Monday, August 20, 2007

City of Ghosts

The City of Ghosts is a temple complex sitting atop a narrow, upward-sloping hill like a knifeblade on the banks of the Yangtze river a few dozen miles down from Chongqing (aka "Chungking" in the old british romanization system).

Although the earliest strata of the complex apparently go back to Han dynasty times some 2000 years ago, various pieces have been added as the complex morphed from some kind of Taoist temple into the neo-Confucianist embodiment of the afterlife that it is now. In this vision, the souls of all humanity travel to the city of ghosts for processing.

Things start off innocously enough: Pagoda-like structures combine with carved stone features to yield some typical Chinese architectural beauty:
three bridges
There are cute little tests that tourists take to determine the truthfulness of their souls, etc...:
lead test in position
And then you start hitting the dieties which, for some reason, don't seem all that happy:
head honcho
Architectural gremlins, along with a changed color scheme, let you know that you're entering a somewhat less pleasant zone:
roofbeam gremlin 1
roofbeam gremlin 2
And a careful examination of the stone bas reliefs gives you an indication of what's coming:
bowling party and stuff 144
bowling party and stuff 145
Angrier deities...
Punishment diety 1
and the temple color scheme goes blue, indicative of the less pleasant parts of the underworld:
bowling party and stuff 147
The dieties up here are less than comforting...
creepy horse diety
bowling party and stuff 152
And now for a veritable Coney Island of punishments meted out to corrupt souls:
bowling party and stuff 161
torments in the temple
bowling party and stuff 164
Overseeing all of this are the bureaucrats of the afterlife...
light from above

Friday, August 03, 2007

Is Your Printer Spying On You?

Did you know that many (in fact, most) color laser printers are spying on you whenever you print a document? Though you may not have heard the news, the discovery was announced in late 2005. Manufacturers embed a pattern of tiny yellow dots on printed pages. The dots are too small to be seen with the naked eye (especially since they're yellow), but under a microscope and blue light they're revealed. The dots are placed in a pattern unique to each printer, and since most color laser printers are purchased through well-documented service providers or direct from the manufacturer, it's simple to track any printed page back to the owner of the printer.

The original idea was obviously to help the government track down currency counterfeiters, since any phony money would be tagged with the yellow dots and would be easily trackable back to the source. But there are also signs of abuse, with the FBI reportedly using the technology to keep tabs on who's printing material for groups like the ACLU and Greenpeace. That's a little scary... and important to remember if you've considering printing a whistleblowing tip or any missive you'd prefer to leave anonymous on a color laser.

If the privacy ramifications of this news bother you, there's some good news. Not all printers have the tracking dots, and the EFF has compiled and updated its list of which ones do and which ones don't. However, as the document notes, remember that even if a printer doesn't include the dots, that doesn't mean it isn't using some other method to track your printed pages. If your printer isn't listed, that means that no information is available about whether that printer includes the dots or not.

-By christopher Null