Archive for the 'friday fun' category

Around the Web: BB King, Christopher Lee, Ornette Coleman, Joël Champetier

Jun 16 2015 Published by under around the web, friday fun, music

I'm just back from an extended sabbatical work/vacation trip to Paris, Amsterdam and Berlin -- yes, I did meet with some science publishers while I was in Europe! -- and while in Europe a couple of the true icons of my childhood died: BB King and Christopher Lee. As well, jazz icon Ornette Coleman also died while I was in Europe and while he wasn't an icon from my childhood years I do respect and understand the impact he had on the world of jazz. Quebec science fiction writer also passed away Joël Champetier.

I thought I'd use this post to remember a thing or two about each of these greats as well as collect a small selection of the various online remembrances of their impact.


BB King

It's hard to overstate the importance of BB King to my musical development. I learned to love the blues from BB King. He's the artist I've seen in concert the most times, at 5 or 6, the most recent being a double bill with George Benson at the Montreal Jazz Festival about 15 or so years ago. Every time he was awesome, the consummate blues singer and guitarist. And it all started way back in the 1970s. As it happens, my father was a huge Johnny Carson fan and would watch the Tonight Show most knights. As a youngster I often stayed up to watch it with him on Friday nights or during the summer. Of course, Carson was well known as a jazz fan so he would often have musical guests of a jazzy or bluesy nature. Probably most often, Mr. BB King. Who's music captivated me from the very first time I saw him.


Christopher Lee

If BB King taught me to love the blues, Christopher Lee taught me to love horror movies. Fortunately as a youngster my parents didn't seem to care what I watched on TV, so I tended to watch the weirdest and most extreme stuff available at the time. We're talking the early 1970s here. And at the time, we're talking the old Hammer horror flicks. Hard to believe they were such mainstays on the tube in that era, but to say the least, I loved them. And I especially loved the many Dracula films staring Lee in the title role. He was so intense and evil, yet somehow majestic and proud. I was hooked. And I followed he career over the decades, watching him in countless cheapo films and some very good ones as well, like The Wicker Man or The Man with the Golden Gun. Of course, the pinnacle of his career was staring in the twin roles that made him immortal for all generations, not just old horror movie fans. Saruman in The Lord of the Rings, of course. And Count Dooku in the last two Star Wars movies, where he was by far the best thing about the films. He's be missed. I read his memoirs Tall Dark and Gruesome and they give a wonderful picture of the man and the actor.


Ornette Coleman

Not too long ago I was listening to Ornette Coleman's calling card album Free Jazz and I thought to myself, "This is the music they should have used for the cantina scene in Star Wars." Bracing, bizarre, atonal, wild and free, yet strangely tuneful all the same, this landmark album from 1961 sounds as fresh today as it did in 1961. Not only that, it still sounds like it comes from the future, like it's music we're not quite ready for, that's just over the horizon. Hence my thought: how cool would it have been if the cantina band in Star Wars had been Ornette Coleman and his group playing some Free Jazz?

JazzTimes has a nice compilation of articles on Coleman here.


Joël Champetier

And finally, on a more personal note, the Quebec French-language science fiction writer Joël Champetier also died while we were away, on May 30th. I knew Joël a little bit -- and my wife translated one or two of his stories into English -- the Canadian SF world being a rather small place. I was always happy to run into him at an SF convention, usually a Canadian WorldCon or some such larger convention. It's been a while since I've been to any conventions and a while since I last say Joël. He was a good person and a great writer. He'll be missed.

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Friday Fun: Last person to understand iTunes dies

May 22 2015 Published by under friday fun

I consider myself a fairly technically adept person, even at the advanced age of 52. But yesterday I was listening to an album on my laptop using iTunes -- something I actually fairly rarely do, as I mostly only use iTunes on shuffle on my phone -- and after I tried to figure out how to get to the shuffle play setting back for my whole music library.

Well, there must have been a way, but the five or six things I tried just didn't work; I seemed only to be able to shuffle the album. In disgust, I shut down iTunes and then restarted it. Once restarted it was trivial to get back to library-level shuffle.

But I curse iTunes for being so counter-intuitive. Never mind the frustration whenever I refresh the music on my phone and have to figure out how to do that all over again.

