in those cases. But still – false testimony from these high levels over decades happened.

It should shake you.

What is preventing us from reading a similar headline in ten more years? How could we make sure this lab has an incentive to tell the truth rather than to ally with their colleagues?

Quick Project Names Demo

At work, I’m trying to convince people that we should auto-generate at least a suggested code name for our project names. It’s an important thing for compliance and secrecy. You’d rather someone is overheard talking in the elevator about “Project Icy Gneiss” than about “the restructuring of Acme Corp”.

I wanted to make the point that if you just have a small list of adjectives and nouns you quickly get a vast space of possible names – more than we’ll exhaust.  But a working demo is more persuasive than logic.

I knocked this together last night: Projects-a-Plenty.

projects-a-plenty

Used bootstrap & angular which is kind of overkill on something this tiny.

Review: Dad Is Fat

Dad Is Fat
Dad Is Fat by Jim Gaffigan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It’s not really a great book, but it is a great thing to have in the bathroom. Think of a comic working on a series of small riffs on parenthood and writing them down.

That’s what this book is.

The best part is Jim explaining how they put 5 children to sleep in a 2 bedroom apartment, with diagrams. Given the complexity of putting down one child, I’m flabbergasted. My gasts are really flabbery after reading this book.

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Mistakes were made, tears were shed

Orbital 0.2.2 – Mistakes Were Made

 

This is a tweak to fix some problems people told me about on the Orbital Feed Reader GitHub Issues page.

Some folks were getting a very bad experience during the install – everything goes blank – or they were able to install and then couldn’t add feeds or read feeds. Not good for a feed reader!  I traced down a problem where if you had a specific new default collation on your database, the way I initialized the database tables made everything go boom.  It’s fixed now, but it’s part of the problem of supporting a lot of different configurations without a giant automated test lab.

The other was that someone pointed out there is an improved PressThis page in the latest version of WordPress.  Everything was working, but you’d get a nudge message saying that there was a new way to use PressThis and why are you going this old way?  Updated and I think it’s a really good experience now!

I also did some cleanup and logging improvements so that I can work with folks who have problems in a better way.