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Tell us your naughty stories
192 points by neilk on Oct 23, 2010 | hide | past | favorite | 352 comments
Paul Graham recently mentioned that one of the characteristics Y Combinator looks for is "naughtiness" -- an intolerance for bureaucratic rules, a history of beating the system. Go read about it here: (http://paulgraham.com/founders.html)

So what are your stories?

(I know, that's totally wrong and probably not what PG refers to by "beating the system".)

Some years ago, my friend and I decided to kick off the night by drinking some beer in a park, downtown Montreal. After a few minutes, it started raining like hell. We had to get inside somewhere and the closest place was a university building which was "fortunately" still opened. We went inside and walked by the security, each carefully dissimulating our beer through our jacket. After wandering some time through the hallways, we finally found an unlocked classroom to finish our booze. Once done, we slowly walked back to the main entrance. We would soon realize that time had flied by and the building was long closed.

Fortunately there was still a security guy. We kindly asked him if he could unlock the door for us. Of course, we looked somewhat drunk and he asked us, on an authoritative tone, what we were doing here. My friend came up with the lamest lie. The guy wasn't stupid and obviously knew we were hiding something. By that time, another security guy had came by. "I have to get us out of the shit", I thought to myself. I took all my courage and asked: "Ok, so you won't let us out just because we are gay?". The guy became visibly panicked, probably frightened to lose his job over homophobia. He almost apologized and quickly let us out. I was really proud of social engineering our way out of this delicate situation. My friend wasn't, he started yelling incoherently at me. I told him to get over it: "Who cares if he thinks you're gay? You're never going to see him again". I was wrong. Remember the second security guy who was standing there all along? It happened to be a friend of his very catholic father.

Free College Hack:

In high school, I had a rough time with family stuff and my grades started to slack. I knew that getting a scholarship would be crucial if I wanted to go to college in the future. However, my grades simply weren't going to cut it for the Florida Lottery Bright Futures scholarship. I needed a 3.5+ GPA, a 1250+ SAT score, and 60 hours of community service in order to get their best 100% scholarship.

At the rate I was going, my GPA wouldn't be near that.

So I did some research, and I found out that the Bright Futures Scholarship was also applicable to home schooled students. Intrigued, I researched a bit into what made up a home schooled student's GPA.

I found a legal loophole here. One of the ways that the State of Florida graded home schooled students was by letting them talk to a psychologist. The psychologist said you were performing at a grade level, and you graduated. Grades were simply "made up".

So I dropped out of high school end of sophomore year, and created my own home schooled program. Which basically consisted of building a boat, programming, and volunteering at ECHO (echonet.org)

In dropping out, I basically had two years to practice taking the SAT's in order to get above a 1270. I scored a 1280 and got a 100% free ride into any State school.

But by the time I'd spent 2 years out of the educational system, I'd decided a year of living in the rain forest would be better than partying at school. So I turned down the scholarship and moved to the Panamanian rain forest instead.

I did something similar - I'd already dropped out of high school, so I went to an adult education high school, told them I was emancipated from my parents and thus legally an adult, and could I get an adult degree? I took some tests, filled out some packets, and got almost a 4.0 GPA in the span of around two months. I then scored in the 1200's on the SAT (near perfect verbal, quite bad math since I never got above algebra before dropping out), and got an almost full ride scholarship to UMass (needed to take some loans).

I dropped out my Sophomore year when I realized college was as lame as high school, and worked full time on entrepreneurship. Luckily I'd met an older guy who thought I was bright and a hard worker, so we business partnered and built a company that went through some iterations, and that paid my way through life. Later I went and paid cash to study business.

Geez, awesome story. How was the rain forest? Motivation for moving there? Do you regret turning down the scholarship?

Rain forest was incredible. Howler monkeys put me to sleep every night, and I never had such vivid of dreams as I did when living there.

Motivation for moving there: Just something I felt like I needed to do. I kind of developed my own alternative college course, which consisted of traveling the world a bit and learning a few salable skills along the way.

Do I regret turning down the scholarship: Long story short, no. I knew I wanted to eventually be in business for myself, and I knew the field I was interested in (programming) wasn't being adapted quickly enough by higher education. I figured I'd be much better off coding my own projects and learning from there.

Basically, I had a realization that there were two types of people in the world: those who expected the world to act a certain way, (ie going to school, getting educated == guaranteed success) and those who supposed the world was open to influence (ie create your own reality).

I decided that I would rather take responsibility for creating my own world. It was definitely a painful experience at times, but has been worth it.

Now I'm working at a company I love doing incredibly challenging work with people who are incredible. So no, I don't regret it.

Wow! This all sounds incredible! You should write a book about it all...very intriguing.

Just an FYI. Panama City is a city like all other cities in any developed country. Most of the provinces are equivalent to "towns". If you do move to somewhere in Panama that does not qualify for this description, you're basically living in a real rainforest LOST style. With the amount of bugs you get in a rainforest, I'd regret not taking the scholarship if that's the case :)

I opened an account so that I could ▲ your story. Thank you.

Great story!

I used to work as a salaried employee for a consulting firm. I'd record my hours on a timesheet so that they could bill the right clients, but anything over 40 hours a week was ignored on my paycheck. The understanding was that if ever your hours dropped below 40, you could bill an overhead number to make up for the difference, thus the fairness of not getting paid for overtime.

So a year in, I only managed to find 35 hours of work one week, so I called up HR and got that overhead number to put down for those extra 5 hours. Next day, I found myself in a meeting with my boss and his boss, being put on some form of probationary "hourly" status, working part time until I could get my workload back up to speed. I could work as few as 24 hours per week, and I'd only get paid for the hours I worked.

So naturally things picked up and soon I found myself working 50 and 60 hour weeks again, and amazingly, my new "hourly" status meant I was getting paid for all of them. HR sent up the necessary paperwork to get me back onto "Salaried" mode and I told them I'd get it right back to them.

1 month later, they sent that paperwork again, and I apologized for letting it go on so long.

Next month, my boss delivered it by hand and I promised to "get right on it."

Finally, after 180 days of billing 60 hour weeks and getting paid for all of it, I found myself back in that same room with my boss, his boss, and now his boss, all of whom wanting to know why I hadn't filled in that paperwork.

I laid out the math for them. Silence... Then uncontrolled laughter from all hands. Congratulations, son. But how about we fill out that paperwork right now?

Don't kid yourself. You were called into those meetings because, like at many companies, there was a promise of time in return for extra time put in but, like at many companies, that promise was never intended to go both ways.

The first meeting was because you dared to utilize their promise and get some time in return.

The second meeting was because their usual course of action in such first meetings backfired on them and you were in the room to get brought back into line (specifically, back onto salary.)

You didn't mention quitting in response or forcing them to give you a raise in acknowledgment of your efforts. Did you?

Thanks for paraphrasing, but all that was implied in what I wrote. It was company policy to promote the illusion of paid undertime at the expense of no paid overtime. The only problem was that they'd written the policy in a way that it could be exploited.

I figured that either the original situation went over your head or that your post went over mine, so at least now I know which. That and that I should have gotten more sleep last night. :)

At least you were able to work the system there for a good six months. The vast majority of people finding themselves in that kind of work situation don't tend to fare nearly as well as you did.

Ok, that answers my joke below :) Darn, I'd had not even negotiated the first time - nice hack, with 5 months some "real" payment :)

What about benefits? Did you still have them? Billing hourly doesn't usually include benefits like healthcare and thus isn't as profitable as it may appear.

Btw I learned from a high-up exec at a consulting firm that they make a good chunk of their money from the hours you work above 40. In his words: "that is pure profit"...because like you said, you only get paid for 40 as full-time employee. The consulting firm, though, bills by the hour.

When I was a summer intern at Sun Microsystems in '87, working in building 1 in Mountain View, I turned in a time sheet with more than 8 hours on several days.

HR took me aside and insisted I put down any hours of any day that I worked more than 8 hours as overtime -- at time and a half -- even if other days were less than 8. Yes, insisted!

Well that got me off to a good start, and ruined me for life! Not only did I not have to work 8 hours every day as long as the total was 40 hours per week, the more irregular my hours were, the more money I made! Now I just can't break that habit.

I doubt Oracle treats their summer interns so well.

I'm in college now, and had an internship with a company in California last summer where HR did the exact same thing.

Apparently, it's California law that hourly employees can only work 8 hours per day, and anything over 8 hours in a 24 hours period is "overtime."

I'm now at an internship with a software company in New York, where the rules are what I consider "normal": Anything over 40 hours in a week is considered overtime, no matter when it was worked. However, the company has a strict no-overtime policy without (hard-to-get) prior approval.

For me, this meant I spent more of my time working in CA, because I was rewarded, while in NY, I work 9 hour days four days a week, then take off after lunch on Friday for a 2.5 day weekend.

Wasn't it obvious to them before the meeting why you hadn't filled it in?

They wouldn't be looking at it from that angle.

Probationary statuses are generally considered a bad thing in big companies, and are often used as a first step in building a case for termination. As a cog who's hoping to make a career in one of those big companies, you're expected to want to get off that bad status and back into "good worker" mode as quickly as possible. It had never occurred to anybody that they might have an employee who didn't care about internal promotion or their "career" at the company.

So no, the only reason they pushed it was that it was looking bad for them to have employees on the "underperforming" list. The fact that the penalty for underperformance was essentially a raise was something they had never even considered.

> Probationary statuses are generally considered a bad thing

As someone who was almost put on a performance plan for coming to work late, you don't ever want to be put on a PP. Basically, my PP would have been documenting my arrival times for 30 days and if a fair number were out of a 5 minute tolerance range, the PP would be used as a next step for being fired. Basically, a PP is something you sign that is a contract on your job. It provides legal immunity to HR to fire you. Fortunately, my boss and his boss convinced me to shape up and realize what a sword of Damacles a PP is. I started arriving early and realized how laughably bad it looked when I arrived at my whatever times. Not only do you stick out but you make your bosses look bad. In the land of corporate conformity, not following the rules leads to bad things.

I was put on probationary status at a company I worked at ostensibly for showing up late, quit the day after.

I am a developer and coming in late made little difference as I worked as many, or more, hours as everyone else. At the same time I was probably twice as productive as most of my peers. The CTO felt threatened by how easily I did my job so he wanted to bully me a bit so I wouldn't get a big head or something. He didn't expect me to suicide bomb him over it, but from my perspective I couldn't have that thing hanging over me so I handed in notice after giving it a night's sleep.

They were in a bit of trouble over it since I was a key team member and it was a big embarassment for the CTO, I even felt a little bad for him, hopefully it taught him a thing or two.

wow! what a fuss over nothing (arriving late). I hope I never work at such company (if it's in IT).