Which brings me to News Biscuit's hilarious Last person to understand iTunes dies.

Patrick Wilbert, believed to be the last person in the world who understands how iTunes works, passed away yesterday, aged 39, after a stress-related illness. Wilbert had dedicated the last 14 years of his life working out how to get music on and off his iPod via iTunes. He was successful with nearly every version of the app, and there is evidence that he was even able to use iTunes with the Windows operating system.

It's very funny. You should read the whole thing.

"It’s thought he even knew the difference between synching and backing up, but was never able to put it into words."


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Friday Fun: Ten Simple Rules to Win a Nobel Prize

May 01 2015 Published by under culture of science, friday fun

Being a librarian and not really being eligible for any Nobel Prizes, this probably isn't the most practical advice I've ever highlighted here on the blog. But some of you readers out there are scientists, though, right? Right?

On the other hand, I see no reason why librarians can't be eligible for the Ig Nobel Prizes, a prize I aspire to winning one day for the team. In that case, this fine article, Ten Simple Rules to Win a Nobel Prize by Nobel laureate Richard J. Roberts probably does contain a few valuable lessons towards that particular goal.

Here's a taste, but please do read the whole article. The suggestions are all on the light-hearted side, but still valuable.

Ten Simple Rules to Win a Nobel Prize

1. Never Start Your Career by Aiming for a Nobel Prize

Don’t even hope for it or think about it. Just focus on doing the very best science that you can. Ask good questions, use innovative methods to answer them, and look for those unexpected results that may reveal some unexpected aspect of nature. If you are successful in your research career, then you will make lots of discoveries and have a very happy life. If you are lucky, you will make a big discovery that may even bag you a prize or two. But only if you are extraordinarily lucky will you stand any chance of winning a Nobel Prize. They are very elusive.


9. Always Be Nice to Swedish Scientists

Several laureates had their prize severely delayed by picking a fight with the wrong person, someone who was either already a Nobel Committee member or became one subsequent to the fight. Some individuals may even have lost out altogether, although one would need to search the archives (only available 50 years after the award) to find them. This is usually an easy rule to follow as in my experience the Swedes are very nice people, good scientists, easy to collaborate with, and extremely amiable drinking partners.

It is never too early to get started on this. Then, should your name magically appear on the candidates’ list and you have to wait for it to reach the top, you may still be around to cash in. Peyton Rous had to wait from 1911 until 1966 for the Medicine Prize, just four years before his death.

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Friday Fun: Local artist paid with, dies from, exposure

Apr 24 2015 Published by under friday fun, Uncategorized

This one's pretty funny, if only in the so-funny-it-hurts category. I'm one of those dinosaurs that tends to actually want to own a good part of the culture I consume, books and music mainly more than TV or movies.

Enjoy the squirmy discomfort of this one.

Local artist paid with, dies from, exposure

TORONTO - In the early hours of yesterday morning, local artist Sue Jolley was found dead of exposure mere days after being paid with the same.

“We’re all shocked by this, but contrary to popular belief we were paying her quite well,” said H&M Canada representative Lawrence Pike, who had hired Jolley to create a mural at their downtown location. “In her contract, she was set to receive fair compensation in the form of exposure, promotion, opportunity, free publicity, “a foot in the door”, and at least 5 real-world experiences.”

“It’s a shame that her generation is so lazy that sometimes they’d rather breathe their last under an overpass while curled in a ball for warmth instead of, you know, working hard and sticking it out.”

And a couple along the same line, but in a more serious vein: Selling Out: How much do music artists earn online and Spotify Is Now Worth More Than the Entire US Recording Industry….

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My new job: Owner and publisher of the International Journal of Usability, Systems and Technology

I really appreciate how all my Internet friends have followed me from major career announcement to major career announcement over the last few years. From my job at Elsevier all the way to last year's temporary detour as Chief Advisor on Science Libraries for the Government of Canada! The last few years sure have been exciting but it's time for a new challenge.

And yes, I'm taking a leap back into the scholarly publishing world. This time I'm starting up my own open access scholarly publishing company to publish in all the STEMM fields with a special focus on computer science, which is, of course, my own original scholarly field.

