Unsafe at any speed

Some people proclaim themselves to be security engineers, and boast how their products are impossible to beat. More experienced security engineers admit that their products can in fact be beaten, but that it would require such an extensive effort so as to be unbeatable for any real-world practical uses. Such as in the case of security doors that can be broken down, where anyone with the proper equipment to do so would already know that it would be faster to simply go around it – a door only ever being as strong as the walls surrounding it.

This little fellow, however, was not a security engineer. He was in fact the opposite: an insecurity engineer. It said so, right there on his business card.

What he did was to build things that could be beaten in very specific ways. If there was some flaw in a particular security setup, he would find it and build it. And then, being an entrepreneurial soul, sell it.

At first glance, this might seem a self-defeating proposition. But – as he is very keen on informing you – these are not the security measures you implement on your mission-critical, stupendously expensive assets. These are the security measures you use as training dummies, or for demonstration purposes.

At times, he jokes about rebranding into a car salesman. Those who know him discourage this line of thought in the strongest terms possible.

Time management for busy people

As per your request, what follows is a summary of the temporal status of the relevant location. It has been determined to be a stable time loop, albeit a particularly complex one. The loop is a continuous repetition of eight different timelines, one following another in a predetermined sequence. As the details are intricate to convey, this missive will contain only the barest of summation. The eight timelines are as follow:

  1. The base timeline, without any temporal alterations
  2. An altered timeline, caused by a discovery of time travel
  3. A second altered timeline, with changes motivated by medium term economic interests
  4. A third altered timeline, with changes motivated by massive ecological devastation
  5. A timeline identical to the base timeline with the exception of a single document hidden away in a remote monastery for thousands of years
  6. A fourth altered timeline, characterized by the hostile attention of extraterrestrials brought there due to temporal anomalies
  7. A fifth altered timeline, where the initial discovery of time travel was altered so as to avoid the attention of the aforementioned aliens
  8. A sixth altered timeline, wherein other extraterrestrials nevertheless noticed the temporal anomalies, but for reasons currently unknown used their proficiency in temporal matters to restore initial conditions, thus looping back to 1

Any travel to this location will find itself in either one of these timelines, depending on the time of arrival. Given the relative stability of this loop, and its marginal effects upon our interests, it is recommended that we abstain from any future interaction with or travel to this location.

As to the loss of field agent Bothan, it has been deemed an unfortunate but acceptable price to pay for this information.

To spot the mark

To the untrained eye, the graffiti tags were just visual noise. They appeared, disappeared, reappeared, ever changing, in what seemed to be a never-ending game of whack-a-mole between tagsters and property owners. For reasons unknown, the tags would keep popping up and disappearing; most people neither noticed nor cared.

For the trained eye, however, these tags told a different story. They told the current preferred locations of illicit trades, mostly in small contraband, easily hidden and easily exchanged between two persons in motion. One week, the tags indicated a particular street corner. Another week, they indicated an abandoned warehouse. Those who could read the signs knew where to go. Those who could not were none the wiser.

In particularly troubled times, the tags indicated a moving target. Being in any one spot for an extended period of time is risky, and necessity being the mother of invention, they invented. It was a difficult tag to make in a hurry, but it could be done: indicating that those interested were to hop on this particular bus at this particular stop at this particular time.

This went on for an untold number of years, out of mind – but not out of sight – of the general population. An anonymous society of secret transactions, unincorporated, but definitely leaving its marks.

