The Aardvark Speaks - September 2002 Archive



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Monday, September 30, 2002

Rebecca Blood has found this yummy article entitled 'Bad Meat' by Fast Food Nation author Eric Schlosser on how quality control of American meat has been transferred from a government agency to...[drum roll] the meat packing industry. [rebecca's pocket] Who else would be better qualified to ensure that meat quality, not profits, have top priority?

And while we're talking about meat, have you read this brilliant novel, a hilariously funny critique of the American beef industry, yet? Certainly one of the most entertaining reads I've had in a while.
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In an apparent fit of panic, Niek Hockx writes:
Whoa! I'm burning up space at the Userland servers faster than you can say Radio! Not even three months into this weblog and my cloud status is already down too: 51% of 40.0MB free... *Phew* ;-) [clog]
Well yes, that's why I stopped Radio from rendering my categories - they've all been reduced to being mere RSS feeds, which has had a very positive effect on my server space.

Now that Radio supports monthly archives, the UserLand guys should really come up with an option in the Prefs that allows users to get rid of (=automatically deletes) daily archives that are older than a certain (user-definable) date. That way one could just keep the monthly archives for entries that are older than, say, 6 months or a year. That would also save server space.

Update: Hey, I just realized this can be done manually. Still, it would be cool to have an automatic option for it.
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My referrer log tells me somebody came to my site after searching for "Ellen Feiss sex pictures." Now apart from the fact that it has been noted that Ellen seems to be fairly elusive and it's therefore rather doubtful that genuine nude pictures of her would exist, I wonder whether there's really people who actually fantasize about women going beep beep beep during sex.
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After I had bemoaned the death of Happy Mac in Mac OS X 10.2, Hannes Wolf pointed out that there is a way to resurrect Happy Mac: MacBoot.
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I'm really, really disappointed that there's no male counterpart to this women-only personality test.
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I was looking for something so that I could point out to Cato the Youngest (see also here) why, despite the fact that the al-Qaida terrorists probably are funded from within Saudi-Arabia, I still don't like his "Riyadh delenda est" rhetoric. Imagine my surprise when I found this article on the Punic War on Ethel the Blog. It seems that oil played a crucial role in that war, too.
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It's fairly obvious that Glenn Reynolds is an avid supporter of the Bush administration's politics against Iraq (a.k.a. "Bush's War"). On Saturday, he showed his support with a post that was either a joke or an attempt to be manipulative. There was no smiley there, so I suspect it was not the former, but it was so crude and obviously manipulative, so I'm not sure it was the latter. See for yourself (and please click on the links to see what this is all about):
COMPARE LAST WEEK'S FOXHUNT PROTEST with today's antiwar protest and I think it's easy to see who's in a position to win over the public.
I think I can do that, too. In fact, I think I can do it even better. Here's my version:
COMPARE LAST WEEK'S FOXHUNT PROTEST with today's antiwar protest and I think it's easy to see who's in a position to win over the public.
Granted, unlike Glenn I didn't use The Sun's extensive breast archive, so my selection may not have quite the same sex appeal. But it does nicely bring a point across, doesn't it? And don't you dare call me manipulative. ;-)
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Friday, September 27, 2002

Okay, an update update first: as you see, I managed to update my blog today, but due to reasons beyond my control there'll be no updates tomorrow and on Sunday.

The setup with the stationary surrogate computer seems to work so far, but it's a far cry from mobile blogging, which is the kind of blogging I got used to ever since installing Radio Userland on my iBook. I carry my iBook around with me a lot, and that way I was able to jot down thoughts and ideas whenever they come to my mind, post them to the weblog and publish them on my website as soon as I have an Internet connection (that's why the three-button setup is so particularly handy).

Now, having to use a stationary computer, which isn't in my apartment and which I cannot access during the weekend, I find it's really hard to get good blog content together. Yesterday evening and today I found I was constantly scribbling things on small pieces of paper, ideas that could be turned into blog entries. Of these, only 4 made it into this blog today; the rest didn't really grow into full-fledged ideas when I finally sat in front of the computer. It'll be interesting to see what it'll be like on Monday - I guess there's either going to be an awful lot of blog entries here, or a very small number. Let's see. Until then, I wish you all a good weekend.
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It is with some lack of enthusiasm that I see more and more people using SiteMeter to track the access statistics of their weblog and/or website. The problem that I have with it is that I have Mozilla configured to notify me whenever a new site wants to set a cookie - and SiteMeter seems to have at least twelve servers who are eager to set a cookie on my machine whenever I enter a sitemetered site. I don't like to be cookied so peskily, especially as the cookie contains my IP number.

So, being fed up with constantly being asked if I want to accept a cookie from one of the twelve SiteMeter servers whenever I enter some weblog, I have now set up Mozilla to block cookies from SiteMeter. This means that if you use Sitemeter, I most probably won't show up in your statistics any longer. Be assured, though, that I did visit your site. ;-)

P.S.: I use Nedstat for my website statistics. It doesn't set any cookies.
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Today was final exam day at the Vienna state College of Education (or Pädak, for short), where I teach English part-time. Six of a group of students which I'd been teaching for the past 2 1/2 years took their exams today, and they all passed; some of them brilliantly so, some with less difficulty than I had expected. As with those who already took the exam in June, they really made an effort, and I was quite impressed by what they had to offer. I'm very proud of them. Most of them will start working as secondary school teachers this month, and I wish them the best of luck.
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From Mac Net Journal:
Brent Simmons writes: HTML Mail. I am, like, two seconds away from filtering all HTML email to the trash.

It’s spam something like 99% of the time. [inessential.com]

Do it! I have not used HTML email for the last year since switching to PowerMail as my mail program, and I tell you that you really don't lose anything by sticking to text that everyone can read, that makes your email virus free, and that simply leaves things like Web pages and photos where they belong....on the Web. [Mac Net Journal]
My comment: I'm only starting to notice the problem. So far I checked most my mail on my old Mac with Claris Emailer 2.0, which is blissfully unaware of HTML mails - it'll just ignore them and save the contents of the mail in a file in a Downloads folder, which I empty regularly. Now that I use Mac OS X on my iBook more frequently (when it's not in Ireland, that is), I'm equally annoyed by HTML email. Luckily, the Mail.app in OS X 10.2 comes with an option to not display embedded images and objects.
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I think I have found out what causes Radio Userland to send out old blog entries over the RSS feed: it seems to happen every time I delete some obsolete entry (which is something I do rarely, but it is known to happen).
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I'm not really a developer. I published some Mac OS system hacks and Sherlock plugins, and that's pretty much it (and with the arrival of non-expandable Sherlock 3 in Mac OS X 10.2 that'll be discontinued too). One Sherlock plugin is giving me the developer's blues. I found Teoma to be a useful search engine, so I wrote a Sherlock plugin for it. Then Teoma was bought by Ask Jeeves. Since then I have been forced to update my Teoma plugin once every two weeks, because that's the rate at which Teoma are currently changing their server setup and/or web page layout. Seems like Teoma is some kind of laboratory for all-too-eager programmers and web developers. One day I'll just let my Sherlock plugin expire.
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It comes earlier every year: Residents of the Upper Austrian town of Grieskirchen were surprised to see that the city's annual Christmas street decoration had already been put up and the lights were already switched on last Tuesday - i.e. September 17th (!), as the newspaper Kurier reports. According to the city council, it was cheaper to have the decoration already mounted in September, and last Tuesday's Xmas lights were apparently just a test drive. Still, I'd find it rather freaky to see Christmas decoration even before autumn has officially started.
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I was looking for the answer to the eternal mystery why women always squeeze toothpaste from the middle, and Google provided some unexpected answers: I didn't really expect it to be a matter of excremental economics (whatever that may be) or sexual preference. I knew I would stumble over a lot of sexist clichés, but I didn't expect that there's a solution to the problem from Jesus.
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Thursday, September 26, 2002

