Code, nerd culture and humor from Greg Knauss.

When Mark and I were in Vegas for DEFCON 2, I spotted a fed.

This is (or was) a game at DEFCONs, picking out federal employees. Winners get t-shirts -- "I Spotted the Fed" for the spotter and "I Am the Fed" for the spotee. The assumption is (or was) that anybody from the government who would attend a hacker/phreaker convention would be there to, y'know, spy. When I signed in on the first day, the guy working the front table said, "Dude, you're like the only guy here using his real name."

The fed was dressed casually, with a polo shirt and kahakis and too-short hair. He had a belt that matched his loafers and he was sitting quietly listening to the lecture. He, in other words, did not fit in.

After the talk was over -- the best part was when the speaker mentioned that all the Circus Circus phones were wired through the wall right at the jack, so you could pop the plate off, splice in an RJ-45 port and make calls from someone else's room -- after the talk was over, I grabbed Dark Tangent, pointed across the room and said, "I think he's a fed."

He looks, nods and says, "OK. Let's go find out."

We approach -- he was standing up now, just watching people mill around -- and Tangent, without fanfare and without the sort of toe-twisting hesitation that I manage to summon in these sorts of situations, walks right up, throws his thumb back at me, and says, "He thinks you're a fed."

"Ah. Heh," I say.

"Really?" the guy asks. "Why?"

"Well, ah," I say. "Just, y'know, the, ah, way you look. The, um, belt."

"Are you?" Tangent asks.


"Which agency?"

"I'm here on my own time, though."

"Which agency?"

"My bosses don't know. I was just curious."

"C'mon, man. Which agency?"

"The, um, EPA," he says.

I still got my shirt. I was the last one and they figured I was close enough.

Hi there! My name's GREG KNAUSS and I like to make things.

Some of those things are software (like Romantimatic and Buzz Clock), Web sites (like the Webby-nominated Metababy and The American People) and stories (for Web sites like Suck and Fray, print magazines like Worth and Macworld, and books like "Things I Learned About My Dad" and "Rainy Day Fun and Games for Toddler and Total Bastard").

My e-mail address is I'd love to hear from you!

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