Cat person

You change your mind like a girl changes clothes

Yeah, you meow like a kitten

I would know

And you overthink, always purr cryptically

I should know that you’re no good for me

 

‘Cause you’re boop then you’re bap

You’re bap, then you’re boop

You’re in, then you’re out

You’re nyoom, then you’re loaf

You’re wrong when it’s right

It’s black and it’s white

We fight, we break up

You nom, we make up

You don’t really want to stay, no

But you don’t really want to go, oh

You’re boop then you’re bap

You’re bap, then you’re boop

You’re in, then you’re out

You’re up, then you’re down

 

We used to be just like twins

Purr in sync

The same frequency, now’s a dead rodenty

Used to laugh ’bout nothing, now you’re playing string

I should know that you’re not gonna change

 

‘Cause you’re boop then you’re bap

You’re bap, then you’re boop

You’re in, then you’re out

You’re nyoom, then you’re loaf

You’re wrong when it’s right

It’s black and it’s white

We fight, we break up

You nom, we make up

You don’t really want to stay, no

But you don’t really want to go, oh

You’re boop then you’re bap

You’re bap, then you’re boop

You’re in, then you’re out

You’re up, then you’re down

 

Someone call the doctor

Got a case of a purrpurr sonar

Stuck under heavy fur

Can’t get legs unpurred

 

You change your mind like a girl changes clothes

 

‘Cause you’re boop then you’re bap

You’re bap, then you’re boop

You’re in, then you’re out

You’re nyoom, then you’re loaf

You’re wrong when it’s right

It’s black and it’s white

We fight, we break up

You nom, we make up

You’re boop then you’re bap

You’re bap, then you’re boop

You’re in, then you’re out

You’re up, then you’re down

You’re wrong when it’s right

It’s black and it’s white

We fight, we break up

You nom, we make up

You don’t really want to stay, no

But you don’t really want to go, oh

You’re boop then you’re bap

You’re bap, then you’re boop

You’re in, then you’re out

You’re nyoom, then you’re loaf

Closing time

The numbers were in. The interviews were analyzed. The data was processed. From every data point, the same result screamed itself at the Analysis and Strategy Team: the desire to go to the store increased exponentially the closer closing time got. They had the numbers to prove it.

A few hours before closing time, the desire was negligible, unless sparked by some specific circumstance. About two hours before, a quiet whisper emerged at the back of the customer’s mind, reminding them that if they needed something, now was the time to get it. An hour before, and this whisper had gotten its metaphorical paws on a boombox. Half an hour, there was a marching band afoot. A quarter to, and the need for speed (and/or something small to nibble on) was paramount.

This was useful information.

Unfortunately, its usefulness was limited by the fact that closing time only came around once per day. Ever a fount of inspiration and creativity, the Analysis and Strategy Team thus proposed the following course of action: close the store at several points during the day. This would give the described impulse more opportunities to manifest itself, and overall increase the pressure to get to the store before it closed. The team projected that the sales of small things to nibble on would skyrocket.

The very next day, the team found itself restructured into a purely analytical unit, with a new strategic team starting up at the opposite end of the building.

It follows

It is the most subtle and dangerous of enemies. It sneaks up on you unawares, and then becomes the entirety of your everything. One moment, you are a hyper-efficient productivity machine getting things done left and right, seemingly unstoppable, nothing is impossible, everything is only a matter of momentum.

Then, suddenly, bam. It all stops, and you find yourself sitting doing nothing.

It is called the Sit.

The Sit happens when you sit down, intending for it to be for only the briefest of moments, only to find that the moment extends for quite some time, and all the energy that seemingly brimmed inside you suddenly evaporated. So you remain, sitting.

It is the sneakiest of everyday occurrences. One moment is all it takes. Do not be surprised the next time it happens. Instead, resign yourself to the fact that the Sit is upon you, and that it will remain until it is over.

It might even be happening right now.

Embrace it.

Extreme peer reviewing

The book invited criticism. Both explicitly, by means of a humble invitation from its author, and on a deep, implicit level; something about it screamed that this was a thing to critique. Every page figuratively screamed that here was a “but” to be had, and that it would be a good one, should you take the time to formulate it.

Yet. Everyone who did found that, in the last moments of their due diligences, their critiques did not measure up. There was always some prior remark, some footnote, some small but crucial aspect that rendered their critical efforts moot. Though the book did cover a finite amount of things, somehow it seemed to contain an infinite amount of rebuttals to any attempt to criticize it.

