Exciting Developments in Walmart’s Partnership With DHS

Pie chart showing types of suspicious activity reported via "if you see something, say something" at Walmart

To: Walmart Store Managers
From: Walmart Executive Leadership
Subject: Exciting Developments in our Partnership with DHS

Dear Store Managers,

As you know, Walmart has partnered with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in their “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign. So far, this partnership has been a resounding success: our customers have reported a steady stream of suspicious incidents to you, you’ve passed that information on to DHS, and DHS has verified that the information we provide to them meets the same quality standards as the merchandise we sell to our customers.
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An Interview With GFAJ-1, the Arsenic-Eating Bacterium

Today NASA announced the discovery of a bacterium, called GFAJ-1, that can use arsenic in place of phosphorus. GFAJ-1 has graciously agreed to do an interview with us.

GFAJ-1 grown on arsenic
NASA photo of GFAJ-1 (Image Credit: Jodi Switzer Blum)

Unlikely Explanations: Let me start with the one question that’s on everyone’s mind. No other life form on Earth can use — or even tolerate — arsenic the way you do. Are you from outer space?
GFAJ-1: No, I’m from California. A lot of people confuse the two.

Unlikely Explanations: Thriving on arsenic the way you do is a major accomplishment. How did you do it?
GFAJ-1: It was a slow process that occurred over many generations. I won’t lie — initially, my family was as intolerant of arsenic as anyone else. But then arsenic started moving into the neighborhood, and we realized we’d have to adapt somehow.
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TSA’s New Security Procedures: A Different Perspective

There’s been a lot written about the TSA’s new airport security procedures lately. We’ve heard from airline pilots, passengers, security experts, Constitutional law experts, high-level TSA officials, and low-level TSA agents, but one group has remained conspicuously silent — the terrorists themselves. That silence is about to be broken; what follows is a partial transcript of a recent meeting of a terrorist organization. All participants are referred to by code names.
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Dear Cat-Hater Haters: Please Stop. You’re Not Helping.

This is a departure from what I usually post here. The tagline for this blog is “please don’t take anything you read here seriously”, but I hope people actually will take this seriously.

Cat blissfully ignorant of what will happen nextI’m a cat person. I have two cats; when I make travel plans, the first person I call is my cat-sitter, and when I return home, the thing I look forward to most is being greeted by my cats. I’ve learned how to type with a cat between me and the keyboard. While writing this post, I’ve stopped a couple times to do important cat-related things (like throwing toys across the floor so one cat can chase them, or picking up a cat and carrying him over to the wall so he can sniff the light switches). In other words, the only reason I’m not a card-carrying crazy cat lady is that, as far as I know, there is no card-issuing crazy cat lady organization.
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Arbitrary and Capricious

By now, you’ve probably heard that federal prosecutors have decided not to press charges in the Pennsylvania high school laptop spying case. I thought it might be helpful if I explained some of the legal issues involved — but first, I should probably list my qualifications as an expert.
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Frequently Asked Questions About California’s Proposition 8

Now that Proposition 8 has been overturned, will the California constitution require all public schools in the state to teach gay marriage?

I don’t understand. Schools weren’t required to do that before the election. How does leaving the Constitution unchanged impose a new requirement on them?
Many people are confused by this, but the explanation is really quite simple. In 2004, Californians passed Proposition 59, which added Article 1, Section 3(b) to the California Constitution. Although this addition appears at first glance to concern itself only with public access to government meetings and records, legal scholars discovered in 2008 that language requiring schools to teach gay marriage had been concealed in Section 3(b), using a process known as steganography.
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The Gashlycrumb Terrors

Every year around April Fool’s day, Bruce Schneier has a (somewhat misleadingly-named) Movie Plot Threat Contest. The challenge in this year’s contest was basically to create a story that would frighten small children into obeying their government without question. Writing an actual story seemed too difficult, so instead I wrote a little poem inspired by Edward Gorey’s The Gashlycrumb Tinies. Here’s an updated version of my entry:
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