It's still Banned Books Week in the USA and the Banned Books Project is publishing these and other reviews of banned books.
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The NY Times has a brilliant article by Maureen Dowd on the recent German-American hiccups:
"They rule their world ruthlessly and insolently, deciding who will get a cold shoulder, who will get locked out of the power clique and who will get withering glares until they grovel and obey the arbitrary dictates of the leaders. We could be talking about the middle-school alpha girls, smug cheerleaders with names like Darcy, Brittany and Whitney. But, no, we're talking about the ostensibly mature and seasoned leaders of the Western world, a slender former cheerleader named W. and his high-hatting clique - Condi, Rummy and Cheney."
Bring along your sense of humour and enjoy! (free registration required)
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MacNN reports that MS has released Internet Explorer updates, mostly fixing previously discovered security holes. However, considering how peskily persistant the previous version was in trying to make itself the default browser (basically, it just made itself the default browser without asking whenever I launched it), and considering how much Internet Explorer is slowing down Mac OS X, I'll probably just delete the old version from my hard drive and stick with Mozilla - or perhaps even Chimera, which is getting better (and faster!) with each release.
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Happy MacI now have Mac OS X 10.2 installed on my computer in the office. So far I can't say much about the new OS except one thing: I like my computer less. It was always nice to have my computer smile at me first thing in the morning when I switched it on. But Apple axed the Happy Mac symbol, and the daily smile is gone now. When I switched my computer on now, it felt just as dead as any Windows machine. I miss my Happy Mac. I feel like my computer has lost its soul, and I didn't even have a chance to say goodbye.

No, I'm not joking. I think it was a very careless thing on behalf of Apple to remove this emotional element from the Mac OS. Happy Mac was the first thing I saw when I switched on a Macintosh for the first time, and it was through him that the strong emotional bond between myself and Apple computers was formed (like, finally a friendly computer!). With the demise of Happy Mac, Apple computers are just one step closer to your average computer - now they just look cooler and crash less than Windows computers, but they're no longer more friendly.

Happy Mac's cousinThankfully, a black-and-white cousin of Happy Mac is still living inside my old PowerMac 7300 at home - I'll treasure that computer forever!
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From Salon.com: "Driven by right-wing ideologues and his own zeal, President Bush has taken Ariel Sharon's side in the Middle East even while plotting a war with Iraq. Foreign policy experts say that's a dangerous combination." [Salon.com]
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Spam is a blight on our high-tech civilization. Lawrence Lessig has an idea: force spammers who don't label their junk e-mail to pay $10,000 to the first recipient who finds them. [Privacy Digest]
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Didn't you guess it. Murphy hit me. My DVD drive, which had been acting up previously, gave up on me completely - unfortunately it did so while I was installing Mac OS X 10.2, effectively rendering my iBook, from which I publish this blog, totally useless. I have now brought my iBook to my dealer (it's still under warranty) and was told to expect it back anytime between two weeks and two months from now. Two months, you ask? Yes, that's because it'll be sent to Ireland for repairs. Aren't we all happy about globalisation?

The good news: I backed up everything, including my blog data, before it broke down, so at least I didn't lose any data.
The bad news: I am currently writing this from a computer that is not my own. Depending on accessibility, my blog may be updated less frequently; in any case there'll be no updates on Saturdays and Sundays until I have my iBook back.
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Wednesday, September 25, 2002

I'll now start upgrading my iBook, from which I'm publishing this blog, to Mac OS X 10.2. If you're not hearing from me in a while, you'll know something went wrong.
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Rector's officeI find this note on the door of VU's rector's office strangely compelling. In case you don't understand German, it says: "Rector's office A - please press button B." Oddly enough, in some twisted way that might help you understand the Austrian collective psyche if you figure it out, this sign actually makes sense.

This picture would fit perfectly into the TypeMuseum's collection (see previous entry), probably in the "Help" section.
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The TypeMuseum is a website that collects images of all kinds of letters, posters, logos, pictograms, icons and fragments - everything that has remotely to do with typography or signage. Currently counting over 3800 images, this is quite an interesting collection (not yet searchable, but browsable through thematic indexes).
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Jessamyn West: "Those folks are real librarians, I am not so sure this gal is, despite her photo captions [barely work safe]." [librarian.net]
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Sadly, this is not about the seventh billion can of luncheon meat. The Register reports that junk email is on the increase. Apparently, firms are "only just beginning to realise its potential." Just beginning?!?
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It may be hard to believe, but Windows RG is actually the first Windows version that is fun to use. [Found at clog]
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The Library of Congress reports that the Library of Congress authority records are now available online on the Library's Web site at http://authorities.loc.gov/. Known as Library of Congress Authorities, the free online service allows users to search, display and download authority records in the MARC 21 format for use in local library systems. [Library Stuff]
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Fly on the windowThis fly has been sitting at the exact same spot on the window in my office since last Friday (that's five days ago). It may actually have been sitting there longer than that, but I first noticed it on Friday, and then yesterday I noticed that it was still there. I wonder if it's paralysed, asleep or simply dead, but I wanted to take a picture of it before trying to find that out.

Update: It's dead. Mummified, to be precise. I tried to poke it with a piece of paper, and it just fell off the window, not weighing much because it was totally dried out. Must have been sitting there for a long time. So one thing I learned today is that flies don't necessarily fall off walls or windows if they die. And apparently sudden death also occurs with flies and looks even more sudden because of this.
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Tuesday, September 24, 2002

I promise.
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Al Gore on George W. Bush's war against Iraq: "I am deeply concerned that the policy we are presently following with respect to Iraq has the potential to seriously damage our ability to win the war against terrorism and to weaken our ability to lead the world in this new century." [USA Today]
The Washington Post has an actual transcript of the speech, but it's incomplete.
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Just watched Q&A with Jim Clancy on CNN Europe. It was on the parliamentary debate going on in London on whether the UK should support a unilateral strike against Iraq by the USA. A struggling Tony Blair was seen trying to bring across his point for support of the USA in parliament; what was so odd about it was that Labour MPs were silent and stone-faced, while Conservative MPs applauded him. It was a strange spectacle.

In the interviews that followed, Sam Brownback, a member of the US senate, kept repeating, robot-like, that Iraq had chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction and intended to use them. The most interesting bits came from two UK members of parliament, Labour MP George Galloway and LibDem MP Michael Moore, who talked about the UK perspective of things. Most of what they said took me by surprise, as I had thought UK support for Bush's War was unanimous. Apparently not. Michael Moore made a very clear point:
"[T]he real issue for us in Britain is to make sure that we follow the principles of international law, which we believe what we're trying to safeguard by taking action against Saddam. If we're to do this by preemptive strikes, by talking of regime change, without any great detail about what that entails, then I think we're setting a very dangerous precedent for the rest of the world, and people will wonder what next."
The biggest surprise came from George Galloway. Asked if he didn't find Saddam Hussein's regime scary, Galloway said:
"Well, there are lots of regimes in the world that are scary. Frankly, George W. Bush's regime is the one that's scaring most people in Britain at the moment, because they fear that this man is going to take us all over a cliff."
Here Jim Clancy interjected that Galloway couldn't say that Bush would use chemical weapons against his own people. Galloway answered:
"Well, President Bush executed rather a lot of people, and the United States dropped an ocean of chemical weapons on the people of Vietnam. And I've seen the children still being born deformed today as a result of the gallons and gallons [...] of Agent Orange which the United States dropped on Vietnam just 25 years ago. So I don't think you should be too precious about this."
It's important to notice that Galloway is not opposing measures against Iraq, but he is against Bush's way:
"The important thing is to disarm Iraq of any weapons that it has, and the only way to do that is to get the inspectors back in. Now, it's the United States that's currently blocking that. Bush said last Thursday that unless the Security Council tows his line, he will block the inspectors going back in. And, frankly, that's just not acceptable to the rest of the international community."
Asked whether the relationship between the UK and the US was still special, Galloway gave another very direct, blunt answer that should make some people think:
"Well, I am in favor of a special relationship, because I love America and Americans. But I don't want a Monica Lewinsky-Bill Clinton special relationship. I want a special relationship where everyone is treated with respect and everyone's interests are recognized. And that's not what's happening at the minute. [...] [M]ost people think that [our relationship] is not so much shoulder-to-shoulder as lips-to-posterior, and that's not a very dignified posture [...]."
Imagine the outrage if a German politician had said that. The full transcript of the broadcast can be found here.
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Adam Curry: "Hollywood actor George Clooney and British actress Dame Diana Rigg have come up trumps in a new poll of the 50 sexiest stars in television history. I adore Emma Peel!" [Adam Curry's Weblog]