Not knowing what the job was, how do you know it was unimportant? I mean, it's easy to dismiss corporate policies as unnecessary, or even overbearing, but if he were working a job that was time-sensitive, I would certainly expect people to show up on time.

Having worked help desk jobs, usually as the 'overnight' guy, I was personally the person that was screwed over when people showed up late, as I couldn't leave the desk unmanned.

Regardless, showing up late, when you've agreed to show up at a certain time, is rude, at the very best. Not every employer care, or will even tie you to a schedule, but if you're on one, disregarding it as nonsense doesn't sound like the best way to stay employed.

Heck, working in monitoring I know that there are jobs where punctuality is very important. Although I don't usually do shifts myself I've done few when there's noone else available, and it was very embarrasing when I forgot and showed up late one morning to replace a sleepy night shift guy.

But that's something we try to avoid as a team, not some corporate policy managers can hide behind to screw you over and/or cover their asses.

"The fact that the penalty for underperformance was essentially a raise was something they had never even considered."

Just .... wow...

Given how often the bigger companies are so focused on 'bottom line numbers', it's really a bit surprising that no one ever looked at that.

"you're expected to want to get off that bad status and back into "good worker" mode as quickly as possible".

THAT I can totally understand.

So I hope you didn't sign, no matter the consequences! :P



MY ORIGINAL POST: "It's theft to get paid for one's work?"

UPDATE: wr1472 explains the situation below. Sorry for the confusion.

I was referring to the parent post of buying a mouse and then swapping out for a cheaper version, on which s/he claimed the cost back - it has subsequently been deleted. Not the grandparent post!

wr1472: Ah, sorry. These things are difficult to follow when pertinent points get deleted.

I rode a motorcycle across Russia and several of the former Soviet republics eight years ago. You can't help but learn many useful hacks along the way.

Here's one: How to deal with the police. Their work is boring and it's not unusual for them to go long stretches of time without being paid. They see you coming up the road-- They're curious and you look interesting. They motion for you to pull over and unless you've managed to get so close that you can plausibly claim you didn't see the baton waving you'd better obey them.

The hack: For goodness sake don't sit their dumbly and wait for them to speak up! If you do they'll have to justify pulling you over. "Document!", and you're screwed. The next thirty minutes are spent going through your papers and your belongings while they look for any pretense to hit you up for a fine/bribe. Yes, it's corrupt, but understand that is the only way of life for them. Empathy and understanding will get you much further than casting judgment.

Be the first to speak. Raise your helmet visor, smile and ask for help of some kind. Even something as simple as, "Skolka kilometer Volgograd?" will do. When they answer, nod, smile, shake their hand and say, "Speciba."

There's a 75% chance you're done and you can go on your way. The remaining 25% involves a longer conversation with limited English (and compliment them on their English no matter what) and pointing out your route on a map and where you're going. They may offer you a drink or to share a meal. Feel free to do so if you have time.

I never once paid a bribe which must be some kind of record.

Reminds me of a friend's story.

He had just moved to New York from a Texas border town in the 70s. Being a starving grad student, he was a white guy living in Spanish Harlem, a pretty sketchy neighborhood at the time.

When walking home at night, he'd avoid the sidewalks and walk in the street so that he was less of a target and could see people coming.

One night he was walking home and saw three tough looking guys notice him and veer off the sidewalk to follow him. They were walking behind him and gaining fast.

Instead of running, he turned, and, in flawless Spanish (learned from his days growing up on the US-Mexico border) greeted them, told them he was lost, and asked them for help finding his way.

He said the guys looked slightly confused before one offered help, and the three guys ended up walking him to his door to make sure he got home safely.

And that reminds me of a relative's story:

It was his first time at NY, and he didn't know which neighbourhoods were safe, so he went driving his rental car through some shady neighbourhood - and of course some shady looking individuals approached him.

He quickly asked in Spanish for directions, and the guys told him not to come back, as this was an "unsafe neighbourhood" and "their territory".

I did the similar thing at Heathrow Airport. I took the underground from London to Heathrow, but I only had Zones 1 & 2 travel card, while Heathrow is in Zone 4.

When I went out the train, I've put my worried face and I walked hurriedly to the guy on the exit gates (there's always a guy manually opening the door). When I got fairly near, I flashed my travel card asking in a worried voice "What's the quickest way to Terminal A?" Worked like a charm.

Awesome. I wonder if this works for foreigners only.

Probably not - the trick is to get them to think of you as a person. You want to connect on a personal level. Asking for help is one of the most effective ways of 'personalizing' yourself, from what I've read (I've seen American blogs telling people to do the same thing with cops).

What does '"Skolka kilometer Volgograd?" will do. When they answer, nod, smile, shake their hand and say, "Speciba."' mean? I'm having no luck with online translators.

The probable reason online translators failed is interesting: davidst used nonstandard, but phonetic, transliteration. "Skolka" is closer to how it sounds but the normal way of spelling it in English is "skolko". Similarly "speciba" instead of "spasibo". Either he got these out of a traveler's manual or learned how to say them and then spelled them the way they sound.

By the way, people's tendency to misspell things the way they sound is what allows philologists to figure out how proununciation worked in past centuries.

By the way, people's tendency to misspell things the way they sound is what allows philologists to figure out how proununciation worked in past centuries.

Thank you! Interesting!

From context, I'm guessing, "How many kilometers to Volgograd?" and "Thanks"

I'm betting you did more than mere guessing, because you can reason the whole thing out from the context.

If you did what I did, you first assumed that kilometer was the same in both languages, then that Volgograd was a proper noun (due to being capitalized) and used the context of 'pointing to a map' to infer that it was a place of some kind. That means that Skolka is a question word due to the question mark at the end of the sentence. From there, it's hardly a stretch to assume that Skolka means something like 'how many', because there aren't many questions involving distance and a place that it would make sense to ask.

The context of smiling and shaking their hand means that "Speciba" is a word expressing appreciation, so you can confidently translate it as something like "thanks."

That's correct guess.

I spent 6 months commuting between France and Germany flying on a Sunday night in one direction and a Friday night in the other. To avoid waiting in airports for any length of time I hacked my boarding passes.

I was always flying in economy but I would check in on line and print my real boarding pass, then modify the PDF of the boarding pass and change it to a seat in business with whatever other indications where necessary for a genuine business class passenger (e.g. the word BUSINESS or PREMIUM in big letters). I got all that information by picking up a discarded boarding pass at the airport.

Then I could arrive at the airport and skip all the lines using my fake boarding pass to go down the special business class channel and then use my real boarding pass to board the plane.

I only did this at airports where boarding passes were manually verified.

I wonder how many terrorism charges you'd be up on if you did that in the US these days.

Bruce Schneier has discussed this many times on his blog, but from the perspective of flying on someone else's ticket. The problem is that security usually isn't electronically checking that the boarding pass you are holding us actually valid, and the gate isn't checking IDs. This is still possible at many/most US airports.

When I use to have to commute from Birmingham to London regularly I would always buy the economy ticket, get on the train in first class tell the attendants I didn't want a meal then go to sleep. Since I was always in a suit with a laptop bag sleeping no one bothered me and first class was always almost empty where economy would have people forced to stand in the areas at the end of the carriages.

Were you not a member of any loyalty programme? If you get silver or equivalent status they let you use the business class checkin regardless of the class you're actually traveling in. No need for any tricks.

At the time I was not on the airline I was flying and because it was short hops I only made it to the right level near the end and although that allowed business class check in, that's a useless benefit since I was checking in on line. The high level status didn't allow access to the business class security line.

Nice. This would definitely work today (at least at the airports that I usually fly through).

Also would be a pretty good hack to do some duty-free shopping in the international terminal - at security they usually only seem to glance at your boarding pass and wave you through. Who's to say you don't just go shopping and walk back out the arrivals exit?

Often duty-free items are delivered to you at your gate as you board or on the plane. In fact, lately, that's the only option I've seen at airports.


Fast Food Hack:

When I was in highschool, Burger King ran this "checkers" game, where you'd get a card with a little checkerboard on it, then scratch your way across it by picking squares until you either lost or won a prize. The one feature they advertised was that "Every card is a winner", meaning that if you picked the right path you were guaranteed to win something.

A friend had a sister who worked at a Burger King, so he picked up a huge stack of these cards and spent a night scratching off all the spaces from all of them. It turned out they had a control code at the bottom that could be correlated back to the card configuration, so he was able to put together a cheat sheet that had the winning moves for every code.

All that month, meals for every kid in the school would consist of walking into Burger King, asking for a "Complimentary Game Card", which they were legally obligated to provide. Then, after a minute of consultation at a table, returning to the counter: "Looks like I won a small fries. And could I have another game card?"

Fun times. The kid who discovered the pattern claimed to have won a Carribbean Cruise.

I haven't been to BK in a while, but during grad school the back of every receipt asked you to call a number, complete a survey, write down a code, and redeem the receipt for a free Whopper. The code consisted of two letters corresponding to the month (the key to which was easily found online) and four digits (which I just randomized).

The kicker was that BK would give you the free Whopper...and a receipt for the free Whopper. And the cycle continues.

This reminded me of the time when I was a kid (maybe 5 or 6 years old), I went with my aunt to buy the newspaper or something like that. They were also selling these scratch lottery tickets and my aunt would usually buy me one or two.

I don't really remember how, but I figured out that the scratch-off paint on the winning tickets had a slightly jagged edge.

My aunt couldn't beleive it, nor could the seller: she would buy me the first ticket, I'd pick it out, scratch it and use the proceeds to buy another one. This went on for a few days... After my aunt bought me the first one, I'd proceed going through the whole stack until I picked out all the winning tickets.

Unfortunately, the best I could do is win back the money invested, as the most frequent prize amount was the price of the ticket.

I was once in San Francisco at a Burger King and noticed one of the workers doing something besides working while I was waiting for my food. They were scratching the scratch off tickets for whatever contest was going on at the time. I decided to snap a picture with my (horrible) cell phone at the time to send to the consumerist when the manager noticed me. She quickly ran over to the worker and told the worker to go do that in an area more private. I was pretty shocked, but I enjoyed my burger and went on.

We did the same thing. BK even changed up the codes after a while but we just kept at it until we had a key for the new codes. I bet this is still a story they tell at BK about how that stupid promotion cost them 100x what they thought it would.

I wonder if they ever got any value out of it? BK did become the high-school hang-out after that. I just wonder if that's a good thing for people trying to run a business.

To be fair, that wasn't really your hack. It was the other kid's. But neat.

