February 24th, 2011 § § permalink
Here’s a surprisingly simple trick for opening a locked suitcase from Lifehacker: simply plunge a ballpoint pen into the zipper, which separates the teeth and allows you to open the suitcase. The pull can than be run around the zipper once again, resealing the suitcase and leaving no evidence of tampering. Check out the video at the link to see it in action.
Watch the video above to see how a pen can be turned into a suitcase-cracking tool. In the demonstration they use a ballpoint pen to exert pressure on the zipper of a suitcase. The pressure causes the teeth to separate, effectively opening the suitcase.
The secret sauce in this hack of dubious ethics, however, isn’t the pen (you could always slice a suitcase open with a knife if you wanted in that badly after all) but in the zipper mechanism itself. Zippers are self healing and if you run the zipper pull (still securely locked to the other pull, we might add) along the zipper track you’ll reseal the suitcase as though you were never there.
Dave Lord also gives some advice for defending against this trick in the comments:
I use a “clam shell” style suitcase made of ABS. Obviously this trick won’t work with that type of luggage.
You can buy a tamper proof tie that will secure the case. There are a few different brands, but they all work something like a cable tie. Each one has an unique serial number.
After it is applied, there is no way to open the case without breaking the tie. As an extra security measure, I photograph the serial number on the tie at the baggage check-in on my camera phone, with myself in the photo. The phone automatically uploads the pic to dropbox, complete with all exif data, including GPS position. It is not hard evidence, but every bit of evidence helps if you are wrongly accused.
Open a Locked Suitcase Without Leaving a Trace
February 20th, 2011 § § permalink
February 20th, 2011 § § permalink
For a while, I’ve been working on a list of gadgets and other gear that I’d like to have with me at all times. Qualifications were that it had to be fairly legal and inexpensive, and fit in a small bag that could easily be hidden in a cache. Under optimal conditions, one would have a few of these stashed in several places easily accessible (like Bourne’s train station locker
- Bullet Space Pen with Clip: a small pen that writes no matter where you are, no matter what you are doing.
- Gerber 22-80012 Infinity Ultra Task LED Flashlight: about the size of the pen, and durable as heck.
- Moleskine Sketchbook Pocket: yes, I’m one of those people who loves Moleskines.
- Victorinox Swiss Army Explorer with Free Pouch: a knife.
- Victorinox Swiss Army Secretary Pocket Knife (Silver Alox): another knife, but this one is so thin and sleek, I’d keep it hidden in a concealed pocket.
- Crosman C11 CO2 Powered Semi-Automatic BB Repeater Air Pistol: ok, this one’s optional, but handy if you need a “weapon“.
- Orion 10×42 Waterproof Monocular: Bourne doesn’t use binoculars, he uses a monocular.
- LG Prime Prepaid GoPhone (AT&T) with $15 Airtime Credit: a throwaway phone is always a necessity.
- Black Diamond Neutrino Carabiner: always nice to have, even if it’s just for keys.
- Party Snaps: can you say distraction?
- Assorted Color Smoke Balls: if you can, just say it again for these things.
- A disposable credit card: when you can’t use cash.
- A duffel bag: best way to travel
- American Apparel Retro Track Jacket: ok, ok, so it’s not optimal that it has reflective stripes, but if you’re not trying to stay too hidden, this is a pretty great jacket (if you make some, erm, “minor adjustments“)
- American Apparel Premium Fitted T-Shirt: black t-shirt.
- Black track pants: so you can run.
- Champion – Mens 2 Pack Active Fit Boxer Briefs, Grey, Black: secret agents aren’t allowed to wear boxers. (Thanks to Manpacks for the suggestion!)
- Vibram Five Fingers KSO: these are excellent for your body, and have great grip for impromptu stunts.
- Thousand Oaks Drawstring Backpack: a simple, inexpensive drawstring bag to hold everything.
February 18th, 2011 § § permalink
In this New York Times Magazine article, writer Joshua Foer recounts his year-long journey from having an average memory to becoming a U.S. record holder at the U.S.A Memory Championship. Foer and other mental athletes use techniques such as the Method of Loci or “memory palace” based on the Rhetorica ad Herennium, a Latin rhetoric textbook from the 90s BC. Basically, you construct a “palace” in your imagination and fill it with imagery that represents whatever you need to remember. A bear juggling cabbage might stand for the king of hearts, for example (the more bizarre, the better). Once you’ve constructed your visual palace, you can bring it up at any time and walk through it, recalling each item in order. The best mental athletes can use the Method of Loci to “memorize the first and last names of dozens of strangers in just a few minutes, thousands of random digits in under an hour and — to impress those with a more humanistic bent — any poem you handed them.”
“What you have to understand is that even average memories are remarkably powerful if used properly,” Cooke said. He explained to me that mnemonic competitors saw themselves as “participants in an amateur research program” whose aim is to rescue a long-lost tradition of memory training.
When the researchers looked at the parts of the brain that were engaged when the subjects memorized, they found that the mental athletes were relying more heavily on regions known to be involved in spatial memory. At first glance, this didn’t seem to make sense. Why would mental athletes be navigating spaces in their minds while trying to learn three-digit numbers?