Finally a poll I can totally and completely agree with. Even as a man I have to agree about Clooney's appeal, and as for Diana Rigg, well... let me just say that her character Emma Peel kicked butt so seriously that no other woman on television has come close ever since. Never ever. No wonder that there are men who fantasize about being spanked by her. And in case you wondered: yes, I do own all the Emma Peel episodes of The Avengers on video. I keep my fantasies to myself, though.
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Despite publisher Hans Dichand's repeated statement that his business is "journalism, not politics", the Kronen Zeitung, Austria's most populist popular daily newspaper often stretches the boundary between political commentary and political campaign to the extreme.

Today's headline, for example, would give a good idea where the paper positions itself in the upcoming Austrian election campaign. It's simply "Red-Green won't even last a year!"  This happens to be a quotation by Germany's Eduard Stoiber, who was talking about the future German government, but the Kronen Zeitung deliberately makes it look as if they're talking about Austria instead.

I can understand the paper's active part in the Austrian election campaign. After backing Jörg Haider's right-wing Freedom Party for over a decade and having religiously supported the current Conservative/right-wing government, it must have been devastating to see the Freedom Party fall to pieces last week and the government implode after only 2 1/2 years in office. Surely a centre-left government must not cannot be more successful! Consequently, their second headline after the government's resignation was "No red-green experiment now!"

I guess that Conservative leader Wolfgang Schüssel, Freedom Party leader Mathias Reichhold and "simple party member" Jörg Haider can sleep soundly during the election campaign, knowing they'll have the support of a newspaper whose business is "journalism, not politics" and which is read by almost everyone in Austria.
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It's reassuring to see that at least the Americans living in Europe seem to be able to look at the current crisis in German-American relations without resorting to hatemongering rhetoric. I already mentioned Tom Fox, but also Scott Hanson seems to stand out as a good example. Without ever being apologetic of the stupid things some German politicians said, all of his political weblog entries still show thoughtful analysis, and today's post-election posting pretty much hits the nail on the head.

In comparison, yesterday I stumbled over the blog of someone who calls himself Cato the Youngest. He seems to be a real nice person. His weblog motto, with which he also ends every entry, are the words "Riyadh Delenda Est" (for those of you who didn't have Latin at school, this means "Riyadh [the capital of Saudi-Arabia] must be destroyed"). I'm sure he'd nuke me instantly if I used the phrase "Washington Delenda Est" similarly in my blog. As he refers to Steven Den Beste's Clueless article, I assume he's a fellow Klingon.
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Monday, September 23, 2002

Should they ever consider coming to Austria, I'd try to convince our boss to let them play at our library: "Shhhh! No ? scream! It's BloodHag, the library band [...] These metal kings sing songs of George Orwell and Isaac Asimov, as well as Franz Kafka and William S. Burroughs." [Thanks to Library Stuff]
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Now here's an article from an American living in Europe, Tom Fox, who writes on anti-Semitism in Germany and anti-German sentiments in America:
William Safire recently accused [German chancellor] Schroeder of being anti-Semitic based on some dodgy testimony by another embittered, fired, former minister. Indeed, as far as Safire is concerned, anyone who disagrees with him is anti-Semitic. [...] I would retort that he, on the other hand, is racist against Germans. [...] [I]t is interesting how selective he is when he uses the word. The real anti-Semite in this election was Juergen Moellemann of the Free Democrat Party. Last week he was actually distributing anti-Semitic leaflets AFTER having been told not to. The vote of his party in yesterday's election was far below what the polls had predicted. [...] This shows that many Conservative voters dropped the FDP in a clear refutal of anti-Semitism. But then the FDP were thought to be signing up to a coalition that was less critical of Herr Bush and therefore, in Safire's narrow mind, not anti-Semitic. [Paris]
I have very little to add to that. Read the remainder of Tom's article if you're interested, he has a few other good points.
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When watching Star Trek, I never saw the particular appeal of the Klingons (remember that warrior race that always talked about 'honour'?), but I think I got a clue today when reading an article on German-American relations on Steven Den Beste's weblog. Question: is Steven really talking about honour, or isn't this rather about hurt pride? Or is he merely, as the title of his weblog would suggest, clueless?

There's one real gem in his article though:
And I'm getting fucking tired of being told, "Ask yourself why they hate you."
Get this through your head: the fact that someone hates me doesn't mean I'm wrong.
Even if it's 4 billion someones.
When I read this, it suddenly hit me that Saddam Hussein must be thinking the exact same thing.
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After the World's Smallest Politcal Quiz (see here), I took another one of these political identity tests: The Political Compass. It also invites visitors "tell family and friends, It should spark off some lively dialogue, and you may discover that you didn't know them as well as you thought you did." An interesting thought.
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Spambots go here.
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In the USA, this week is Banned Books Week. librarian.net has some thoughts worthy of consideration. Also check out the Banned Books Project weblog, if you haven't done it yet.
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The BBC has this weird story about an uncanny correlation between suicide numbers and Conservative rule in Australia, Great Britain and other countries. It seems suicide numbers were rising whenever there was a Conservative government and falling again when there was a Labour government. Seems the Germans got away lucky this time. ;-) [BBC News]
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"You are in a library and not an adult entertainment center" and other computer error messages for library OPACs. [via librarian.net]
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Rebecca Blood: "It must be a rough day in the Oval Office when a cartoonist and Germany's justice minister independently draw parallels between your governance and that of the most reviled figure in modern history." [rebecca's pocket]
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As I have started using XHTML a lot on my web site, I don't like this, but I must admit that he's got a lot of good points there. I'm now thinking about converting some pages back to HTML 4. If you also started using XHTML, please read and think about it. [Found via Der Schockwellenreiter]
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Sunday, September 22, 2002

Great news for Mac OS X users: With today's Radio.root update, Radio UserLand is now compatible with Chimera. Yay!
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Pascale Soleil offers some interesting thoughts on my Chewing Gum Graveyard piece from yesterday. I'm not sure about her hypotheses... I don't think the black blotches are bird poop, and there certainly are enough people there to easily generate that many black spots over the past ten years. Although I must say that the alien invasion theory sounds interesting too.
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This strikes me as so typically American that I don't think you could ever sell it in Europe. Does that make us heathens? [Found at razzz.net]
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Don't visit this website. It's a scam. Or if you visit it, at least please don't be mad at me afterwards. [Found via The Presurfer]
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Saturday, September 21, 2002

Get ready to read what is perhaps the most unsettling and most disgusting piece I've ever published. In this photo essay you are going to see pictures that have never been published before. Don't read it if you are easily offended. Don't show it to small children. Don't tell anyone that what looks like a perfectly normal shopping mile is really... CHEWING GUM GRAVEYARD!
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Traffic signMay I please direct your attention to the picture on the right: it shows a traffic sign at a crossroads near where I live. Now I don't know to what extent you're familiar with Austrian traffic signs, but I think this is not too difficult to interpret. Yet my own interpretation seems to differ significantly from that of about 50 per cent of all car drivers passing it. So maybe it isn't as obvious as I thought.