I once had a client that paid with a bad check. To make matters worse, the check had arrived several weeks late. Rumor had it that his business was on shaky ground.

I knew something was up when the teller at my bank noticed the client's name and said they would have to verify the check (check was drawn on a different bank) And of course it was revealed there were non sufficient funds.

Bad check in hand, I went to his bank and tried to cash it, knowing they would not do so. Sure enough, the teller apologized and asked me to contact the client for resolution. Maybe it was her sympathetic tone that prompted me to ask, but she revealed the account was only $18 short of clearing. So I pulled $18 out of my pocket and asked her to deposit it on behalf of that account. She then cashed my check for $2,850.

The client called a few days later, very angry, because several of his checks to "more important" people had bounced instead. His business failed a few months later.

I find it odd that they effectively revealed the balance of someone else's account to basically a total stranger.

Epic hack.

Heh, awesome.

At my very first internet job, in 1998 or so, I was hired as a temp. They said they wanted me to find websites that would be good publishers for their content network. They said to do so by searching AltaVista for sites, and then looking to see if they had a web counter, the kind that say "You are visitor number XXX". If the counter said over 100,000 they considered that a good sized publisher and someone else would be in charge of recruiting them. In retrospect, of course, there was no indication of how long it had taken the site to get that 100,000 visitors, nor did any good site use the counters much. But I didn't really know all of that then.

So I ask the other temp, "How do you do this?" And he says, "Well, right now I decided to find sports sites, so I just search for the word 'football' and click each result, scroll down, and see if there is a counter over 100,000." I said, "How many do you usually find?" He says, "Yesterday, I found 6."

I did this for about 2 minutes until I got smart. I searched for 'You are visitor number' and instantly got only sites with counters. Within a few hours I had logged a ton of sites. At the end of that day, they fired the other temp and asked me to work full time, but the agreement with the temp agency said that they couldn't hire me for 90 days after they let me go. So, they fired me and told me that I could work from home as an independent contractor for the 90 day period. They would pay me to keep finding sites, and offered to pay me $10 per site that I found for up to 50 sites per week ($500). They had no idea I was able to find sites so quickly.

I spent the next 90 days building a Rage Against the Machine fan site with my friend at home and, every Friday, I'd spend 20 minutes logging 50 sites using my "You are visitor number" technique, drive into the office, drop off my list, and collect my $500 check that they thought I had worked all week to earn.

Also...in High School typing class, I was a two-finger typer. Every morning we had to take a two sentence typing test to see if we had improved. Rather than learn to type like I was supposed to, I just memorized all of the two sentence phrases that made up the tests. Within a couple weeks of the class, it didn't matter which phrases popped up, I was two-finger typing over 80 words per minute.

Typing was required in my high school. As I'd been touch typing QWERTY since I was 11 or so, this made me a bit grumpy. On my first day of class I opened the textbook to the last assignment and completed it in a few seconds.

My teacher was a good sport about it and demanded that the department transfer me into computer science. I spent the rest of the year ignoring some over-engineered OO fishtank.

I had already learned to type qwerty a few years before taking my high school typing class. The first time that our teacher tested us, I was already typing over 60 WPM. By the end of the class, I was typing at 95 WPM, a good thirty WPM or so above the next student. Unfortunately, at the end of the class, my grade was 69.45 (70 was passing). The reason? Every week, the teacher required us to turn in a five page hand-written essay that we would type on Friday. I had originally learned to type because I hated hand-writing and I would turn the paper in typed and printed from my home computer (An Apple IIe). The teacher would give me a zero every week for not following the rules and I would argue with her that I was taking a typing class, not a penmanship class.

On the last day of class, before she turned in the grades, she offered to let me write an essay in exchange for 1 point. I decided practicality in this case was better than stubbornness and wrote the essay. I believe I chose a theme of practicality, stubbornness, compassion, and compromise.

When did you learn to type, or are you still paying for this "hack"?

Oh no...I finally learned to type around 1998. I moved to L.A. My roommate bailed on me and left me here. I discovered Yahoo! Chat to pass the time and somehow that's what finally forced me to become a better typist. Just tested myself for shits and giggles - adjusted speed of 71 wpm. ;)

>I spent the next 90 days building a Rage Against the Machine fan site with my friend at home

Is it still around? ;)

No. And boy did we find every picture and fact ever. I wish it was.

That is beautiful.

I used to be a researcher, so I wrote a lot of grant proposals. I started to get tired of having to speculate about what I might be able to deliver so I spent a year or two under-promising on my proposals and eventually got a year ahead of my proposals. So what I wrote up in my proposals was something that I had already done the year before but not yet published. So I'd get my grant, work on something completely new, then deliver the previous year's work, and then write up a new proposal to do whatever I had actually done most recently. I got a reputation for consistently delivering on my promises.

Then one year I had a proposal rejected on the grounds that what I was proposing was impossible to do on the budget I had allocated. That's when I decided to quit and do something else.

That is brilliant.

Thanks :-)

I lived in Germany for a bit. While there I really wanted to learn to speak German properly, but when I first arrived my spoken German was pretty awful. Since many Germans speak English pretty well and could evidently tell from the way I was pronouncing things that I was an English speaker they would often switch to speaking English with me mid-conversation. This annoyed me because I'd gone to a lot of effort to move there, was trying my best to learn the language, and this was clearly hindering my efforts.

So I came up with a plan. Whenever a conversation would switch to English in this way I'd lay on a really thick accent, use lots of slang and idiomatic phrases, and generally try and make things difficult for the other person to understand. The result was often that the other person would look puzzled and the conversation would switch back to German. Eventually I learned how to pronounce things in a way that didn't immediately betray me as a foreigner, but this trick helped a good bit in the beginning.

A friend of mine is from Ireland and went to a Scandinavian country. Same story there: people would switch to English as soon as they found out that she's from Ireland. Her trick: "Sorry, I come from the Gaeltacht. My first language is Gaeilge."

I was mistaken for being American a lot. I'm pretty sure it was the default nationality to guess when they couldn't place an accent. Good to hear it wasn't just happening to me though ;)

I have the same thing here in Canada where people switch to French while I want the conversation to stay in English. I just say "Désolé je ne parle pas francais"(sorry I don't speak french) practiced to sound like broken french.

That's a good idea... :)

Surfed the zero percent interest rate promos on credit cards: rolled debt onto a zero percent card (thus not really making a payment that month because you just moved the debt around) and had lower payments until the promo ran out. Repeat with new promo on a different card.

One I'm proud of but might not be counted as a hack here (not exactly naughty, but good for blowing people's minds, so similarly satisfying to me): Amicable divorce without lawyers. Saved probably tens of thousands of dollars on lawyers fees and had the added bonus that since we didn't lawyer up, we weren't getting antagonistic "cover your ass" advice from lawyers. This meant there was more money to go around (and less paranoia), so we both were able to refrain from squabbling about the small stuff and say "whatever makes it easiest for you". I had people tell me I was crazy to trust my ex but I got a lot more money out of it than I otherwise would have (more than I could have legally insisted on had I fought with him).

We went to the courthouse together to file the papers. The person behind the counter was telling him "you need to do yadda yadda". I guess they thought I was his new love interest, not the future ex. He turned to me and said something like "Did you hear that? You need to sign here." I signed there while the person behind the counter tried to pick their eyeballs back up off the floor. I guess they had never seen anything like it before.

You should write blog post about how not to lawyer up. I I think it is a definite hit.

1) Get closure first, then divorce. Most people don't seem to do this. They do it the other way around and then do all kinds of stupid, emotionally driven, toxic things during the divorce which just amounts to shooting themselves in the foot.

2) Stay focused on your goal. It no longer matters if the other person "understands" you and all that touchy-feely nonsense. That stuff matters if you are staying together, not if you are going your separate ways. So this means do not take any digs whatsoever at them. Bite your tongue. It isn't worth it (and not doing it is worth quite a lot of money as well as other improvements in quality of life -- an ugly divorce can really make life hard for quite a lot of reasons).

3) The seminal moment where we agreed to divorce set the tone for the entire divorce. We were having the same stupid fight for about the 200th time (actual estimation, not hyperbole) and I stopped screaming at him and quietly said "I don't want to do this anymore. I'm tired of hurting you. I'm tired of being hurt. I think we have both given it our best. If we could do this dance, we would have figured it out by now (we had been married ~17 years). I want a divorce." He was relieved and agreed, something he had not done on any of the occasions where I screamed and cried and shouted "I want a divorce!", which he had accurately interpreted roughly to mean "God, quit hurting me so much". So we agreed to divorce as the only kind thing left to do for each other -- set each other free -- rather than as a means to reject the other person. This means we both worked cooperatively to try to minimize financial damage and the like. If we wanted to make each other miserable, we could have stayed together. We were both very talented at making each other miserable.

4) I also had a class at some point on "Negotiation and conflict management". Getting to Yes and The heart and mind of the negotiator (or mind and heart -- never can keep that straight) were required texts. The first one is short, the second one a lot meatier.

5) Read up on the concept of "prisoner's dilemma" and realize that unlike actual prisoners, you aren't forbidden from talking to each other -- unless you lawyer up and have some lawyer whispering evil things in your ear about covering your ass and telling you to keep your mouth shut.

6) Realize this won't likely work in a genuinely abusive situation. My marriage was tragic, not abusive. Sometimes, covering your ass is the best thing to do.

You can have great product idea here. Ebook - how I ... etc.

I'm pretty burnt out on trying to help people. It really goes over very poorly and I get lambasted for it and, so far, there has really been no money in it. :-/ But when I start that webcomic I keep swearing I will start, it might be good material. :-D

I'm talking about showing people that it is possible and in best interest of both parties to divorce without fight and lawyers. Of course not in every case.

Showing not by talking, writing to each one of potentially interested one by one. Showing in ebook. And sell it. Not cheaply. This kind of information has its worth.

To help some people to save stress, time and money and earn money by yourself.

Hmm, poor lawyers. :)

I've also figured out how to get myself well while living with Cystic Fibrosis. That should be worth something too and is way cheaper than the drugs and stuff I got off of. But it's mostly been worth a kick in the teeth (I just left yet another health list yesterday on less than amicable terms).

The lesson I have learned: When people used to accuse me of being egomaniacal, they meant "I think it can be done, just not by you (bitch)". Now they accuse me of being a liar, charlatan and snake oil salesman, which apparently means they don't think it can be done by anyone at all, not even with the help of the right scientists, doctors, research facilities and hospitals, much less by some loudmouthed brassy broad, former homemaker and financially challenged divorcee. They just can't wrap their brain around it. A webcomic may be the only hope I have of actually educating people and has some hope of paying my bills as well, which is pretty darn important to me.