I would like to announce the launch of a brand new open access scholarly publishing company: Dupuis Science & Computing and Medicine!.

It's been a long and strange journey to this point, but I think it's the right time. The production of scholarship is exploding, with more and more articles published every year in an ever increasing number of scholarly journals. But so much of what is being published is locked behind the rapacious paywalls of predatory commercial and society publishers. Time to liberate the articles!

The growth of new business models has allowed pretty well anyone with an entrepreneurial bent to enter the market and advance the cause of science and scholarship. So, I thought, time to stop being a librarian, sitting around thinking deep thoughts about how the scholarly communications ecosystem should work and take the plunge! Time to become a Man of Action! Time to make some money!

The name of my new journal is representative of where scholarship in computer science is headed -- open access, international in scope and focused on how real people interact with systems and technology.

Which is why my extensive focus groups have decided on calling the name International Journal of Usability Systems & Technology as the umbrella journal title. As the DSCaM publishing empire grows, we'll be adding new sections as new opportunities arise to move into new fields. The inaugural title will be on Concurrent Algorithms and Network Topology.

But enough of all the words. Time for deeds. Here are the specs for the new publisher, starting with the first journal to be launched and them with a brief word on plans for the future.

Consider this announcement a Call For Papers for IJUST-CANT.







OPEN ACCESS AUTHOR PROCESSING CHARGE: US$500 per article, with bulk discounts available. Payment is by cash, credit cards, Amazon gift cards and Canadian Tire money.

INITIAL ROUND OF FUNDING: We are planning a GoFundMe campaign.

SPAM EMAIL POLICY: Please leave your email in the comments to subscribe to our hourly update email.

PEER REVIEW: We promise sound, complete and authoritative peer review. Authors are free to nominate their own colleagues or family members to serve as reviewers for their submissions. A valid gmail account is all that is needed.

TIME TO PUBLICATION: We promise publication immediately upon acceptance of payment.

FORMATTING: Please use the following stylesheet.




FOUNDING JOURNAL SCOPE: Concurrent Algorithms and Network Topology (IJUST-CANT)

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: Pending. Are you interested? Apply in the comments!

SAMPLE ARTICLES: I have specifically recruited top researchers to launch the journal with two articles. These amazing first articles are definitively Nobel-worthy.


Vannevar Brush
Charles Cabbage
Rachelle Carson
Walt Crawford
Marie Curry
Edgar Dijkstra
Albert Eisenstein
Rosamund Franklin
Curt Gödel
Jane Goodell
Grace M. Hooper
Steve Jobes
Aida Lovelace
Claude Shanahan
Allen Turning
Niklaus Worth



Over the next 12 months or so, we will be launching a stable of over 1000 journals across all of the areas of computing and information technology. All will be IJUST titles. Each will need an editor-chief and editorial board. Please apply in the comments. Please nominate your friends, colleagues, relatives and pets for these roles. Each nomination should be accompanied by US$100 deposited in my BitCoin account.

Some forthcoming examples of journals include:

IJUST-WONT: Website Ontology Network Technology
IJUST-PAY: Packet Algorithm Y2K
IJUST-SCAM: Security Certificate Algorithm Maintenance
IJUST-BULL: Best Usability Liability Liaison
IJUST-CRAP: Canadian Re-usability Accessibility Planning

Since we need so many more journals over the next year or so, anyone who wishes to start a journal under the conditions explained above, please apply in the comments. By applying and subsequently submitting the New Journal fee of US$5000, you will be automatically named as editor-in-chief of your new journal and will be able to appoint it's Editorial Board. I will automatically be a member of that board with an honorarium of US$1000 per year, payable immediately upon acceptance.

We are very open-minded and are willing to consider publishing your conference

Final note: As noted from above, I'm looking for a candidate for Editor-in-Chief. I'm hoping the new editor will pay me in the range of US$10,000 per year for this incredible honour. Please feel free to submit your application by way of a comment on this post.

I'm looking forward to our first editorial board meeting this coming May in Paris!

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Friday Fun: Night owls are psychopaths, the perils of cat ownership and more: The Ig Nobel Prizes 2014!

Sep 26 2014 Published by under friday fun

The Ig Nobel prizes were awarded last week and as usual they are hilarious. And this time around a Canadian was included! Yay Canada!