The answer lies in a discovery supposedly made by the poet Simonides of Ceos in the fifth century B.C. After a tragic banquet-hall collapse, of which he was the sole survivor, Simonides was asked to give an account of who was buried in the debris. When the poet closed his eyes and reconstructed the crumbled building in his imagination, he had an extraordinary realization: he remembered where each of the guests at the ill-fated dinner had been sitting. Even though he made no conscious effort to memorize the layout of the room, it nonetheless left a durable impression. From that simple observation, Simonides reportedly invented a technique that would form the basis of what came to be known as the art of memory. He realized that if there hadn’t been guests sitting at a banquet table but, say, every great Greek dramatist seated in order of birth — or each of the words of one of his poems or every item he needed to accomplish that day — he would have remembered that instead. He reasoned that just about anything could be imprinted upon our memories, and kept in good order, simply by constructing a building in the imagination and filling it with imagery of what needed to berecalled. This imagined edifice could then be walked through at any time in the future. Such a building would later come to be called a memory palace.
Secrets of a Mind-Gamer
February 15th, 2011 § § permalink
February 11th, 2011 § § permalink
Here’s a short list of tips for pickpocket prevention from FX World Chart. Most of it’s pretty straightforward, but it’s all solid advice.
Don’t carry what you don’t need – if you don’t have it, a pickpocket can’t get it.
Pickpockets prefer easy targets – if you can’t feel it on you, you probably can’t feel them take it.
Keep your valuables separated – having one thing stolen isn’t as bad as having everything stolen.
Use bags and purses that have zippers, clasps, or locks and keep them properly and fully closed at all times.
Beware of loud arguments and commotions in crowded areas. Thieves may stage these incidents to distract you while they pick your pocket or steal from you.
Be careful while banking at an ATM. Pickpockets will try to distract you from what you’re doing so you’ll lower your guard.
If you are the victim of a pickpocket, alert everyone you can in the immediate area and call the police immediately.
When out in a restaurant, internet cafe, bar or similar don’t just leave your bag on the back of your chair where you can’t keep an eye on it. It’s a good idea to slip the handle around your chair leg, wedge it between your feet or keep it on your lap.
Wear packs in front of you, not at the rear or side.
Carry a cheap wallet with a few small bills in it in an obvious place like your hip pocket.
Sew a zipper on the inside of a belt to make a money belt.
Pickpockets may try to slash the straps of bags, purses, and cameras. Be alert.
February 9th, 2011 § § permalink
We’ve touched on how to detect a liar, and now here’s a look into the deceptive practices of former “professional liar” Clancy Martin. He shares a couple of tips in this kottke.org blog post from his experience in the luxury jewelry business, where a lie could often mean a little additional profit. According to Martin, the key to a convincing lie is learning how to first deceive yourself.
As I would tell my salespeople: If you want to be an expert deceiver, master the art of self-deception. People will believe you when they see that you yourself are deeply convinced.
And the customer will help in this process, because she or he wants the diamond — where else can I get such a good deal on such a high-quality stone? — to be of a certain size and quality. At the same time, he or she does not want to pay the price that the actual diamond, were it what you claimed it to be, would cost. The transaction is a collaboration of lies and self-deceptions.
Meet a former professional liar
February 9th, 2011 § § permalink
OnPoint Tactical LLC is a tracking, survival, and scout school based in New Jersey. They have worked with and trained US military and law enforcement groups including the US Army Rangers, Navy SEALs, the FBI, and the Secret Service and offer courses for civilians as well. OnPoint offers programs for developing survival and tracking skills in a variety of situations and environments, from wilderness combat and pursuit tracking to urban escape and evasion. While based in New Jersey, onPoint provides courses and schools around the US. Check out their website for a list of upcoming events near you.
Founded in 2004, onPoint Tactical LLC is a premier provider of scout, tracker and wilderness survival skills that bridge the gap between the ancient and the modern — onPoint Tactical weaves traditional and modern skill sets into a holistic composite.
onPoint Tactical’s primary customers are members of the military, law enforcement, and government security contractors. onPoint Tactical LLC also develops courses for civilian customers who are interested in a closer connection to their ancient heritage or who want to be prepared for uncertain times.
onPoint Tactical LLC focuses on small class sizes with personalized instruction, and the teaching methodology leverages hands-on, repetitive training drills. onPoint’s no-nonsense, sensible educational approach is both practical and relevant to real-world conditions and situations.
February 7th, 2011 § § permalink
Being able to identify a lie is a useful skill to have under your belt, and can work to your advantage in countless situations. This article at The Art of Manliness introduces the art of detecting a liar. It’s an interesting read, but I’d like to point out that none of these techniques are foolproof. Most of the time what you’re doing is looking for signs of increased anxiety and mental exertion which do often accompany a lie, but can be present due to other factors. Never trust these techniques completely, but instead use them as a “heads up” that maybe you’re being deceived.
Have you ever been burned by somebody because they told you an outright lie? It can happen in your personal or business life-you’re on cloud nine when your girlfriend says she loves you, only to find out later she’s been cheating on you for months; a client says their business is solvent, but they end up bankrupt, and you lose a ton of money on an account.
Wouldn’t it be great to avoid these situations by being able to tell right then and there if someone is lying to you? Well, based on research by behavioral scientists and the work and experience of FBI agents and police officers, a system has been developed to help people become human lie detectors.
Below we provide a short introduction to the art of sniffing out a whopper. Ready to get started? Read on.
Become a Human Lie Detector: How to Sniff Out a Liar
February 7th, 2011 § § permalink
Staying cool under extreme circumstances can be key to your survival. This list from Zen Habits contains some rather surprising tricks for relieving daily stress and tension, so that you can stay composed and levelheaded when things get out of hand.
As we move through our daily routines we are often faced with obstacles and challenges which can lead to some degree of stress and anxiety. So to become more relaxed and free of tensions it is important to break away from your ordinary routine and find ways to de-stress. This process can be very simple or more in depth, but why not try something new and different? Here are 8, not your everyday ordinary, ways to de-stress and release tensions.
8 Unconventional Ways to De-Stress and Release Tension