"Know thyself". The whole save-the-world, goodie-two-shoes, I-just-want-to-HELP schtick is really so not working for me. It's not like I haven't tried.

Ok. You are burn out by helping people. I understand.

I'll change the emphasize. You have great product at the hand. Product which can earn you money. Period.

Passive income. For you.

Okay, I'll play along:

How many pages does the book need to be?

How much can/should I charge for it?

How on earth would I promote it?

Where can I find such info?

I have always wanted to be a writer but at the moment my one and only goal is to figure out how to make money from home so I can leave my job and move elsewhere. I'm really not sold (on the idea that I can make money telling people how to not lawyer up). But I am most certainly hoping and praying for some idea that will make me some fast cash so I can be out of here early next year, which is not far away at all.

Ok. That's better. I'll try to brainstorm something here, but take, please, into account that I don't live in the US.

You do live there.

> How many pages does the book need to be?

For starters you have to consider state by state differences in law. You can consider staying at high level of abstraction and target all US at once. Second option is to cover these high level matters first and describe details latter, probably state by state.

> How much can/should I charge for it?


The real answer is to test prices. Search HN. There were some disscussions about setting prices.

> How on earth would I promote it?

Where do people interested in divorce concentrate? How to reach them there?

> Where can I find such info?

On the internet? Using your common sense? Asking here?

Btw. some lawyers will be upset by such information reaching public. Take this into account and cover your bases. Don't skimp here, it's for your protection. IANAL etc.

I started a separate Ask HN discussion in hopes of getting more feedback and getting some of this out of this thread:


Then don't think of it as helping people, but as providing a useful product for cash and prizes. Backsearching HN will give you ideas on how to generate income for your insight here.

Well, I participate here in hopes I can finally wrap my brain around "how to make money". So far, no magic faerie dust has been found to help me fly, financially. I would totally love to be the next person to post "Thank you HN. X months ago you helped me with my business idea and now I have left my BigCo job, moved to the city of my choosing and am happily working from home!!!"

Historical facts:

1) People tend to speak highly of my writing ability -- even published authors and publishing company founders -- and I have had what began as an email of mine on a list wind up being quoted (after much editing) in a book.

2) I tend to be very polarizing: People either love me or hate me. Not much in between. The only thing I have found so far that reduces the amount I get attacked is to go out of my way to avoid public praise. This isn't a real good tactic for advertising something but has worked well for helping to encourage a budding grass roots movement for folks who are really deathly ill and whom all the experts have written off.

3) People find me provocative, which is generally a bad thing if you are trying to be helpful. In the entertainment industry, "provocative" is a good thing. I also tend to be a ham, which is something I find I have to seriously tone down when trying to "give advice". That isn't working well for me. My sense of humor is critical to my ability to cope effectively, so it is practically lying for me to give advice without a few (er, a few zillion) tongue-in-cheek, humorous observations thrown in.

4) Comedians are the people with the socially accepted role for making the kinds of social observations I am very good at making. Giving people that information straight up really, really bombs. I know: I've been doing it for years (and going down in flames for it, over and over). The serious version of my observations goes over about as well as dousing someone in gasoline and setting them on fire.

Anyway, I would love it if you were right and I could easily make big bucks this way (or even enough little bucks to leave my job). But it isn't fitting with my understanding of the direction I need to go.

Ok, so it's not going to lead to big bucks, or even enough little bucks to leave your job.

But it could provide enough little bucks and recognition to make the handful of hours it took to produce your product more than worthwhile.

Passive income is a great thing.

I wish I was so polarizing. Being able to cleanly tell who hates me and who loves me would help me find my audience/customers quicker.

Is it a problem that I know almost nothing about the legal side of a do-it-yourself divorce? I was quite sick so my husband handled that part. I know the social engineering stuff, I'm sure way better than he did (I always knew what to say when he was upset during the divorce to get him to feel okay about how things were going, which is critical to not lawyering up).

Polarizing and provocative lead to increased sales and marketing capability (see 37 Signals).

I wouldn't count writing something like this as 'easy', but it's definitely do-able.

The self-help field is full of crap; you sound like you might have something useful to add!

Polarizing is much better for selling books than being 'meh' : a 10% following by motivated people is better than 100% of people who can't be bothered...


Site which sells ebook about parrots for example.

Which population is bigger? Parrot lovers or potentially divorced?

This is no brainer.

Sorry, my comment is going to be relatively content-free, but I thought it important to emphasize stakent's suggestion.

You should really do an ebook/book on this. Your subsequent post was very well-written, and it have a good income/effort ratio.

I apologize for being a wet blanket, but the vast majority of couples divorce without hiring lawyers. The numbers vary by location; in Cleveland in the mid-00's, roughly 85% of divorces did not involve lawyers.

When lawyers were involved, it was always because the romance had become visceral hatred and one or both parties wanted to antagonize the/each other.

Can you provide some stats or something? I mean a link or something?

Thank you for providing some balance!

Timely. I'll be filing paperwork for the exact same thing tomorrow morning. Did you hit any obstacles?

My ex did all the research on the legal end of it, I was very sick and left that up to him. So I don't know that I can help much.

FWIW: In the state we were in, he wasn't allowed to deliver the papers to me. He looked up the options and we basically drove to his place of work one morning, he took the papers in to a coworker and the two of them walked back out with the coworker holding the papers. I signed them on the trunk of the car, while the poor coworker looked incredibly awkward and uncomfortable.

After my husband moved out and went to another state, at some point, I left that state with my two kids in tow. At that point, it came up that if my ex wanted to be an ass, I could be in big trouble for taking the kids out of the state without his prior permission. Fortunately, he chose to not make an issue of it but it was something that was a bit of a heart-stopping, you-must-be-kidding-me moment.

Can't think of anything else in particular. Hope that helps.

Studying for an engineering dynamics final, the old "when in doubt, pick C" saying popped into my head, so I decided make a frequency plot of answers for the 4 quizzes we had that term. The prof had B as the correct answer ~50% of the time. At the end of the 2 hour final I had only finished 13 of the 20 problems, so I quickly marked B for the 7 remaining. I got the 2nd highest grade in the class, bumping my grade from a B to an A.


My last year of college I was low on funds, so at the beginning of each term I would go to the school library and see if they stocked any of the textbooks. I could usually find 1 or 2. I'd check them out and keep them the whole term, paying only a $5 late fee - vs. the $100 textbook cost. (In case you think this is inethical, based on the past checkout records, nobody ever checked these books out)


Hack I wish I'd thought of: A college buddy spent the first day of summer vacation going into all the bars in downtown Portland and getting info about their happy hours. He had every day of the week mapped out and got dinner and a beer for $1/night.

What kind of college did you go to? In the two I went to, the late fees were something like several dollars a day, and you couldn't graduate unless it was paid off. (At best you could negotiate to pay the retail cost of the book.)

Additionally, both colleges would put any textbook that was for a class on "reserve" so you could only have access to it for several hours at a time, and students DEFINITELY used it. I don't believe that no other student in the class wanted your textbook.

My chemistry prof would tell of a student who needed to get just one question right on the multiple-choice final to pass the course. He walked in, picked 'C' for all questions, and walked out.

No correct answers were 'C'.

And this, boys and girls, is why we have randomized algorithms.

Are you under the impression that a random key fits a random lock?

No, of course not.

I am, however, under the impression that if what you want to do (as here) is to minimize the probability that you get completely shafted by having had the test-setter choose answers complementary to yours, you should choose yours in a way that makes that probability low. Random choices are a very effective way of achieving that. [EDITED to add: not because "a random key fits a random lock" but rather the reverse: with non-negligible probability[1] the test-setter is not choosing at random but in some relatively low-Kolmogorov-complexity way, and you want to keep away from those parts of the outcome space.] Of course, having a really good model of the test-setter's decision process would be even better, but if you had that you'd just use it to ace the test.

[1] I initially missed out the word "probability". I edited it in. Sorry.

Okay, you're right.

To whoever's downvoting Eliezer's comment above (I know at least two people have):

If you think he was stupidly wrong to issue the original challenge, downvote that. If you think he was right to issue the original challenge and stupidly wrong to back down when I argued, downvote me since presumably I'm even wronger. But what the hell sense does it make to downvote someone for being prepared to change his mind in the face of disagreement?

Incidentally #1: For an exposition of Eliezer's slightly-unconventional (but, for the avoidance of doubt, neither insane nor desperately ignorant) views on randomized algorithms, and some interesting discussion, see http://lesswrong.com/lw/vp/worse_than_random/ and http://lesswrong.com/lw/vq/the_weighted_majority_algorithm/ .

Incidentally #2: For the multiple-choice test, even better than choosing random answers is to choose random answers and them check them for low Kolmogorov complexity (in so far as that's possible; there are some theorems restricting it) and generate new random answers if the results are bad. You could turn this into a not-at-all-random algorithm that performs even better, given sufficient (vast) computing power: enumerate, and execute, all "cheap enough" computations that produce sets of answers; use this to put some suitable probability distribution on answer-sets (so that answers generated by cheaper computations are more probable, and then (deterministically) choose your answers to minimize the probability of failure. This is the kind of thing Eliezer has in mind when he claims that every randomized algorithm can be beaten by a derandomized one.

If I only need to get one question right it doesn't take many questions before (3/4)^n is smaller than the chance the professor, for whatever reason, avoided C.

I disagree. I'd put that probability at 0 after n=7.

In fact, according to the recent reddit thread, some test designers are encouraged to enforce equal proportions of each option. While stupid, it lowers the threshold to n=3 or so.

Reminds me of the famous "What is courage?" test answer urban legend:


Here's a variant on this that is actually true: I took Professor DiCenzo's "History of Japan" course at Oberlin College, in we he assigned several 5-page papers. There were a variety of topics to choose from (or make up your own); one of those topics was "Zen". Professor DiCenzo was famous for saying "The first student who chose the 'Zen' topic and turned in five blank pages got an 'A'. You will get an 'F' -- please try to use words."

> "when in doubt, pick C"

I spent like five minutes trying to figure out what a programming language had to do with engineering dynamics.

There's an ancient Excel spreadsheet that lists and categorizes every happy hour here in DC. It gets emailed around like crazy at the start of every intern season.

My university, for a while, had a mailing list to which everyone forwarded events that happened to serve food. If you worked it right, and were a sufficiently desperate postgrad, you could eat for free for most of the quarter.