So could I please have your opinion: what does this traffic sign mean? Hint: it's not a trick question. Just click on what you think is the correct answer, and your browser will tell you whether you're right or wrong (you need to have JavaScript enabled for this to work).
 
Turn left
Turn right
Go straight ahead
Activate vertical thrusters and lift off

See? It wasn't that difficult. If you can think of a reason why car drivers would think otherwise, please Speak back.
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Spent all morning trying to fix my home page template so that this page displays properly with Netscape 4. Still no success. As it still didn't work with most of my nested <div>s removed, I now suspect it doesn't like my <span style=...> tags. :-P Will I ever be able to fix this, or will Netscape 4 users become extinct sooner than that?
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Glenn Reynolds: "Susanna Cornett has the solution to Florida's election problems. Sadly, I think this might actually be the way to go...." [InstaPundit]

This might also be useful.
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Phil Ackley: "I can't even believe what I saw on Airbag today..." [Phil Ackley's Radio Thingumabob via clog]

Much as I prefer Burger King over McDonalds, these French Fries are in extremely bad taste.
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Friday, September 20, 2002

I cooked some butter beans with ocra after a recipe from a cookbook I brought home from my holiday on Crete (not this one, but one by the same authors). It contains an enormous amount of olive oil, but I assure you that it's delicious. If you're interested in the recipe, post a comment.
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US threat to stop Iraq inspections. The American Secretary of State, Colin Powell, has said the United States will find ways to stop weapons inspectors going back to Iraq unless there is a new United Nations Security Council resolution on the issue. [BBC News via This Modern World]

Please notice that it says "to stop weapons inspectors going back to Iraq".

How odd. I vaguely remember that the whole conflict was something about the Iraq not letting the weapons inspectors in. Now suddenly it's the US that won't let them in (into the Iraq, of course). I wonder whether there's a reason for this?
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Glenn Reynolds is reporting about alleged increasing anti-Americanism in Germany, referring to a number of online articles that contain some serious accusations against German politicians.

Hello? I can't help but feel that this is totally out of proportion. While I must admit that recent US political decisions (e.g. the steel embargo, the law that allows an invasion of the Netherlands by US troops, and the refusal to sign the Kyoto treaty) haven't exactly boosted the popularity of the US in general and the Bush administration in particular, I cannot sense any increased anti-Americanism in Europe. It's pretty much the same as it ever was. What exists, however, is a growing uneasiness over the realisation that US and EU politics are developing into different directions and are increasingly following different interests.

There is also admittedly a strong reluctance in Germany to join a war against Iraq; this has to do with the upcoming elections and the fact that a vast majority of the German population opposes this war, especially if there is no UN mandate for it. People over here in Europe have enough bitter experience with wars that they're much less inclined to start one as easily as the US.

A statement like the one the NY Times purports about former German minister Scharping seems unbelievable; considering the media uproar caused by an anti-semitic remark by German politician Möllemann a few months ago, it is highly unlikely that a statement like this would go unnoticed by the German media, and especially by opposition politicians who would like nothing more than to discredit Scharping and his party before the elections.

This is exactly what happened in the case of Ms. Däubler-Gmelin, who has by the way denied ever having compared President Bush to Adolf Hitler. German chancellor Gerhard Schröder has nevertheless sent an apology to President Bush, in which he promises to immediately remove her from his cabinet should the allegations turn out to be true. In the meantime, her purported statement is expected to cost her party a significant number of votes next Sunday, no matter if it's true or not.

Anti-Americanism? Hardly. What's this all about then? It looks as if people on both sides are over-reacting. A war of the words has started between the US and the EU. This could be a result of the fundamentally different policies of the US and the EU states in recent years, in which the US has never ceased to exert pressure on the EU to follow its example. Surely President Bush doesn't think that he can dictate just what the EU countries' foreign policies should look like? Recent political decisions make it even look as if the Bush administration were provoking some kind of confrontation with their (former?) European allies. I don't see what they want to accomplish, but the relationship between the US and the EU has grown increasingly harsher ever since George W. Bush took office. Threatening to invade the Netherlands, for example, is simply unacceptable.

All of this has nothing to do with anti-Americanism, and the phrase "bullying" used by Glenn Reynolds is utterly inappropriate. I therefore suggest that the debate return to a more factual, less emotional level. This is not the Wild West, and politicians and the media should behave accordingly.
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I only noticed this because Joe Jenett noticed this on my weblog: TinyURL.com. While I agree with Joe that this is indeed cool, I also see one problem: it's not a permanent link; even worse, it's not even a "speaking" link. What I mean is, if for some reason tinyURL.com is currently unavailable or goes out of business, it is quite impossible to find the linked page; it's not even possible to guess where it might be because the original server name doesn't show up anywhere. So while this is cool and quite useful for temporary quick-and-dirty linking, from a librarian's/archivist's point of view I'm not too happy about it. Ten years from now, even if some article has been deleted by then, it's still more useful to know that it had been published in the NY Times, whereas it's pretty useless to know that it was linked to via tinyURL.com.
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Toby Sackton on the impending war with Iraq: "We can't spread freedom by conquering others. We can support Iraqi dissidents all we want, but once we become the masters, we aren't exporting freedom, we are exporting tyranny. As soon as those pesky locals act democratically and want something different than us, watch how fast we set them straight about who is in charge. [...] Bush is essentially re-establishing a colonial relationship with the Arabs because of oil. His Congressional resolution today is for a carte blanche to impose peace and security for U.S. interests not just in Iraq, but the entire region." [Toby's Political Diary]
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Thursday, September 19, 2002

It looks as if the people who read my weblog are not the average crowd. I think I like them.
posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

I give up. There's some flaw in the HTML code of this (yes, this) page that makes it look just awful when viewed with Netscape 4. The very few visitors using Netscape 4 must think I'm a design imbecile, but I assure you I have been looking at the code again and again over the past days without any result. It looks as if there's some problem with improperly nested tables, but I can't find anything wrong in the code. If you are an HTML geek with lots of time to spare and find out what's wrong, I'd appreciate it if you posted a Speak back comment on this. Thank you.
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The Exploded Library links to a good article on meta search engines on LLRX.com that includes a very helpful and comprehensive annotated list of MSEs. [explodedlibrary.info]
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The K Chronicles. We must invade Iraq! [Salon.com]
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Globe Technology has a report on the very limited success of e-books: "A couple of years ago, the publishing industry was bracing for upheaval. It saw the advent of electronic books - texts available in digital, non-paper formats - as the beginning of the end of pulp-and-ink publishing. But according to a survey [...], e-books 'have thus far failed to penetrate the mass market.'" [Library Stuff]

Well, yes of course they have, and of course they would. I mean, who but a few selected techno geeks would carry around some technological gadget onto which they upload electronic texts and then ruin their eyes by reading from electronic displays, when the original, traditional book does not only come cheaper, but is also considerably more user-friendly?

Consider this: your average reader is not a techno geek, but somebody like the average commuter who has time to kill on their way to work, the person on vacation who couldn't care less about the hassles of electronic gadgets, or the average office employee who spends most of their working day in front of a computer screen anyway and certainly doesn't want to do so in their spare time as well. Typical of the IT/new media business in the 1990s, the e-book craze was nothing but rather naïve wishful thinking on part of a few techno geeks who thought people would immediately give up on old, established habits if they were only offered a technologically far enough advanced (but not necessarily better) solution. It worked with mobile phones, but e-books, like many other things, were just part of the bubble that was supposed to burst at some point.
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Wednesday, September 18, 2002

From The Register: Microsoft tops Google hell search rankings. Weirdisms in Google's ranking system are sent to entertain us occasionally, and as we've had this one from a couple of people today, we suspect it's new. But don't blame us if it's not, we lead sheltered lives sometimes. Currently, if you type "go to hell" into Google, then Microsoft Corporation, Where do you want to go today? comes first. This is particularly outstanding given that the number two slot is occupied by hell.com itself. [The Register]

Update: I tried this today, but all I got was hell.com, no mention of Microsoft in the search results anywhere. Either Google cleared the index, or this story is just a hoax.