What are the Ig Nobel prizes? For the uninitiated they are a mock set of awards given out at a lavish ceremony at Harvard every year for interesting and bizarre real research and other actual "accomplishments." But with a humourous twist, of course.

Here's what they have to say:

The Ig Nobel Prizes honor achievements that first make people laugh, and then makes them think. The prizes are intended to celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative — and spur people's interest in science, medicine, and technology.

Who organizes the Ig Nobel Prizes?
The Ig Nobel Prizes are organized by the magazine Annals of Improbable Research. The ceremony is co-sponsored by the Harvard-Radcliffe Society of Physics Students and the Harvard-Radcliffe Science Fiction Association. Find out about other Ignitaries and VIPs here.

Are you ridiculing science?
No. We are honoring achievements that make people laugh, then think. Good achievements can also be odd, funny, and even absurd; So can bad achievements. A lot of good science gets attacked because of its absurdity. A lot of bad science gets revered despite its absurdity.


And without further ado, here are a few highlights of this year's winners:


PHYSICS PRIZE [JAPAN]: Kiyoshi Mabuchi, Kensei Tanaka, Daichi Uchijima and Rina Sakai, for measuring the amount of friction between a shoe and a banana skin, and between a banana skin and the floor, when a person steps on a banana skin that's on the floor.

REFERENCE: "Frictional Coefficient under Banana Skin," Kiyoshi Mabuchi, Kensei Tanaka, Daichi Uchijima and Rina Sakai, Tribology Online 7, no. 3, 2012, pp. 147-151.



NEUROSCIENCE PRIZE [CHINA, CANADA]: Jiangang Liu, Jun Li, Lu Feng, Ling Li, Jie Tian, and Kang Lee, for trying to understand what happens in the brains of people who see the face of Jesus in a piece of toast.

REFERENCE: "Seeing Jesus in Toast: Neural and Behavioral Correlates of Face Pareidolia," Jiangang Liu, Jun Li, Lu Feng, Ling Li, Jie Tian, Kang Lee, Cortex, vol. 53, April 2014, Pages 60–77. The authors are at School of Computer and Information Technology, Beijing Jiaotong University, Xidian University, the Institute of Automation Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China, and the University of Toronto, Canada.



PSYCHOLOGY PRIZE [AUSTRALIA, UK, USA]: Peter K. Jonason, Amy Jones, and Minna Lyons, for amassing evidence that people who habitually stay up late are, on average, more self-admiring, more manipulative, and more psychopathic than people who habitually arise early in the morning.

REFERENCE: "Creatures of the Night: Chronotypes and the Dark Triad Traits," Peter K. Jonason, Amy Jones, and Minna Lyons, Personality and Individual Differences, vol. 55, no. 5, 2013, pp. 538-541.



PUBLIC HEALTH PRIZE [CZECH REPUBLIC, JAPAN, USA, INDIA]: Jaroslav Flegr, Jan Havlíček and Jitka Hanušova-Lindova, and to David Hanauer, Naren Ramakrishnan, Lisa Seyfried, for investigating whether it is mentally hazardous for a human being to own a cat.

REFERENCE: "Changes in personality profile of young women with latent toxoplasmosis," Jaroslav Flegr and Jan Havlicek, Folia Parasitologica, vol. 46, 1999, pp. 22-28.
REFERENCE: "Decreased level of psychobiological factor novelty seeking and lower intelligence in men latently infected with the protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii Dopamine, a missing link between schizophrenia and toxoplasmosis?" Jaroslav Flegr, Marek Preiss, Jiřı́ Klose, Jan Havlı́ček, Martina Vitáková, and Petr Kodym, Biological Psychology, vol. 63, 2003, pp. 253–268.
REFERENCE: "Describing the Relationship between Cat Bites and Human Depression Using Data from an Electronic Health Record," David Hanauer, Naren Ramakrishnan, Lisa Seyfried, PLoS ONE, vol. 8, no. 8, 2013, e70585.

WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Jaroslav Flegr, David Hanauer, Naren Ramakrishnan

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Friday Fun: Comments and chronology on The Great Sonny Rollins Jazz Satire Blowup of 2014

Sep 19 2014 Published by under friday fun, music, personal, Uncategorized

Is jazz satire possible? Can it possibly be funny or even relevant?

This question is more immediate and pressing that you would normally imagine in the wake of serial controversies in the jazz world.

It all began at the end of July when The New Yorker posted a article in their humour column by Django Gold purporting to be the thoughts of jazz legend Sonny Rollins where he basically says jazz is a waste of time and they his whole life has been in vein. The jazz world exploded as it was not immediately obvious that it was satire. If it had been in The Onion people might have realized it immediately and probably moved on. But enough people misunderstood the purpose that the online outrage was able to build and reach a kind of critical mass. The New Yorker put a disclaimer soon after posting.

Like I said, the jazz world exploded on Twitter and it blogs. Largely because the satire itself wasn't very funny and that it disrespected one of the towering legends of the art form still alive. And at 83, it seemed cruel to pick on someone so revered at that stage of his career. Not to mention someone so dedicated and sincere in his passion. Rollins himself chimed in via a video interview, expressing a kind of sad resignation about not so much what was said about him but about the attack on jazz in general. To top it off, apparently Gold didn't write the piece with Rollins in mind and only added his name at the end to give it more punch.

But it didn't end there. Before too long the Washington Post published an article by Justin Moyer inspired by the Rollins satire basically saying that jazz is useless, bad and a waste of time. The jazz world blew up again on Twitter and in blogs. Not that jazz is or should be immune to criticism, but Moyer seemed more driven by a desire to provoke than any actual knowledge or appreciation for jazz.

To top it off, John Halle published a piece recently on the decline in the political consciousness of the jazz world that hasn't garnered as much reaction as perhaps it deserved (or Halle expected, hey, the jazz world is just tired now buddy).

So it's been a weird time in the jazz world.

Personally I love satire. I especially love satire about the things that are near and dear to my heart. The closer the better, I enjoy the uncomfortable laughter because it makes you think about what you love and why. The very existence of this long line of Friday Fun posts surely demonstrates that.

But I don't think the Rollins satire worked. First of all, it was poorly conceived and executed. It just isn't funny. The way it uses Rollins is kind of shameful really. Someone so dedicated and sincere, it feels like mean humour that punches down on the undeserving rather than punching up and lampooning the powerful. (My initial thoughts on Twitter, BTW)

Not that the the spirit of the piece is wrong. Just the target and execution. I can easily see something in the same spirit working very well if aimed at a younger, cockier, more controversial figure, especially someone known for their conservative, almost reactionary, view of jazz. Yes, I mean Wynton Marsalis. This kind of "I was wrong I wasted my life what is jazz even good for" could have worked well with someone like Marsalis, in the prime of life, influential, at the peak of his powers.

I don't think people are saying that jazz can't have a sense of humour about itself or that it isn't possible to poke fun at some stereotypes or foibles or whatever. Or to question and provoke about serious issues in jazz's past, present or future.

But if you're going to jump into the deep end, expect to face the music and account for your ideas and opinions.

Oh yeah, similarly inspired by a deranged bit of provocation, rock music is also having a rock is dead extended freakout.


Some General Information About Sonny Rollins


Here's the story. I've bolded the key pieces in the various controversies. As usual, I welcome corrections and additions. Peter Hum, Davy Mooney and Nicholas Payton have reactions worth reading.

The Chronology of the Interconnected Controversies


I like this Sonny Rollins quote from the Men's Journal profile:

This made Sonny laugh. When Sonny laughs, you know it. He bends his neck back nearly 45 degrees, casts his eyes skyward, and his mouth becomes a widening circle. Ha-ha-ha, he goes, loudly, like howling at the moon, albeit with perfect breath control.

"Don't you see, that's exactly the point," Sonny chortled as he clamped his skullcap onto to his head. "Those notes you mention, those notes have already been blown."

Sonny leveled his gaze, suddenly deadly serious. "People say, 'Sonny, take it easy, lean back. Your place is secure. You're the great Sonny Rollins; you've got it made.' I hear that and I think, 'Well, screw Sonny Rollins. Where I want to go is beyond Sonny Rollins. Way beyond.'"