If you ever run into a copy of it, I'd love to get hands on it.

barry.melton@google's mail service.com

I'll see what I can do... but it was kinda outdated when I first saw it in 2004. Though since it was an Excel file anyone could edit, I wouldn't be surprised if it kept evolving and branching new version.

To anyone living in the Philly area, enjoy.


Does every bar have happy hours? I thought it's rare thing for bars to have.

Most bars do. The markup on alcohol is absurd. As an individual, I can buy a keg of a very good beer for a cost of approximately 38 cents a pint. That same beer at a bar costs more like 4 or 5 bucks.

Cutting the margin down still covers costs considerably, but happy hours are a 'loss leader' to get you in to a bar that would otherwise be less occupied, and perhaps as a signal for those driving by looking for a 'happening' bar, which is usually done toward the end of happy hour.

There might also be motivation to get you somewhat drunk so that you'll stay after happy hour and not realize that you're paying full price for beers.

In Portland, yes, nearly every bar. Although you probably can't pull off a beer and dinner for $1 anymore most places.

Depends on where you are (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Happy_hour#Backlash)

Happy hour has been illegal in Massachusetts since 1984.

I bootstrapped my first startup by playing roulette in a casino every night. A Cinema close by was giving out 10 Euro coupons for the casino to play with, so we went first to the cinema every night, asked the people coming out for their tickets and then hit the casino to play with the 10 Euros. Each of us were netting about 400 Euros per month, which was enough to cover the ramen ;-) And that for a nice refreshing half an hour tour in the evening.

The stupid EU put an end to it by changing the gambling laws and prohibiting casinos to give out coupons for chips - someone might get addicted - instead the new coupons allowed free entry and a drink, but until then it worked like a charm.

The casino people were a little freaked out at first, shooting us suspicious looks but after three weeks they got used to us...;-)

Isn't roulette a losing game? Or did you have some optimal betting strategy?

We didnot play with our own money, but with the coupons on the back of the cinema tickets. But even so, we should have made slightly less than 300 a month, but we did a slightly more on average.

We did not really have an optimal betting strategy, at least nothing that can be proven scientifically, there is no such thing. But after some time we started to bet on the wheel, e.g. "Voisins du zero" or "Jeu zero" and we knew all the croupiers and some of them had an unbelievable regular way of running the ball and spinning the wheel and the ball would thus drop in a slightly more predictable area of the wheel - at least when it hit one of the bumpers and would then drop into the wheel. So we waited with our bet until our favourite croupier would throw the ball from a place, where we felt it should land close to the zero and call a zero game.

Naturally that did not always work and we'd have losing streaks of even two weeks where we went home without any money at all, but once a month or so we'd go out with over a hundredfifty euros. On average we did slightly better than expected (400 were admittedly the better months, sometimes it was a little less than three hundred), but we remained ahead even after a long time, so my guess is we were either lucky or the idea of predicting according to the croupiers regularity worked. We had the feeling it worked on two of the ten croupiers the others threw less regular.

Anyway it was definitely more fun than just whitewashing the chips. (One was not allowed to immediately exchange the "lucky" chips one would get for the coupons for money.)

> We did not really have an optimal betting strategy, at least nothing that can be proven scientifically, there is no such thing.

Ah, but there is.


The optimal (Kelly) strategy for Roulette is not to play. It even says so on that wiki page.

The Kelly criterion is a money management strategy to maximize profit given a positive expectation, which roulette does not have and cannot.

Well done! This is the no-tech version of what the shoe computers were trying to do ... with a lot fewer shocks :-)

Roulette can be beaten by a shoe computer. Basically you tap your foot each time the ball passes a certain number. The computer uses the time between taps to compute the velocity of the ball, which is used to predict where it will stop. Then you bet on a quadrant of the wheel by the predicted stop.

This was first done by people from MIT I believe.

Excuse me, UCSC students in the 1970's. Those interested can read more here: http://physics.ucsc.edu/people/eudaemons/eudaemons.html

The book about that group, The Eudaemonic Pie, is a great read:


Recently I ran across another book about the same group, "The Predictors: How a Band of Maverick Physicists Used Chaos Theory to Trade Their Way to a Fortune on Wall Street"

A poorly written book about an interesting topic, I thought.

You'd no longer have the opportunity to place your bet by that time.

that's quite brilliant, it should work probably much more reliable than our guessing.

The way I read it, they were betting with free money, so they couldn't lose.

Essentially they were converting the euro coupons which they got for free to cash with the expected value of a bet on the roulette wheel (which is slightly negative giving the house an edge over time). For example, if the avergage expected value of the bet is -5% (the house edge), then for a single bet, on average, you would expect to get 95% back of your original bet amount. Since they got 10 euros each time for free they would expect to get back 9.5 euros on average over all their bets, given this house edge (which I made up).

It's not a losing game if you don't use your money to play (the coupons dageroth referred to), and you get to keep any money you win. (The 'hack' is you weren't supposed have ~€800 worth of coupons.)

The house edge for a Red/Black or Even/Odd bet in roulette is about 5%. Meaning that if he on average walked out with €400, you would expect that he walked in with €420 in coupons

On my recent trip to Africa, I avoided giving bribes at 3 different spots in the airport by doing the following:

When they asked me for "something to have lunch with", I'd lower my voice and say "it's not possible now" then quickly glance at the person behind me.

Neither I nor them had to pay anything.

Brilliant - I wish you posted this tip earlier when I went to Africa. Will do it the next time I go to India for sure.

It won't work in India. Because they don't take bribes at Airport (at least).

oh yes they do, in delhi.

And in Bombay.

What country in Africa? There are 54 of them.

Your country.

Ok, I don't get it.

By glancing back, he is implying that the person behind him is something like a plain-clothes security officer (who should not be bribed)

I got that part, but why would you have to give bribes to African airport officials?

Right- I am confused by "avoided giving bribes" since typically bribes are something you go out of your way to provide.

I am guessing corrupt officials basically request money from you for no reason- and it's expected you give it to them (for no reason as well). Then, they just call it a "bribe". But I'm guessing... pardon my cultural ignorance.

There's quite a few airports around the world where you'll run into this sort of scam. In Guadalajara, I've had to pay a "fee" to board a flight that I already had a seat on. In Bangalore I had to pay another fee so that my luggage would not go missing or be damaged.

Could be to provide "motivation" to not search your bag for "contraband". A bribe to prevent artificially-created slow-downs.

He implied that the person behind him was some kind of anti-corruption agent

history of cannibalism


This reminds me of the opening scene in Juzo Itami's <i>Minbo-no Onna</i>. Nobuko Miyamoto's character does something similar with the yakuza.

When I was in 6th grade ('94) I scanned articles from our encyclopedias onto our 386 and then used OCR software to make it usable as a class research paper. You can imagine what happened the following year when I got dial up.


I also had a computer hardware class in high school that the teacher would often leave for extended periods of time. The other students and I get enough systems running and scrounged a router so that we could play multiplayer Warcraft II during class (which was an old game even back then). We pulled this off for about a month before we got caught. It turned out the teacher really didn't care anyway.


When I lived in rural Mexico, I used to tape pictures of Jesus to the outside of my packages that I sent home so that the shady people in the mail system wouldn't mess with them.


My old boss used to add useless revisions every time that I sent him an email saying that part of a project was finished such as "Change the font up to 12px on that navigation please. What? It's already at 12? Can you make it 12 and a half? No, 13px is way too big but I want it bigger than 12 so just fix it OK?"...yeah, that guy. Anyway, I found that if I sent him emails at the end of the day, he would not read them until the following morning when he had the most emails to respond to. Therefore, sending him finished tasks at the end of the day meant fewer useless revisions. I found that outlook has a "delay delivery" setting so as I finished tasks through the day, I would que them to send at about 7:30 at night, when I could be sure that he wasn't working. Lo and behold, the endless revisions went down by about 90% and I got a lot more stuff done.

Ok, one more hack from college although it probably won't work these days.

All of the professors in the science department at my university would tape lists of their student's IDs and their test grades outside their office through out the semester including finals. When looking for classes for the following semester, I just had to look at which professors gave better grades on average and sign up for their classes. The difference was quites staggering.

Some professors consistently failed roughly half of their students while others would have over 3/4 the class with A's consistently. Granted, there were some variable to consider like which course was being taught and the fact that some groups of students are sometimes simply better performers than others. But there was no way I was going to see that kind of data displayed publicly and not take advantage of it.

>it probably won't work these days.

Oh, it absolutely works these days; it's even easier. My undergraduate institution publishes median grades for each course.

There's a bit of an uproar though because they're going to start printing the median grades on students' transcripts...

So you actually took the 75% A classes? Did you learn a lot from those profs, or were they just giving the As away? I would figure that, knowing nothing else about the prof, the one with grades in the middle would be the most effective teacher.

In my experience, the median grades are higher for smaller classes, and those smaller classes are often more advanced and populated by graduate students. It's not that the professor is easier, it's that everyone works really hard and learns a lot, because they're motivated by the work itself.

This does not hold true for large classes where the median grade is an A, however; those are usually genuinely easier.

Heck yes did I take them. At the time I had little interest in biology and I felt that it was interfering with my real education, which it was. Nothing against biology, but most of the things that I learned in college that I would call "valuable" (professionally and otherwise) I did not learn in class.

I love the delayed delivery feature. My friend works as a personal banker, and often has to stay late calling on prospect lists* (which had a conversion rate of near 5% - it was really a waste of time). When he was done he was supposed to email the branch manager with the results of the night (appointments, sales, etc.). He liked the OT, but most of the time he already had his appointments and sales met, so I suggested the delayed delivery feature - send the email at 7:30 with your results, get the OT, but don't stay late.

I had a boss a few decades back that used to give me another task or two every time we passed in the halls. Being already overloaded, I wasn't very appreciative.

I started saving all of my questions for him until these pass-by's. I started giving him so much more stuff, that he began seeing me coming and would jokingly say "Oh, piss off!"

I later heard of another colleague who would answer an additional job request with the question "Okay, what DON'T you want me to do?"

This is really sad: as about the same time you were doing the scanning and OCR'ing in '94, I was in a PhD program, and did the same thing thing for our research project in the Wavelet Signal Processing course, because I started it too late. Scanned papers, OCR, and edit, Had a 30 page report in no-time, pure bliss. Always felt bad about it, though.

Yeah, using that hack in college might be a little more shady. I have always subscribed to the belief of "you ask a stupid question, you get a stupid answer" so my actions were usually fueled by my opinion that the writing assignments that my instructor was giving out were essentially "stupid". I know, that's a pretty crappy form of justification but that was also around the time that I was learning html and graphic design which I considered more worthwhile ways to spend my time.