Second update: It's not a hoax. You have to search for the phrase "go to hell" (with quotation marks). Just looking for the words go to hell (without quotation marks) doesn't work. Here's a demonstration.
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Good article on spam (unsolicited commercial bulk e-mail) at wired.com. Incidentally, Junk Food News [sorry, no permalink] reports that the six billionth can of spam (luncheon meat) left the factory last week. I mention this even though six billion cans since 1937 seem laughable compared to the amount of e-mail spam sent out on a daily basis. Interesting facts: most spam is read eaten in Hawaii, and there is even a spam museum, which deems itself as important as Graceland. They wish.
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In The Guardian, Steven Wells writes a brilliant comment on why he hates formula one car racing even though "it's the only sport where you might get to see a millionaire burn to death on live TV": In a nutshell, he summarizes poignantly why I stopped watching those races many, many years ago. I'd say this article is required reading even if you don't like formula one. What am I saying: especially if you don't like it. [Guardian Unlimited]
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CNET News.com reports that a Music industry group proposes a logo to address growing complaints over copy-protected CDs. So far, so good. What I found really interesting about this article was, however, the following bit:
Copy-protected CDs are becoming more popular overseas, but U.S. labels have been backing off on using the technology in response to consumer complaints that the CDs couldn't be played in some DVD players, game consoles and other devices.
I don't get this. The whole copy protection thing was, after all, an American invention, and now it's most widely used outside the US because US customers are complaining? Why the heck aren't European customers complaining? Or is it just easier to ignore their complaints? According to the current Austrian copyright laws, I have the legal right to make copies of any audio CD that I own; theoretically I could even sue a record company that is using copy protection for denying me my legal right to make copies. That doesn't even touch upon the problems people have playing copy-protected CDs in car stereos and DVD players, which is perfectly, absolutely legal in just about every country. And yet no-one is complaining? To me, this strongly indicates that (a) far fewer people are illegaly copying CDs than the music industry suspects (see also this article) and (b) European customers are wimps.

Update: I forgot to mention that under current EU customer legislation, every customer has the right to a fully functional product. This means that if you have a copy-protected audio CD that won't play on your DVD player or car stereo, you can nag the record dealer (heck, you can even sue them) until they give you a copy of that CD that works on your player (i.e. that is not copy-protected). Why is no customer thinking about actually doing this? Probably not worth the bother, but it might be worth the fun.

In the long term, what'll happen is probably that people will grow tired of the copy-protected CDs and shun them altogether if they cannot be sure they'll play on their stereo, resorting to pirated digital copies instead - exactly what the US record companies seem to be thinking. Why the European companies (or the European branches of the US companies) are thinking otherwise escapes me.
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From the Borowitz Report: "Iraq Agrees To weapons Inspections; Cheney Begs Them To Reconsider." Choice quote: "'The Vice President is an optimistic man,' the aide said. 'This is a bump in the road, but he is still hopeful that Saddam will change his mind and refuse to allow weapons inspectors to return to Iraq.'" [Scott Rosenberg's Links & Comment]

From satire back to the harsh reality: in the meantime, the US, the UN and Russia have a slight disagreement over what to do next about Iraq now that the weapons inspectors may return. [BBC News | WORLD]
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An article in the Chronicle of Higher Education points out how budget cuts are affecting libraries: "And so, at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst's library, as at others, the talk is of 'inventing a new library.' The library lost about 20 percent of its staff and saw its acquisitions budget shrink by more than $1-million. It canceled 1,000 journal subscriptions and cut back on buying books."

On a related note, the Stuttgarter Nachrichten report that the University library of Stuttgart, Germany has cancelled 200 subscriptions (the Central Library of Physics in Vienna, Austria has recently done pretty much the same thing). The reason is mostly the fact that Elsevier publishers are using their quasi-monopoly to raise prices an average 8-15% per year. In the face of current budget cuts, the libraries simply cannot afford those journals any longer. There have been calls to boycott these journals and build new information networks across Europe. [contributions from Library Stuff and netbib - weblog]
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Just found this little satirical gem on the web: Recently in the White House, or, Why the US Is Attacking Iraq. It comes with a disclaimer: "This is political satire. It is not to be taken seriously. [...] If you are an ardent supporter of President Bush and his decision to attack Iraq, if you are easily offended or if you have no sense of humour, please do not read on."  Well, I guess those people shouldn't read Tom Tomorrow either (just love his most recent comic strip).
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The replacement copy for the CD from Amazon which had arrived empty arrived today. Yay for customer service! This time there was a CD in the box, but still it was a bit disappointing. It sounds like a collection of songs that weren't good enough to make it onto an album. That's probably because that's what it is.
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If you know where I could get a plastic figurine of a praying mantis (about 1-2 inches in size), please contact me (my e-mail is at the bottom of this page). I'd be very thankful.
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Tuesday, September 17, 2002

I realise that I have been writing a bit - though not excessively - about penises lately (three times, to be exact), but I was still a bit surprised to find in my referer log that MSN Search had apparently sent someone who had asked "why is my penis hard in the morning?" to my site. Hum. The truly strange thing, however, is that I could not find any mention of my site whatsoever in the search results. I realise that you reap what you sow, but it seems that in this case nothing had even grown yet (if you forgive this weak, unintentional pun). It'll remain one of the mysteries of the Microsoft universe, I guess.

Update: Somebody else was sent to my site by Google after searching for "red swollen ear". I am not sure if my travel notes from Crete were in any way helpful.
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I took the World's Smallest Political Quiz (found via The Presurfer) to find out my political identity. I wasn't surprised by the result.

Kelley Rose also took a lot of tests recently, it seems (no permalinks - look for the September 2 entries). I hope she found out something about her identity, too.
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From Newsday: "Librarians and booksellers [in the U.S.] have voiced their dismay at being conscripted, under court order and threat of prosecution, to report covertly on their patrons and customers. Secretly obtaining information about what people read, to try to figure out what they think, undermines more than privacy; it threatens core First Amendment principles, as many librarians and booksellers understand." [Library Stuff]
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As the information boundaries are expanding, the Powers That Be are growing increasingly afraid. Thankfully, there is a counter-movement that advocates freedom of information. The EFF reports: "School communities nationwide are urging repeal of the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA) which requires public schools and libraries receiving certain federal funds or discounts to install a 'technology protection measure' to block Internet access to materials that are 'harmful to minors'." (from Electronic Frontier Foundation) See also: Schools Install Internet Filters [Library Stuff]
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Thanks to Joe Jenett for reminding me that I had wanted to have AYEO ready and online some time this month. I have now set myself a Sept 30 deadline and hope to have it finished until then. [jenett.radio]
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Looking at my referrer logs, I noticed that a few people have put links to this, my very 'umble weblog (a.k.a. The Aardvark Speaks) on their sites, and it now also has about 40 visitors per day, which is not a lot, but it's a start, I guess. ;-)