Fuck yeah, Sonny Rollins!

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Friday Fun: All The Comments on Every Recipe Blog

Sep 19 2014 Published by under friday fun, Uncategorized

Yes, I cook. Yes, I use recipe blogs. Yes, I might alter the recipes I see based on what I have on hand or what various personal and familial preferences come into play.

In fact, I love recipe blogs, I really really do. Simply Recipes is probably my favourite.

The reality, of course, is that a lot of what you see in the comment sections of those recipe posts is just plain crazy. Sometimes it seems like people want to take a chocolate cake recipe and twist it into meatloaf via making a pina colada. Now there's nothing wrong with chocolate cake, meatloaf (in fact, I'd love to find a good meatloaf recipe...) or pina coladas, but somehow it seems to me like all three of them are fundamentally different undertakings.

And along comes The Toast with All The Comments on Every Recipe Blog.


Here are a few:

“I followed this to the letter, except I substituted walnuts and tofu for the skirt steak, ditched the cheese entirely, and replaced the starch with a turnip salad. Turned out great. My seven-year-old boys have never seen a dessert and I’ve convinced them that walnut-and-turnip salad is “cake.” Thanks for the recipe!”

“I’m having a lot of trouble signing up for your newsletter. Can you please assist?”

“a warning that if you cook this at 275°F for three hours instead of at 400°F for twenty-five minutes its completely ruined. do you have any suggestions?”

“I didn’t have buttermilk, so I just poured baking soda into a container of raspberry yogurt. It tasted terrible.”

But read the whole thing for yourself. And the comments on the post are, not surprisingly, priceless.

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Friday Fun: The 123 Worst Musicians of All Time

Sep 12 2014 Published by under friday fun, music

Music critics. Got to love them. Just the right mixture of disdain, hipster arrogance and snobbery to set the teeth on edge. Ooooh, love that band no one has ever heard of. Hate that band that "sold out" and became famous. They were so much more authentic when they were poor and no one heard and enjoyed their music. Ask U2.

Vice's music critics have a new list out, The 123 Worst Musicians of All Time, which hits the hipster music critic disdain nail right on the head. Amongst them they come up with a list of the 123 worst musicians of all time, which amongst them leaves them with basically not liking any music every made at all anytime by anyone. Except King Crimson, which is the ultimate hipster critic band.

And at the end of the day, I actually kind of love the list. It skewers everybody, hammers every pretension and blasts every populist musical nitwit. Equal opportunity sarcasm and bile at its best. Sure, all my favourite bands are listed, but then again so are yours. Not to mention most of the time the smug dismissal of the bands in question actually has nothing to do with their music but with how they dress or other largely irrelevant factors.

Here are their comments for some of my favourite musicians. Check out the whole list. Your faves will be there too.


Most people can name more animals they think Ozzy Osbourne has bitten the head off of than actual Black Sabbath songs.


White man discover guitar. White man like guitar. Guitar fun. Guitar make good noise. Cocaine!


This guy could only play one instrument.


Rage is a band for the dude who just took a poli-sci class at the University of Phoenix Online.


Wow, a carefully constructed rock opera about the trials and tribulations of growing up, confronting bullying and abuse, and ultimately accepting yourself? More like The Who Gives A Shit?

Yes, you. It's also fun because all the bands you really hate are shot down too. Yes, go read it.

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Friday Fun: Chinese cyber spies disappointed by Canada’s complete lack of scientific research

Aug 15 2014 Published by under Canadian war on science, friday fun, Politics

From the "So Funny it Hurts" file...

This one combines the recent spying cases between Canada and China with the equally "humourous" ongoing Canadian War on Science.

Chinese cyber spies disappointed by Canada’s complete lack of scientific research

BEIJING - Chinese state-sponsored hackers were disappointed after hacking into Canadian government and business research archives and discovering they contained little to no valuable information.

“Wow, how on Earth is this country more developed than we are?” said Chinese Ministry of State Security intelligence analyst Lao Xi Ming from the smoke filled computer lab where he harvests technological secrets.


“This one folder,” he said, “contained only a crude drawing of an F-35 that was clearly made in MSpaint.”

It's very funny, read the whole thing!

(h/t Evidence for Democracy)

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