About ten years ago, I went to my father's work one Saturday afternoon. He worked at [big software company]. Throughout the entire building there were doors that were locked, and to open them, you'd put your badge next to the scanner and the door would open. These doors were everywhere. The doors had to be able to be opened from the other side without a badge, though. In case there was ever an emergency, people would need to be able to get out without a badge.

I noticed this when we let the building for lunch: the door was automatically opened as we walked towards it. When we got back from lunch, being the curious ten year old I was, I tried to figure out how it worked. It turns out they had a motion detector pointing in front of the door, and whenever it detected motion, the magnetic locks on the door would open.

So, I asked my father for a stack of paper, went to the elevator room on the locked side of one of these doors, and for thirty minutes made paper airplanes and threw them through the crack in the middle of the double doors until I found out how to make a plane which would expand enough to trip the motion detector. After another half hour of practice, it would only take one or two throws to trip the detector.

The next time I visited his work, and after a few emails to the building security, the cracks in all the doors were sealed.

I've been interested in security ever since then.

For my first experiment testing boundaries, I went round the building taping off red high five zones, put up posters outlining an official high five incentive program, and started recruiting a high five squad. The Wall Street Journal picked the story up and it worked out well for everyone. We still high five a lot.

Then I stole a conference room called Battle Ship, moved into it with my big purple chair, end table and lamp, renamed it Pirate Ship, and repurposed it as a library for quiet hacking. I posted to the company group, "I sank your battleship," with a humorous story, and it was a hit. I drew a sketchup file of a remodeled room with pyramid foam like at YC, an egg chair, and a data scientist brain washing video on a pull down screen from the overhead projector. I knew I was at the right company when the official response was to rebuild the room to my design (it was even dirt cheap to do so). We brainwashed our first candidate this week.

Finally I promoted myself because I didn't like my old title. That's going well so far.

Probably none of this would have gone as well without a supportive boss running cover I never saw, but if you mean well, are a type A, and are totally committed... at most companies you can get away with anything that advances the mission. As in all walks of life you have to sell.

Shenanigans like these taught me how the system operates, so now I can get real things done the same way.

This is great! Are you hiring?

Yes. Aggressively. rjurney at linkedin.com

Rubyists, javscript hackers, the data obsessed, information designers... all badly needed.

Journalism Hack:

During J-School I found a letter to the editor in a neighborhood paper from someone complaining about the busted up sidewalks. I decided to do a story about it and needed to interview the original letter writer. Unfortunately the paper only published her first name, "Judy" and no contact info.

I found the piece of sidewalk in question. Stopped, turned, and looked around at the 4 high-rise appt. buildings across the street. I pulled out my notebook, wrote "Please let Judy know a reporter is here to talk about the sidewalks with her," on it, walked into the fanciest, snootiest building, gave it to the doorman, and 15 minutes later, the writer of the letter to the editor "Judy" came down and did the interview. I got my source.

I was pretty sure the writer of such a letter would have to be well-off and cantankerous enough to be top-of-mind with her doorman.

I used to live in a new build block of flats that was mostly buy to let - it was actually still being built at the time and I was amongst the first to move in. I wanted high speed broadband but it was quite expensive at the time (8mbit was about £50/month back then) but I was close enough to the exchange to get it. I bought a wireless access point, set myself up as a linksys reseller and sold WRTs to most of my floor offering unlimited Internet access for £10/month. I then used a Linux box as my gateway for the wireless, split everyone off from my internal network and throttled connections based on the amount they paid. When new people moved in I came round to see them (usually with a pre-configured router) and offered them 12 months (as that's how long most tenancy agreements were) for £100 plus £50 for the router.

I ended up having 5 8 meg ADSL lines and almost the entire block on the network, each getting 512k-2mbit for £10 a month and a nice profit margin too!

I started work at a place where I didn't have an office but worked on a folding table with a broken chair in a small storage room. After the first month of this it became intolerable. I noticed though that there was a very large office formerly used as a hardware testing lab that was no longer occupied. I came in one weekend with some friends when no one was there and moved most everything out of that room up two stories to a large storage area, and furnished it with the good old filing cabinet and hollow door desk, put posters on the wall, and swapped in a new high end computer and monitors that were supposed to be for an executive. Everyone assumed that someone else had cleared this and by the time anyone figured it out (if they did) no one said anything.

At places where I don't get a business card, I borrow one from the executives and have it cloned at a card shop with my own info. Usually I will get two or three boxes each with different titles and then pass these out at conferences with a title appropriate to whatever I am discussing with someone.

Speaking of conferences, I have never asked for permission to go to them. I just do, and then submit expenses.

At my university, they don't give grad students business cards and the only way to order them is to use an internal requisition code. Recently the university spent a huge amount of money on a new "branding campaign". I found some branding documents buried deep in the university website that specified exactly how university business cards should appear. Now I have some very convincing cards from a cheap online stationary vendor.

I give them out all of the time at conferences and other grad students here are always surprised that I have "official" university business cards.

Speaking of conferences, I have never asked for permission to go to them. I just do, and then submit expenses.

In certain cases it's far easier to apologise later than ask for permission first.

Straight out of the 4HWW book, but something I now do a lot more - and so far so good!

Big fan of Tim Ferriss too but the saying is much older.

Its attributed to Grace Hopper, a Rear Admiral in the Navy and a programmer.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grace_Murray_Hopper http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Grace_Hopper

I've got to disagree with you on Ferriss. The man is an utter fraud.

In highschool some friends and I came across a method for duplicating items in Diablo II and we sold the items using PayPal by advertising in the chat rooms. We didn't do the actual hacking of the game, but it felt like hacking to get paid hundreds of dollars for essentially digital toys.

More recently my friend and I wanted to throw an Ubuntu release party (also my birthday party) so we decided to walk around campus and recruit Ubuntu Girls. It was surprisingly easy, we wore Ubuntu shirts and hats and just walked up and asked "have you ever modeled before?" invariably they giggle and say no then we follow with something to the effect of "I don't believe it!" and "would you like to try for a good cause?" We ended up with 5 really fun girls to serve the drinks at the party. We are part of the Florida Ubuntu Team but we did it all on our own, we even had to print our own shirts (which was the only payment for the girls).

At my highschool cafeteria we'd use these RFID charge cards which you could load cash into. Now, I didn't have the means to access an RFID reader to mess around with it, but turns out that there were other problems.

Being the absent minded person that I am, I'd often lose these cards, pay some extra amount to get a new card, and then find the old cards in my pocket, in a bag etc. The old cards wouldn't work in the main cafeteria but they'd transfer the cash amount you had into the new card (minus the card fee) for you. However, they would work in the coffee vending machines. It turns out they actually stored the cash value in the cards!

So, I ended up loading a large sum of money in a card, "losing" it, and me and my friends had free coffee and hot chocolate for the better part of the most academically challenging two years of my life.

This is pretty much how I got interested in software security, btw.

How did they know how much money to transfer if it was stored on the lost card?

They can't - if you take money of the card using a coffee machine, they don't know how about it unless they log the coffee-transaction, in which case the auther above was bound to get in trouble for getting free coffee.

Meeting women hack:

I was bored one Saturday night and didn't have anything to do. I'd also struck out on a date recently and wanted to get some positive momentum going on that front.

There's a club near my neighborhood that always has a long line and is quite popular. So I got spiffed up, went over there, and waited ACROSS THE STREET from the club, watching the line.

About 10 minutes later, I see a gaggle of late 20s women round the corner and start heading toward the back of the line. One of them had a tiara on so this was clearly a bachelorette party. I speed walked to the back of the line myself and got just in front of the five of them.

I kept my back to them, stood squarely in their way, and held up the line on purpose while I looked at my phone. This got me a jab in the back from the bride-to-be. I turned with a big smile on my face to mess with her and her friends.

15 minutes later, one of them paid my cover to get into the club, I had a beer with them. Then I excused myself to "go meet up with some other friends" set up a lunch date with one and got her phone number. We went out a few days later. It didn't go anywhere, but next time I'm in that situation, I have a go-to spot now.

My girlfriend is English and I'm American. We met while traveling, so for the first several years we were together neither of us had a visa to reside in the other's country.

For a while we'd fly back and forth between the US and England every few months, and we did a bunch of traveling to allow the return restrictions to expire.

Finally we got fed up and simply moved to Spain, where neither one of us is allowed to live, but they just don't check very hard. Lived there for a little over a year, coming and going as we pleased with never an issue with immigrations.

The UK and Spain are in the EU. EU citizens can freely move between member states (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internal_Market_(European_Union...), so your girlfriend can legally live in Spain for as long as she wishes.

Indeed. That's actually how we managed to rent an apartment, since she was legally allowed to live there.

I, however, was the stereotypical undocumented alien, living in the country illegally, not learning the language or integrating with the culture, stealing jobs from the local economy, sneaking across the border into the land of opportunity.

Not quite. As you were her bf, you have the same right as her. This is perhaps one of the benefits of being in the EU that in some cases you have more rights living in another country, that is spain, than in the UK, for a Uk citizen, especially in situations where a relationship with a person outside of the EU is involved.

Are you saying that "boyfriend" is a legally recognised relationship status in Europe?

It kind of depends on the Member State and the exact law of the EU. I do know however that it does not need to be husband and wife in many cases.

Conversely, you can probably become a citizen of an EU country that doesn't have stringent requirements and go live in England (I'm not sure if the requirements are set by the EU itself, though).

Known as the "Belgian route". Many EU citizens with foreign wives have to find a place to live for a while such as Belgium to get citizenship...

Getting married seems like a better hack. All you do is sign a little piece of paper and instantly attain a host of benefits (such as a guaranteed visa).

Probably not the best course of action for a girl you've only known for a few months though.

The crux was finding a way to live together for long enough to decide whether we wanted to do so for good. Spoiler Alert: We did.

Ignoring emotional issues, a proper pre-nup would basically let you treat a marriage as a simple way around those restrictions without large long-term ramifications if you decide to change course.

Acck, pre-nup contracts in many countries can be easily overturned, even if it's done all properly with plenty of time and so on.

unless you wanted to live in england where pre-nups are not enforceable.

There was a fairly well publicised court case here in the UK last week. The general consensus now is that they are legally binding.


Once upon a time I was a linecook. At the end of every night the manager would inspect your station for cleanliness. Most managers felt that they should at least find one more thing for you to do before you leave, or they weren't doing a good job. It was really arbitrary and there was always a risk that it would be something time consuming.

I started a practice of messing my station with something really easy to finish up before inpection. Maybe a blob of mayo on the counter. Worked like a charm.

I've also applied this concept to software for clueless clients. I've only recently learned that it's called a Duck[0].