Anyway, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank everybody who placed a link, everybody who finds this worthwhile enough to visit regularly, and everybody who in some other way spread the word about my blog. If anything bothers or delights you, please feel free to mail me or post a comment. There's also the remainder of my web site to explore, should you ever feel bored.
Hope you have fun, take care,
-Horst
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Lesley Duff on recent attempts to explore the mystery of the Cheops pyramid live on TV by sending a robot with a camera into a hidden shaft: "I must admit, I don't mind them exploring buildings but I'm not at all happy with them breaking opening in the tombs what would be our equivalents of coffins. I'd go as far as to say it's desecration of a burial place [...] . It may not be Christianity but I think the dead deserve a bit of dignity and a peaceful resting place, not to be gawped at and prodded, it's a human being not an object." [Scottish lass seeks...]
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I must have been asleep all June and July. I vaguely remember that there was some debate about the USA and the International Criminal Court in The Hague, but somehow I never heard the full story, and I certainly wasn't aware that it was as bad as this (thanks to Niek for making me aware of it):
10 June 2002 - THE HAGUE - The Dutch parliament was shocked by a US legislative proposal giving an official green light to a US invasion of the Netherlands should it be deemed necessary to free US citizens from the International Criminal Court in The Hague. [expatica.com]
Read that again: a US invasion of the Netherlands. I thought it was a bad joke, but this article from Human Rights News seems to confirm that the Bush administration doesn't seem to care much about such minor affairs as International Law - unless, of course, it suits their purpose.

Also, Austrian far-right politician Ewald Stadler should perhaps be more careful about what he says in the future, because if he defends Saddam Hussein again or arranges more trips to Iraq for fellow party member Jörg Haider, who says the US won't drop a few bombs on Austria? Maybe we need those fighter jets after all. The Dutch solution (click here for pictures from the front - again thanks to Niek), while adequate as a form of protest, doesn't seem too convincing in the long term...
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I'm publishing this weblog from an Apple iBook running Radio Userland on Mac OS X (it just wouldn't run smoothly under OS 9). I therefore worked a bit more intensely under OS X than I had expected and found to my surprise that I really like it. There's just two things that are still bugging me:

Internet Explorer. Okay, strictly speaking, it's not part of the OS, but it comes with the OS and most people use it as their default browser. For a while I had thought OS X was slow and sluggish; the constant appearace of the rainbow-coloured beachball cursor whenever I was doing something was a major annoyance. It turns out OS X wasn't to blame. It was Internet Explorer that was slowing my computer down. I'm now using Mozilla most of the time and everything seems to run a lot more smoothly. Except every time I launch IE, it automatically sets itself as the default browser again. I guess I'll simply have to remove it from my hard disk.

Finder/Desktop behaviour. I'm used to clicking on the Desktop to bring open Finder windows to the front. OS 9 worked that way; in OS X the Finder and the Desktop seem to be two different applications, so it doesn't work. To get my Finder windows to the front, I need to go to the Dock and click the Finder icon. A major nuisance. I can live without spring-loaded folders, but not without the Desktop click.
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Monday, September 16, 2002

netbib - weblog has this link: Librarian X, "America's Most-Likely-To-Be-Assassinated Librarian" reports from deep in the stacks of the Library of Congress: "Want to know who the Librarian of Congress is, the mysterious 'former' CIA James Billington? [...] While outsiders praise the efforts of the Management Team, insiders consider them the Taliban Management Team. [...] While outsiders and Congressmen think Ayatollah Billington is 'improving' the Library into the Temple of Mucho Dinero, insiders see decay, chaos, infinite lawsuits, and a serious threat to the future of this great institution." [netbib - weblog]
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This may get me even deeper into the accusations that I have some kind of penis fixation, but nevertheless I'd like to direct your attention to this article on Koro, "a belief that the genitals have been stolen, or [...] that they are fatally shrinking into the body. Bizarre as it sounds, the belief in Koro is several thousand years old and occurs internationally. This article examines historical and contemporary accounts of Koro and looks at some of the explanations for this intriguing phenomenon." [Kuro5hin]
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I refuse to participate in relaying the news about the history of the Smiley that's currently travelling through all weblogs and news sites on the Internet. For one, I don't see anything particularly special about it. It would be obvious that at some point during the evolution of the 'net, people would discover that with the absence of intonation and facial expressions it's necessary to indicate humour and irony in some way. Nothing special about that - it's something that simply would happen all by itself as soon as the net reached a certain stage in its development. Second, I don't want Microsoft to get more web hits as a result of this debate (the document that started this is on a Microsoft server). Third, I don't care about all the details on whether it was really twenty years ago or actually much, much earlier on some kind of system that only a few elected know about. And fourth, there's a lot more interesting and more immediately relevant things to blog about.
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I found a link to the blogger code over at The Presurfer and took the test. The result makes me feel kinda average:
B1 d t+ k+ s+ u f i o x e l c-
Actually, it looks so boringly average that I don't even know if I should put it up somewhere permanent on this page. I wonder if you get average with age, or if I'm just not as over-enthusiastic about blogging as some other people in the blogosphere. ;-)
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Glenn Reynolds: "Iraq will have the bomb by Christmas? Maybe. I'm sure Saddam would like to find one under his tree -- or leave one under ours. But I think this story's appearance at this particular moment is more informative as evidence of exactly when the [Bush] administration is planning to take military action than as evidence of exactly when Saddam will achieve his lifelong dream." [InstaPundit]
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Just stumbled across this older story on how shrinkwrap licences are now spreading to - guess what? - books:
The first report of this phenomena to The Gripe Line came a few months ago when a reader who is a physician received an unsolicited tome in the mail entitled Geriatric Pharmaceutical Care Guidelines, 2002 Edition, from Omnicare. "This book arrived wrapped in plastic with a shrinkwrap license on the front," the doctor wrote. "It plainly says that by breaking the seal you agree to the terms of the license and if you don't agree you should return the book unopened. Is this what software licensing has led us to? This license says the book remains the property of Omnicare. Will they come up with a way to remotely disable the book if someone else reads it?"
Interestingly enough, the license also included a clause forbidding the "licensee" to disclose any of the information in the book to third parties. [InfoWorld via Telepolis News via Der Schockwellenreiter]

This poses an interesting question about just where we are heading in this so-called "information" age. Does this mean that in some not-so-distant future all of my students are required to buy their own copies of the books I'm using to teach them, or else I'm not allowed to tell them anything that's in those books? I might even have to send a couple of students out of the classroom for five minutes while I tell the rest things from a book that some bought, but others didn't. Is there no limit whatseoever to human greed? In the past, the copyright was there to protect the somewhat idealistic notion of intellectual property; these days it seems it's only about making money. Well, eat that money and choke on it.
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The n-tv website has an article (in German), in which they point out how Germany's most widely-read daily newspaper Bild is deliberately publishing false or misleading data to tip the scale in the upcoming elections towards the conservative CDU party while at the same time talking about 'journalist ethics'. [Der Schockwellenreiter]
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From the Guardian: "Vote selling adds to German poll tensions. German state prosecutors are investigating several instances of attempted vote trading ahead of Sunday's knife-edge general election." [Guardian Unlimited]

So people in Germany are trading their votes for as little as 10 Euro. If things like this happen in straight-faced Germany (of all countries), what does this tell us about the general state of the western democracies?
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Niek Hockx has answered my tooth question from yesterday. Seems they won't pay your dentist. [clog]
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Sunday, September 15, 2002

As I'm currently trying to consolidate my blogroll, I followed several people's recommendation and had a look at Glenn Reynolds' InstaPundit. Now while I find this blog quite interesting and certainly well worth following, I'm still suspicious. I wonder how anybody, let alone a law professor at the University of Tennessee, can post updates to their blog every thirty minutes or so throughout the entire day, but Glenn does it. Do his employers know what he is doing? Is it part of his job? Or is this man a prisoner of his computer, locked in cyberspace, unable to leave and his blog is really just a cry for help? And why the heck does the server navy.mil want to set a cookie when I'm entering InstaPundit?
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In his political diary, Toby Sackton talks about The Big Lie in connection with the impending war on Iraq and links to an interesting story in Sunday's Washington Post detailing how American oil companies are planning to carve up Iraq, the second richest oil country after Saudi Arabia, and kick out French and Russian companies. [Toby's Political Diary]
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Niek Hockx posts another picture of a bikini-clad beauty today, and claims that "[i]n her heart she's from The Netherlands too." [clog]