This sparked quite an interest. It became an informal competition among its readers to find the one thing that could unequivocally be said to be bad – no ifs, buts or qualifiers. The race was on.

At length, in a small gathering of the minds, one particularly bright voice abrupted: “I’ve got it!” When all else failed, the voice announced, there was still a nuclear option: to proclaim that the book was, among all the other things is was, boring. Following this revelation, cheers erupted.

At that very moment, the author – for reasons quite unrelated – entered the establishment, and noted the general excitement of the room. Upon asking what was afoot, the answer was given. And then, the final blow, the one innocent utterance that so shattered hearts and minds:

“I’m glad to see you are all so excited and enthused by what I’ve written”

Excess motivation

Every corpse on Mount Everest was at one point a highly motivated person. They looked at what it would take to get where they wanted to go, assessed all the available means to get there, negotiated the process of acquiring these means, faced inevitable logistical setbacks, eventually got to the mountain, and started ascending. They could, at any point, have given up and returned home to a comfortable bed, a marked lack of extreme physical hardship, and a stable altitudinal situation. But they didn’t. They persevered, because they thought that was the thing to do.

Fortunately, our protagonists were only climbing a relatively small hill.

A Friday horoscope

Aries

Friday is upon us. It is up to you to find a quick solution to the imminent challenges facing us

Taurus

Friday is upon us. Someone will come along with a solution to the imminent challenges facing us. Help them in any way you can

Gemini

Friday is upon us. This means it will soon be time to kick back, relax and enjoy the good things in life

Cancer

Friday is upon us. Do not panic. Your preparations are sufficient. The only thing left to do now is to be there and power through it

Leo

Friday is upon us. The call from the unrelenting ululations beckon both from within and without. You know what to do

Virgo

Friday is upon us. Pray it does not alter the deal further

Libra

Friday is upon us. Cats will gravitate towards you

Scorpio

Friday is upon us. You and your friends will have a good time, and then one of you will have had too much to drink, and you will form a strong bond through the ritual of taking care that have been established over the last couple of month. Eventually, you will all have to sit down and have a long talk about your friendship and how it is formed on the basis of alcohol consumption, and that this is not a healthy way to grow up and grow old. It will be painful, there will be tears, but it has to be done

Sagittarius

Friday is upon us. You look nice today

Capricorn

Friday is upon us. If you see an Aires and Taurus duo seemingly involved in some kind of time-sensitive quest, tell them that what they seek is over yonder, and point to somewhere in the middle distance

Aquarius

Friday is upon us. You know what you did

Pisces

Friday is upon us. There will be much celebrating around town, but you do not have to participate if you do not want to. It is okay to not be a party animal, and to just have a nice quiet evening at home

Covering all the basics

This was not an ordinary shelter for the homeless. It was more than that. It was the most scientifically studied shelter for the homeless there ever was.

On the surface, it did everything you would expect it to: provide food, beds, showers, rudimentary legal aid. Nothing out of the ordinary – nothing less than what was necessary, and sparse few things more than that. In short, it and its ever so temporary inhabitants scraped by.

Except. For some reason, probably due to the contingencies of interpersonal friendships, this particular shelter was the goto hotspot for social scientists focusing on homelessness and social deprivation. Whenever a study of the homeless population of the city – or indeed the nation – were to be undertaken, this was inevitably where the researchers ended up.

Over the years, a relationship had been established between the manager of the shelter and the researchers. The manager, ever the curious sort, had gotten into the habit of reading the research articles that came out of this peculiar arrangement, and thus knew the field just as good as anyone. When researchers talked to him about the particular study they were about to conduct, he could more often than not direct them to articles or authors they hadn’t considered yet.

When asked why he didn’t apply for a job at the university – seeing as he knew his way around both theory and practice – he responded that his GED was not quote sufficient to make ‘em university administrators give e damn unquote, and that he anyway felt that he made more of a difference where he was.

University representatives, when asked if they would provide funding to the shelter, replied that they would not.