[0] http://goo.gl/yDgC (stack overflow)

I've heard of something similar being done in accounts in order to give any auditors or tax inspectors something to find. Nothing big, of course. I'm personally not convinced this would help get rid of them quicker but who knows.

Freshman year in college.

Phase I: Got up very early and signed up for a (very overbooked) ME class that included lab time in the machine shop, something I knew would be a lot of fun (been hanging around and working in shops for years).

Turns out the class was a pre-req for a very popular ME class involving a robot competition that all the seniors wanted. Due to the overbooking, limited lab space, and the pre-req status, the prof decided to give preference to the upperclassman that didn't have any other chance to get the class in. As the only freshman, I was out. As were all the sophomores.

But I didn't pout or run off like the others did. I stayed long enough to take the first day shop tour, where I put phase II of my plan in play.

I'd been hanging around the lab/shop in question off and on for several weeks before and had gotten friendly with Marty, the shop instructor. When he saw me in the class tour and learned that I was out because of the overbooking, he offered to the prof to stretch the shop rules and let me in anyway (knowing that I wouldn't require much supervision).

Victory over the system as a freshman!

Needless to say, many of the sophomores came by and griped about it later. I'm not sure if they were mad at me for bending the rules, or themselves for not thinking of it first.

Once I was working in a data-entry center, literally typing hand-completed hard-copy questionnaire booklets about dog food into a computer. It was really dull.

Every hour we'd have someone come over and check the little counter on our screens to make sure we were doing at least 12 per hour.

So I screenshotted the software, took it into MS-Paint and edited the counter to read 12, and every time they came around I'd just alt-tab to the screenshot and they were never the wiser.

College hack: I was tired of college so I changed my major to General Studies which had the laxest requirements. The biggest requirement was a certain number of classes at the 3000 level or higher. Then I did a year abroad in Paris. The exchange program gave 3000-level credit for any course taken in French (as opposed to English). So I took first-year courses and finished my degree early. Plus I got to name my degree. Bachelor of Computational Linguistics


I had a terrible supervisor at work. He would send incomprehensible one-line emails that he dumped into his Blackberry at all hours. They would usually be some unimportant and ridiculous task for me to do. At first, I would stress out trying to do them all to a high level. I eventually started replying immediately to the email with the short, cryptic message "Need more detail." That put the ball back in his court, and of course he'd never send anything back.


In college I worked in housekeeping. Every summer we would refinish the floors of various sections of the campus. Invariably someone would get past the signs and barriers and walk on the freshly waxed floors. So one summer I'd had enough and decided to do something about it. We set all the barriers up as usual with one small change. We posted an additional sign up somewhere where they could only see it if they were already standing on the waxed floor. The sign read "Congratulations. You have just cost the school 300 dollars" I had calculated the cost of footprints in the floor based off of man hours and materials. The next day I was called into Comptrollers office. He was holding the sign and having trouble being serious while scolding me. Apparently the dean of the college had brought it into him.


Also in college I hacked into the school network (microsoft network so it wasn't hard). I didn't actually do anything that would get me in trouble like change grades or move money around. (yes I had full access to the financial records) I just got the utility they used to bypass the school web proxy. I left a message for the IT department so they could close the holes but they never did.


I also learned to pick locks in college. Most of the professors had personal locks on their doors and kept whatever hours they pleased. They still wanted their office vacuumed and trash emptied though. My solution was to pick the locks to their office. They never found out but there wasn't a room in that college I couldn't get into. Only one lock gave me trouble but I just went over the ceiling for that one. :-)

Back in the day when you had to pay for games, I really wanted Wing Commander III but it cost a whopping £39.99 which was far more than I could afford with my few savings. Solution: I designed a voucher for PC World giving £25 off the price of the game, and printed it off on an inkjet. I went to the shop, handed the game and the fake voucher to the cashier, who looked at it with obvious suspicion and told me "I'm going to get the manager". At this point I was on the edge of running out of the door, but I held my nerve and tried to look nonchalant. The manager came over and luckily for me her mind seemed to be on other things as she just glanced at the voucher, said "yeah that's fine" and walked off. So I paid £14.99, took the game and walked past the security guard out of the store, then sprinted for the next mile in case someone discovered my fraud. But every time I played the game I felt a little bit dirty. Until a few months later I saw the game in the bargain bin for £4.99

Until I read your last sentence I was going to add: the joke was on you.

I was applying for a temp position and said I knew Office 97 when I only knew 95, and not the advanced stuff.

The temp agency had a computerized test for Office, which displayed a real Office UI and a text bar above that would say things like "Now, print this document." If you selected anything other than File, Print, it would immediately score against you and move on. Whoever wrote the program thought they were pretty clever to have it register a mistake once you picked a menu option, and not to let you hunt around for the right answer.

I soon realized that as long as I kept the mouse button down, I could move the cursor through all the menus without triggering a "selected" event. By going through the menus I found the answers easily, and I was able to score 99% on the test (the one error I made happened before I figured out the cheat).

Oh, and the company I went to work for hired me from the temp agency.

At several summer camps, we wore lanyards that carried our dining hall cards. Occasionally, I forgot mine. But I gained admittance to the dining hall anyway...

The structure of the dining hall was this: There were several tables outside the building, and more tables directly inside, and then there was the entrance to the kitchen/buffet area with the food. On the right side of the entrance, there was a cashier who swiped people's cards as they came in. People would go in, get a tray of food, and come out to eat; later, they might bring their tray back in for more food. Those who went back in just passed by the cashier to the left; you didn't have to pay twice to get seconds.

So, here's what I did: Send in a friend, who picks up two trays at once (still stacked; it looks almost the same as a single tray) with an extra plate (again, stacked under another) and comes out. Out at the table, I take his extra tray, put an extra plate on it, maybe scrub a bit of food on it, put on his lanyard, and carry the tray "back" in to get "seconds". No one ever questioned me.

Crashed countless high profile parties. An example: when I was living in Bangkok, after a Fado opera I walked right into the royal after party. Spent some time chatting with a princess and the queen.

Treat the velvet rope as a suggestion. Walk on in casually and confidently as though you have 100% right to be there, half the time nobody will stop you...especially if you are dressed properly.

Everything is a suggestion. As long as you look like you belong, nobody will stop you 95% of the time.

Best clothing for this is not a tux, it's a yellow workman's jacket.

It depends on the occasion, but yes, bonus if you appear to work there.

My favorite place to go is the women's bathroom. They always have soap, paper towels and usually something like hair gel or other amenities. Men's bathrooms have nothing, plus women are cool about it.

When my gym was doing some building work, men and women swapped changing rooms (all the builders were men) and I was amazed at how clean, spacious, and well-appointed theirs was. You know they even have individual shower cubicles, not just a big open space with shower heads hanging from the ceiling? Luxury!

I'm guessing you didn't miss the black broth either.

We have one on campus with a couch.

Couches are standard issue in women's bathrooms. They're pretty darn handy if you're breastfeeding.

And the reverse is that if there is a line to the women's bathroom, use the men's.

I never understood the segregated bathroom idea.

Indeed, although I'm not sure if the women would like to use the men's bathrooms. I should compare toilets next time I visit the women's (I mostly only go there to wash my hands).

Senior year, I took a intro Psych course where the final was online. The questions were multiple choice, chosen from a large pool. The test was setup in such a way that we could re-take the exam as many times as we want and students would receive their highest score as their final exam grade. The idea was that if you took it 20 times, you would inevitably learn most of the material.

So, I imagine you can guess how I took the exam. After writing an running few scripts, my final exam scores showed that I took the exam 31 times: The first 30 times (as I was collecting questions and their answers) I received 0% and each exam took ~30 seconds. On the 31st exam I got 100% and it took ~45 seconds.

As you would expect, I got an A+ for the course. I never did bring it up to the prof.

In a similar vein, in my astronomy course we had online quizes and one type of question asked us to identify a picture. Viewing the page's source would occasionally reveal the the picture's filename, e.g. "sagittarius.gif".

We had a weekly biology quiz that was randomly generated from a set of questions, but would save your progress. However, it gave you the answers to the questions you got wrong in real time, but it would only send your answers at the end of the quiz.

So all you had to do was get the first question right (if you didn't save 1 answer, it would generate a new quiz for you), exit the quiz, then reopen it and collect all the answers to the quiz. Then before exiting the quiz, disconnect from the internet. When you opened it up again you'd fill in questions 2-10 with the correct answers.

At my last job, I snuck in some premature optimizations.

Didn't you get the memo? Those are evil, not just naughty.

They're not evil. Just the root of it.

One of my first mentors had that on his desk.

Was he Dijkstra?

No, Jean Brouwers -- he was a legend in the CAD space at the time.

In high-school I was part of the webteam. This gave us slightly elevated privileges meaning we could get away with a lot of simple windows NT/XP hacking. We had internet on the 'non-internet' machine much to the awe of everyone else, chatted with each other via netsend, played games (until the admin sent us a netsend telling us to stop).

Also, all pc's were numbered corresponding to their network name. You can reboot pc's via netsend. Much fun was had :) This went on until we could print on the machines of the principal + other higher-up stuff. We never dared doing that though.

...then I went to college and got an email from one of the sysadmins telling me I had a virus and that I should use [random windows antivirus]. I was using IRC on Ubuntu on a non-standard port. I got a really sour reply from the sysadmin upon telling him that.

Hahahah, I figured out exactly what net send * did when I turned my head and looked at all the other computers in the lab :P

The help for net send is very dangerous to a young and curious user. It shows the *, but doesn't say what it does.

When Microsoft launched Live search (pre-bing) they needed someway to inflate their search usage to tell advertisers people actually use the site. So they launch Club Live, which has a series of word games offering points and prizes for winning. Every time one types a word in a word game, it automatically searches for the word in a search frame next to the game.

So naturally I wrote a program that scripted mouse/keyboard movements with searching and changing in-memory variables used by Flash. It solved games 20-30 times faster than I could, without me even being at the computer (I ran it 24/7 on an old desktop).

Eventually other people started doing this too and the hole was plugged. But I received quite a few free copies of Vista Ultimate and Xbox360 controllers that found their way on ebay.

There was a lot of exploitation of Club Live. Some of it had been factored in as a cost of doing business but it wouldn't surprise me if they underestimated it.

Overall, Club Live was a brilliant strategy. Despite horrible execution it still succeeded in ratcheting up the pressure on Yahoo by demonstrating that MS was willing to buy market share. With minimal cash reserves and no product of its own to put through the channel there was no way for Yahoo to compete. There sure were a lot of things they could have done better though.

