1. Wired: Why Is This Cargo Container Emitting So Much Radiation? →

    The tale of shipping container TGHU 307703 0 22G1, which showed up at a Genoa port emitting six chest x-rays’ worth of radiation per minute. And interesting information about the mysteries of shipping containers in general, and the security around them (or terrifying lack thereof).

    So after 10 years and more than $1 billion spent on scanners, radiation detectors, and beefed-up intelligence, most US ports are still scanning containers onshore, after unloading. Unfortunately, the detectors are easily foiled. Lots of harmless things are slightly radioactive—kitty litter, ceramic tiles, even bananas. So most detectors are set to ignore low radiation levels. Basic shielding would be enough to mask all but the strongest sources. “The radiation portals that were deployed in the aftermath of 9/11 are essentially fine, except for three problems: They won’t find a nuclear bomb, they won’t find highly enriched uranium, and they won’t find a shielded dirty bomb,” says Stephen Flynn, a terrorism expert and president of the Center for National Policy. “Other than that, they’re great pieces of equipment.”

    From Spook Country:

    "You said they put it on a truck today," she said.

    "Yes."

    "And they’re taking it into the United States, through Idaho?"

    "We think Idaho. The unit inside is still functioning, though, and Bobby is keeping track of that for us. We should be able to anticipate where they’re going to cross."

    "If we fail to do that," the old man said, "and they enter the country undetected, we do have other options."

    "Though we prefer the radiation be detected at the crossing."

  2. Screengrab of an actual notification email that I received from LinkedIn yesterday. Other people in the notif are either friends-of-friends or people I actually know and used to work with. How Mr. Bigend got in there, I haven’t got the foggiest.
Well, of course I sent a “connect” invite to Mr. Bigend. Just to see what would happen, if nothing else.
From Spook Country:

She tried the link for his Wikipedia entry.

Hubertus Hendrik Bigend, born June 7, 1967, in Antwerp,  is the founder of the innovative advertising agency Blue Ant. He is the  only child of Belgian industrialist Benoît Bigend and Belgian sculptor  Phaedra Senyhaev. Much has been made, by Bigend’s admirers and  detractors alike, of his mother’s early years with the Situationalist International (Charles Saatchi was famously but falsely reported to have described him as “a jumped up Situationist spiv”)  but Bigend himself has declared that the success of Blue Ant has  entirely to do with his own gifts, one of which, he claims, is the  ability to find precisely the right person for a given project. He is  very much a hands-on micromanager, in spite of the firms’s remarkable growth in the past five years.

    Screengrab of an actual notification email that I received from LinkedIn yesterday. Other people in the notif are either friends-of-friends or people I actually know and used to work with. How Mr. Bigend got in there, I haven’t got the foggiest.

    Well, of course I sent a “connect” invite to Mr. Bigend. Just to see what would happen, if nothing else.

    From Spook Country:

    She tried the link for his Wikipedia entry.

    Hubertus Hendrik Bigend, born June 7, 1967, in Antwerp, is the founder of the innovative advertising agency Blue Ant. He is the only child of Belgian industrialist Benoît Bigend and Belgian sculptor Phaedra Senyhaev. Much has been made, by Bigend’s admirers and detractors alike, of his mother’s early years with the Situationalist International (Charles Saatchi was famously but falsely reported to have described him as “a jumped up Situationist spiv”) but Bigend himself has declared that the success of Blue Ant has entirely to do with his own gifts, one of which, he claims, is the ability to find precisely the right person for a given project. He is very much a hands-on micromanager, in spite of the firms’s remarkable growth in the past five years.

  3. Clip reel of practitioners of systema, a Russian martial art that seems to be gaining some traction in the West now that there are people over here to teach it. Tito’s systema in Spook Country seems to have as much in common with parkour as anything else, and its exact relationship to the systema described by Bigend in Pattern Recognition is, like the history of the old man who hires Tito, perhaps a bit cloudy.

    From Pattern Recognition:

    "Systema," Bigend says.

    "What?"

    "Those three. The Russian martial art, formerly forbidden to all but Spetsnaz and KGB bodyguards. It has its formal basis in Cossack dancing. Quite unlike anything Eastern." He looks like a very determined child, on Christmas morning, who’s finally gotten his way and been allowed downstairs.

  4. Jeb Corliss wing-suit demo from Jeb Corliss on Vimeo.

    This is is a reel of the exploits of wingsuit BASE jumper Jeb Corliss, sailing over cliffs, mountains, trees, valleys, and the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio. This is the sort of thing Garreth likes to get up to in his free time, apparently.

    From Spook Country:

    "What did you do, Garreth, before you started doing whatever this is that you’re doing now?"

    He considered. “Extreme sports. Some hospital, as a result. Fines and a little jail, likewise. Built props for films. Did stunts for them as well. And what did you do, between ‘Hard To Be One’ and what you’re doing now?”

    "Did badly in the stock market. Invested in a friend’s music store. What do you consider ‘extreme’ sports?"

    "BASE jumping, mainly."

    “‘Base’?”

    "Acronym. B building, A antenna, S span, as in bridge, arch or dome, E earth, a cliff or other natural formation.  BASE jumping."

    From Zero History:

    The old man would not, Hollis imagined, have approved of their involvement, but the multiskilled Garreth would have been impossible to replace. A man whose idea of fun was to fling himself off skyscrapers in a nylon suit with airfoil membranes sewn between the legs, and arms-to-thighs; a human flying squirrel, amid lethally unforgiving uprights of glass and steel.

    (Source: io9.com)

  5. Adidas GSG9 boot.
From Spook Country:

"But I have seen your systema, cousin." Brotherman raised a white plastic shopping bag. "Carlito sends you shoes." He passed Tito the bag. The high-topped black shoes still had their white-and-blue Adidas logo tags. Tito sat on the edge of the bagged mattress and removed his boots. He laced the Adidas shoes and pulled them on over medium-weight cotton socks, removed the tags, and carefully tightened the laces before tying them. He stood up, shifting his weight, taking the measure of these new shoes. "GSG9 model," Brotherman said. "Special police in Germany."

    Adidas GSG9 boot.

    From Spook Country:

    "But I have seen your systema, cousin." Brotherman raised a white plastic shopping bag. "Carlito sends you shoes." He passed Tito the bag. The high-topped black shoes still had their white-and-blue Adidas logo tags. Tito sat on the edge of the bagged mattress and removed his boots. He laced the Adidas shoes and pulled them on over medium-weight cotton socks, removed the tags, and carefully tightened the laces before tying them. He stood up, shifting his weight, taking the measure of these new shoes. "GSG9 model," Brotherman said. "Special police in Germany."