Well, in her heart perhaps, but not in her teeth. I'm sorry Niek, but while she's undoubtedly pretty, those teeth of hers are just not straight enough to make her pass as Dutch. ;-) The Dutch teeth phenomenon (everyone has absolutely perfectly straight teeth) makes me wonder, btw: if you apply for Dutch citizenship, do you have to have your teeth regulated before you can get the citizenship, or do you get free trip to the dentist's along with your certificate?
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[oidar.ttenej] .ynnuf tub ,sseltniop tahwemos si sihT
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One more interesting political tidbit from Austria: While US president Bush is preparing to launch a full-scale attack on Iraq in the near future, Austrian politician and Freedom Party member Ewald Stadler, a key force in the break-up of the current Austrian government, said in an interview that the regime in Iraq was no different than that of any other Arab country and went on to defend Saddam Hussein on several counts.

Meanwhile, the leader of the parliamentary fraction of the conservative Austrian People's Party, Andreas Khol, said in an interview that the Freedom Party was still "fit for government." This came as some kind of a surprise after a week in which we've seen the Freedom Party split into two fractions (with the extreme-right fraction taking over the power from the far-right fraction), the resignation of most Freedom Party ministers, the break-up of the current government (caused by the Freedom Party), the possible return of Jörg Haider as leader of the Freedom Party and general chaos as far as personnel decisions inside the Freedom Party are concerned. We may need a clarification from Mr. Khol just how he defines "fit for government."
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Just found this interesting piece in my news aggregator:
A Simple Click Stirs a Lot of Outrage.
For some time, travelers browsing the "State Department" Web site for helpful tips about Guadalajara, Mexico, found much more than they bargained for when they clicked on a photograph of President Bush.
The click transported them to a partisan playground, where they were told how to get involved with the Republican Party and even how to donate money to it. [NY Times]
A similar thing happened in Austria just yesterday: there was a small uproar among journalists and opposition politicians over an advertisement placed by the conservative Austrian People's Party (ÖVP) in all major daily newspapers yesterday. In this advertisement, which had a border consisting of the red-white-and-red national colours and was signed "The Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Austria", chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel, head of the current, but soon-to-be-dissolved federal government (see this item and this item) first praised the work of the current government, highlighting specifically the work of the ministers nominated by the People's Party. He then went on to explain his reasons for ending the coalition with the far-right Freedom Party and dissolving the government, putting the blame entirely on the Freedom Party, and ended the ad guaranteeing that "we [the People's Party] continue to stand for reliability and safety."

The advertisement was paid for by the People's Party and its content shows quite obviously that it's part of their election campaign; yet it poses as an official open letter from the chancellor to the citizens. Whereas the Bush link may or may not have been an accident, this wasn't. It's well-known that the people in power will stop short of very little, but it just hurts to see yet another thing that wouldn't have happened three years ago under the old government.
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Saturday, September 14, 2002

Kat Donohue lists a couple of silly things she enjoys on her weblog. There's two I find kinda sweet:
Haiku Wars. This is pretty self-explanatory. Two people try to top each other by composing vaguely insulting haiku, each haiku building on the last.
[...]
The Bob Ludlum game. Guess which one is the title of a real Robert Ludlum novel: "The Millennium Gambit", "The Hudsucker Proxy", "The Ostermann Weekend" (hint: it's the really silly one)
[She's Actual Size, Nationwide, Believe]
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I pulled an article I had posted earlier in response to five questions that Mike Sanders asks on his weblog. I'd been spending some time during the past days trying to write a response and finally got something out, but I couldn't help feeling that I had failed in bringing my point across. Perhaps somebody else should go there and then write something poignant to show Mike that he fails to get the point of his own writing.
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Jenny is back with a question.
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I had originally intended to write a grumpy rant about this weblog (a rant of the do-we-really-need-this variety), but after stopping by and reading some of the stories, I started actually appreciating it as a site that is perfect if you need some kind of totally useless, but absurdly entertaining news (and also, I guess, if you happen to like dogs).

Today, for example, I learned that three out of four shots fired by the Indianapolis police are aimed at dogs; that a labrador set a Michigan kitchen on fire and that in Columbus, Ohio, a woman's pooch was found inside a 10 foot Burmese python (almost sounds as if the dog was still alive, but my guess is it wasn't).

However, I did not learn the answer to a couple of questions about dogs that have plagued me for years:

(1) Which city of the western, developed world has the biggest dog dirt problem, i.e. which is the unsafest city to walk in because you have to be constantly afraid of stepping into dog poo? From my experience with European cities, I'm actually quite convinced that it's Vienna (unfortunately, this also happens to be where I live) with Paris second, but I'd be interested in hearing from people who've been around and can share their experience.

(2) Why does the size of a family's dog always seem reverse proportional to the size of their dwellings?

(3) Why do dog owners always insist that their fiendish brute, which has locked its teeth into your leg and is currently trying to rip it off your body, is perfectly harmless and it is you who's to blame if it's misbehaving because you shouldn't have walked past/worn white trousers/smelled bad/cried for help?

But back to the dog blog: Maybe it's just me, but somehow I find the heading "Weird, wonderful, and educational dog news for the post 9-11 world" well... erm, puzzling. Pray tell me: in what way has 9-11 changed the way we talk or think about dogs? Am I missing something or do I have to be a dog owner to understand this?
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Friday, September 13, 2002

The eighth and final part of my holiday journal is now online.
06/09/02: Goodbye I'm off to Hania airport. Some notes from the way back home. Plus: finally, a picture of the psychotic dog! Read on...
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One of the more absurd struggles of the Austrian web world, which has nicely demonstrated what capitalism is all about, has now ended. As Der Standard reports (in German), the Austrian supreme court has reached a decision about who is the rightful owner of the domain www.kinder.at.

The Austrian online company MediaClan had reserved www.kinder.at over two years ago to build a web portal for children and children-related information ("Kinder" is German for "children"). However, they had been sued by the Ferrero chocolate company, who had wanted the domain for their own "kinder" brand of chocolate products (e.g. kinder surprise eggs) and had claimed that the domain name constituted a copyright infringement on their registered brand name.

After several courts had already decided that Ferrero did not have the right to the domain, Ferrero had gone to the supreme court and demanded that the previous decisions be reverted through a special revision. Ending the two-year struggle, the supreme court yesterday confirmed the previous decisions. "Kinder" will continue to mean "children", not "chocolate". With the decision in place, MediaClan has now announced they will start building the children portal.
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From the BBC: "US warns Russia over Georgia strike. Washington says it will oppose any Russian military intervention inside Georgia in pursuit of Chechen rebels."
Uh-huh. So what about an American military intervention inside [insert name of arbitrary country, e.g. Iraq] in pursuit of Arab terrorists?
posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

Tom Fox writes about how McDonalds ran a series of infomercials last year in the French women's press. It recommended that readers "should not surpass one visit per week" to their restaurants. Tom asks: "Does the company make such suggestions to it's American customers?" My answer: They certainly haven't done anything like that here in Austria. [Paris]
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It seems to be an international phenomenon: Budget crunch hits libraries in the stacks. [Link found on Library Stuff]

I guess one day we'll be living in a world where no-one will be able to do simple maths, where no-one will be able to (or even want to) look up information about things that he doesn't, but would need to know, where no-one will be able to understand the way in which seemingly unrelated events are related, and where everyone will accept everything they are told (already a frightening tendency with many of my students today).