At 7th class we started studying computers. Like using MS-DOS commands, then - norton commander, then, eventually - programming in Turbo Pascal.

We had some old IPX based LAN, where every's pupil's disk was remotely hosted on the server, and once you turn computer on, it asks you for your login/password. After you are logged in, you have your own D: drive where all only yours files located. This had been done after several pupil's claims that they had done some task before, and someone just deleted their files.

Our teacher had "admin" login password, which allowed him to access all files on server.

On the first class, he explained all of this to us. Friend of mine tried to do jokes and asked "And what if some pupil will hack somehow network and will get his hands on admin login/password?". Teacher told, that he will give A mark for the rest of length of this course (i.e. from 7th class to 11th class - 4 years!)

Long story short - I have wrote small program on assembler, which was essentially what today called "keylogger". It was running residentially, intercepting some msdos interrupt (used to execute program), checking which program is about to start, and if it is "login.exe" - log all keypresses into a file.

The problem was - there were no floppy drives (for security reason), and at this time - no USB too (it was back in 1997). So I printed out the whole source on small peace of paper (1/4 of A4) and entered it line by line in Turbo Pascal IDE. Luckily, I had TASM there, as a part of Turbo Pascal. That's it - entered and compiled right on machine.

I had to wait a bit until teacher used machine I was studying at, but eventually he did it and I had his login/password.

I disclosed in full all of this to teacher and he kept his word - I never attended this class and had A mark till end of the school =)Freed some time for "real" hacking =))

Before dropping out of college 25 years ago I took an ASM programming course. The processor was the PDP 11. The official terminals were dec writers to an emulator but I happened to have access to a PDP 11 unix box.

I cut my teeth doing Z80 ASM hacking on a Timex Sinclair and had no patience for this required class.

I wrote all my assignments in C and dumped the intermediate output. The grader always gave me nice comments like "well structured code."

When I took my assembly language course back in college, the teacher graded us by comparing the size of our solution to his solution and assessing a penalty for every extra byte we wasted, so we couldn't do things like that. You also got no partial credit for non-working solutions.

That said, I did read the manual and figured out how to make my solution call his solution, but I couldn't use that because the TAs were smarter than that and the teacher was very interested in anyone who could beat his solutions by even one byte.

I was struggling to get through Chemistry in college, when I discovered that the online quizzes that made up 25% of our overall grade used time (seconds, not microseconds) as the random seed for deciding which question was shown. This was important because we were allowed two tries to get an answer right. I filled up the computer lab with friends from the class and we all hit "next" at the same time causing us to all be shown the same "randomly chosen" question. We each chose a different answer and then shared the correct answer for the second attempt.

I was once pulled over by a traffic police here in India. I was not carrying my license and that means around 200 bucks (Rs) in bribe. To get out of paying bribe I acted that I am dialing a number and speaking to a senior police officer (I knew one name who was my friend's uncle) and complaining to him about the officer who pulled me over. Officer apologized and I didnt have to pay the bribe.


When I was in college we had only one printer (dot-matrix) to take print-outs of our submissions. Towards end of semester there always was a long waiting line to get print-outs done and no one owned printer (very few owned computers). So I built a book-keeping s/w and scheduling s/w along with library of assignments. IT had a database system built using Cobol which will take roll number and name of a students replace it at appropriate places in the source code and print out copies. All we needed to do was make sure the printer always had paper rolls and entire printing, which used to take days, was done in matter of hours. I was told the s/w was still in use in the college.

PS - I never encouraged copying of grade work though, always wrote my own programs even though attached which ever one I got to file.

I got hammered the day before my Moscow residency permit expired and changed the blue expiration date with purple pen. Smeared it a little. Problem solved. That made the next few months fairly exhilarating each time I was stopped by the militsia at random for looking Chechyn. I had permission to be in country, just not in city.

Six years ago my brother rented out a beach house in another state for the summer and would let me stay there with some friends. One fun summer week a good friend and I were enjoying the house to ourselves and decided to make a 7-11 run to pick up some much needed snacks and other provisions.

When we got back from our adventure my key wouldn't open the door. Unbeknownst to us, this was the one time that closing the door triggered an old lock on the door that we didn't have the key for. Amazingly, we had taken care to ensure that both the back and patio doors, along with all the windows were locked before we left, thus cementing our unfortunate predicament. It was already late in the day and the broker's office was closed, leaving us with what it seemed to be a limited amount of options. We could call a locksmith and try to convince him to let us in, which would likely cost more money than we were willing to spend, or we could stay outside for the night in the house's semi-sheltered porch area and walk to the broker in the morning.

Although it was summer, it still got chilly at night, and I most definitely did not want to stay outside. While thinking over our options in the porch area I noticed there was one of those big outdoor candles that come in a metal housing. Fortunately, the housing had a handle, and I was young enough to think I could do something with it. With much finagling, I was able to remove the handle from the housing and bend it into a hook. My plan was to try to use the hook to jimmy open the window somehow so that I could climb in through the window and open the door. After several failed attempts my always skeptical friend reminded me that I was wasting my time and should accept the situation for the night. Fortunately, I ignored his advice and persisted through several more attempts. Finally, I was able to sliver my makeshift hook through the frame of one of the windows and manipulate my way to close proximity of the window's lock. After flailing with the wire for several more minutes I finally hit the window's lock and opened the window. After which I climbed in and opened the door. I had successfully broken in to our rented beach house. I immediately taped over the broken lock to prevent this situation from repeating itself.

My friend of course was absolutely shocked, and still recounts the story in amazement.

Fortunately none of our neighbors thought that two unknown teenagers breaking into a house the least bit suspicious,

Lockpicking skills come in handy in those situations. This reminds me of the time a friend got locked out of his car, but his trunk was open. The car only had 4 doors, however, so it wasn't much use.

In the trunk was a broomstick, some rope and a, erm, we call them "parrot wrenches". Fortunately, one of the rear speakers could be lifted up a bit, so I fastened the wrench to the broomstick with the rope and slid it through the small hole (it was just enough to fit). Through that small hole, I manoeuvred to the rear door lock and pushed it up.

All my friends remember that MacGuyver moment to this day.

I miss having an old car -- a few years back I had recently moved overseas, and was driving a car I could reasonably buy with cash from the ATM (no bank account yet, etc). Well, one day I managed to lock my keys in the car (and myself, my wife and 2 friends out of it) while we were at the grocery store. I turned around, jogged back into the store, bought a screwdriver and a coat-hanger, and jogged back out. The screwdriver was to push the upper corner of the door away from the frame (easy to open a little space, but hard to do with just fingers); the coat hanger was to snag the lock and pull it up.

The hardest part was actually getting the screwdriver out of its damned unbreakable-but-dangerously-sharp plastic packaging.

All-in-all, we only got home about 5 minutes later than we would have!

I've helped people into their cars by using a hatchet blade to bend the door just enough to take a long rod and press the "unlock" button. I learned to do this on my own car, and would demonstrate to anyone who thinks that bending metal is a Bad Thing.

My bf and I broke into a property we were staying in for the weekend after we accidentally locked ourselves out by unscrewing the entire door handle (it was an old house and in the country). We tried picking it before we cottoned onto this idea but neither of us had any picking skills... then we noticed that the screws for the door handle section were entirely on the outside of the door! Many high fives were had.

I've had to break into a ridiculous amount of vehicles for friends that have locked their keys in. Pretty much every car window will give you at least an inch or two of room with enough wiggling/pushing. And then at that point you just need to move it a bit to get your wrist in and a stick to flick up the lock.

Though you're screwed if there's no 'lip' on the lock to get something under to flip it up.

When I was in high school my parents once gave me the ignition key to their van, but didn't tell me there was a separate door key. Fortunately I'd left the windows open a crack, and used the cable from my headphones to make a lasso to pull the lock open.

Reminds me of one summer day when it was about 32°C outside, I came home in the afternoon and decided to kick back and placed my wallet, keys and phone on my desk. Though a while later I went to put something in the recycling bin just outside our backdoor and just before it slammed shut I realised it was locked though it was too late. I definitely didn't want to be stuck outside waiting for someone else to come home.

We had a new evaporative cooling system which means you have to have a few windows open, though they were all locked open a jar. It was certainly frustrating being able to feel the nice cool air flowing out of the window onto my face and it wasn't enough in the heat.

I tried reaching through the window with various instruments such as bamboo sticks, broom handles, etc. that we had lying around but nothing was long enough to reach my keys. I tried a piece of plank but not only was it too short but I wouldn't have been able to manoeuvre it anyway. At that point I was thinking I was doomed. Fortunately we had a new kitchen ceiling put in and it suddenly occurred to me that we had some 5m long pieces of ceiling pine timber on the front verandah.

I lugged one around to my bedroom window and the length of pine was not only long enough but thinner and far more flexible than the plank. I was able to drag the keys off my desk and across the floor near the window. Then used a bamboo stick to fish them out from there.

I was probably stuck outside for 30-40 minutes in the end, though it was a good several hours before anyone else came home.

When locked out of a very used (435,000 eventually miles maxed it out) Toyota pickup I had just bought, I sacrificed a windshield wiper for a thin strip of steel, bent a hook in it and fished my keychain from the driver's seat. Got in, drove to WalMart and got new wiper blades.

Wait a second. This isn't naughty, just sort of boasting.

Back when I was in high school, On one Friday afternoon I discovered the ethernet cables connecting the computer to the network had the same plug on both ends. I wondered what would happen if I had a cable coming out of the wall plugged back into the wall, so I pulled out the cable out of one of the computers and plugged both ends into the wall.

On Monday, One of the teachers went to each class and (loudly & angrily) asked "Who was it that pulled the cable from one computer and plugged it into the wall?!". It was only when they got to our class, I realize something was wrong because of something I did, so I timidly said "I did".

Well, as you might have guessed, what happened was a short-circuit and all the computers in the school couldn't connect to any network anymore. The office staff lost all their current work and had to work for extra 4 more hours each, doing office work manually. They didn't find out what was the problem until Monday.

The principal asked me why I did it, and I answered "I was curious." Due to my "stellar" past performance and history at the school, I was fined $300 (the cost of the technician) and sentenced to 2 days suspension. I was told that if I was any other student I'd have been expelled. My lesson that day was: "If you ever muck with stuff for fun, PUT IT BACK TO IT WAS BEFORE."

My school record indicates I have been put in detention 0 times and suspended 2 days in total.

$300 fine because the network admin couldn't be bothered to run spanning tree?

I don't think we had a 'network guy' at the high school. It was just the computer teacher who was responsible for everything related to IT, so I'm guessing the school outsourced all the networking.

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