Why budget cuts in just about all western countries focus so much on education is beyond me - surely they must know that this will have major long-term repercussions. Just what do they want - a society of happy (because they're ignorant) consumers? Or are we heading towards a society of Eloi and Morlocks: those who can afford to be stupid and those who must be kept stupid so they don't revolt? Let's not forget that even the Eloi, while blissfully ignorant, weren't happy.
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In the light of my previous explorations of the fast food culture (see [1] [2]), this sounds mighty interesting: Junk Food News. "This tasty site features stories and newswires about the junk food industry. Beyond the entertainment value of the latest news about empty calories, this site shrewdly illustrates by example how the junk food industry promotes its product. A well-done hobby site by a professional writer." [Librarians' Index to the Internet - New This Week]
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Thursday, September 12, 2002

After one month online, this blog is slowly beginning to acquire a certain shape - good. Still, some work needs to be done. I need to focus more. Post less perhaps, but post more original stuff. There's no point in merely acting as a relay; to be good and to be perceived as good, what's needed is an original voice. I need to work on that.

Also added the Aardvark to BlogTree.com. I wonder when (if ever) there'll be a child blog and why there aren't more sibling blogs - am I the only one who used to read MacKiDo? David Every's web site, when it was still updated regularly, was one of the best computer/news/political sites that existed at that time. Nobody inspired by InfoWarrior.org? And no other Ani Moller fans around? Odd.
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As promised, part 7 of my travel journal is now online - with pictures! Also added some pictures to part 5 and part 6. I will eventually add pictures to the other parts, too.
05/09/2002: Heat and rain First I get laughed at by a goat as I walk on a mountain path in excessive heat, and later I get almost washed away from a beach because of the heavy rain. I finish reading a novel, and the psychotic dog is mysteriously missing, but returns just in time. Read on...
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It seems that a version of Eliza is built into OS X: "In the Terminal type emacs and hit Return. When the editor has loaded, hold Shift and hit the Escape key. Then type x, then doctor and hit Return. Answer the first question and proceed from there. When you're done, Ctrl-X Ctrl-C will quit the editor." [Radio Free Blogistan]
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I found this George W. Bush quote on Toby's Political Diary:
George Bush says "There is a line in our time, and in every time, between those who believe that all men are created equal and those who believe that some men and women and children are expendable in the pursuit of power."
I don't know the context from which this is taken, but as it stands here, I find this statement quite surprising, especially its bluntness and brutal honesty. I hadn't expected him to be this honest. Unless he sees himself on the other side of the line, of course. ;-)
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Karlin Lillington: "[W]hat society keeps its citizens under greater, round the clock surveillance than any other? Russia? Indonesia? North Korea? Why no -- it's Great Britain, according to many measurements [...] The Guardian published an excellent special supplement on Saturday examining these issues. Simon Davies's article is perhaps the most worrying/thought-provoking." [techno\culture]
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Haider back as far-right leader. Jörg Haider retakes the leadership of Austria's far-right Freedom Party, in a dramatic return to national politics. [BBC News]
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Over on Library Stuff, Steven M. Cohen points out (and that can't be stressed enough) that a Google search (or any web search, for that matter) is not research: "plugging a keyword into a search engine does not mean that the user is performing research. It means that he/she is only getting the top layer of the subject at hand. Dig a little deeper, go to the library, use microfilm (Gasp!!) for primary resources, use the online databases, do real research for a change." [Library Stuff]
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Nj.com reports how college libraries are changing their reader facilities: "No longer a bastion of silence, college libraries expand horizons to coffee, food, companionship. [...] In an effort to get students to study outside their Internet-connected dorm rooms, college and university libraries are trying to make their facilities more attractive -- whether that means offering food, comfier chairs or even personalized service. [...] So Starbucks moved into a commons area on the first floor, and now coffee, snacks and soft drinks -- in containers with lids -- are allowed in all but five sections of the North Texas library." Read more... [Library Stuff]
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The Süddeutsche Zeitung has an interesting article pointing out where, as an average citizen on an average day, you leave behind digital tracks that can be assembled into a personality profile (in German). [Der Schockwellenreiter]
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Finally an intelligent article that points out why the idea of Macs running on Intel chips is bollocks. Charles Haddad writes: "Could Apple make OS X run on Intel chips? Yes, but it would blunt the unique Mac edge and spark a war that Microsoft is sure to win." Read more... [MyAppleMenu]
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Part 6 of the recollections of my travels on Crete are now online, with a bit of a delay, so not to spoil the 9-11-exclusive coverage on my blog yesterday. Part 7 will be posted later today.
04/09/2002: The day I get lost several times My navigation skills, my map and the Greek method of signing streets are all inadequate. I still get There and Back again, even though a supposedly overwhelming beach is rather underwhelming. Plus, I see the psychotic dog for the first time. Read more...
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Wednesday, September 11, 2002

Morgan Wilson has taken a look at the USA PATRIOT Act from a librarian's perspective. [explodedlibrary.info]
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In the New York Times, Susan Sontag writes about Real battles and empty metaphors: "Since last Sept. 11, the Bush administration has told the American people that America is at war. But this war is of a peculiar nature. It seems to be, given the nature of the enemy, a war with no foreseeable end. What kind of war is that?" Read more... [techno\culture]
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From the New York Times:"[T]o curtail individual rights, as the Bush administration has done, is to draw exactly the wrong lessons from history. Every time the country has felt threatened and tightened the screws on civil liberties, it later wished it had not done so. [...] When we are afraid, as we have all been this year, civil liberties can seem abstract. But they are at the core of what separates this country from nearly all others; they are what we are defending when we go to war. To slash away at liberty in order to defend it is not only illogical, it has proved to be a failure. Yet that is what has been happening." Read more... [Privacy Digest]
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Toby Sackton on the political aftermath of 9/11: "What happened last year was real.  What is being replayed today is not.  When you feel your society being manipulated on a grand scale, a first reaction is to opt out, to withdraw.  But if you don't withdraw, you feel you are opposing an almost unbelievable power-- like a storm that you cannot possibly influence or control." Read more... [Toby's Political Diary]
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The Lawyers Committee for Human Rights (LCHR) has a web site on which it is reexamining civil liberties since September 11, 2001: "Since September 11, the United States has lost something essential and defining: some of the cherished principles on which the country is founded have been eroded or disregarded." [Found via explodedlibrary.info]
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Newsday carries this list of some of the fundamental changes to Americans' legal rights by the Bush administration and the USA Patriot Act following the terror attacks:
  • FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION: Government may monitor religious and political institutions without suspecting criminal activity to assist terror investigation.
  • FREEDOM OF INFORMATION: Government has closed once-public immigration hearings, has secretly detained hundreds of people without charges, and has encouraged bureaucrats to resist public records requests.
  • FREEDOM OF SPEECH: Government may prosecute librarians or keepers of any other records if they tell anyone that the government subpoenaed information related to a terror investigation.
  • RIGHT TO LEGAL REPRESENTATION: Government may monitor federal prison jailhouse conversations between attorneys and clients, and deny lawyers to Americans accused of crimes.
  • FREEDOM FROM UNREASONABLE SEARCHES: Government may search and seize Americans' papers and effects without probable cause to assist terror investigation.
  • RIGHT TO A SPEEDY AND PUBLIC TRIAL: Government may jail Americans indefinitely without a trial.
  • RIGHT TO LIBERTY: Americans may be jailed without being charged or being able to confront witnesses against them.
[This Modern World]
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Library Stuff is publishing thoughts from readers one year after 9/11. One quote is particularly interesting and saves me writing something that would go much along the same lines:
Peter S.: "Our country is less free. The government is removing information from the internet and federal repository libraries under the theory that keeping citizens uninformed is a price worth paying for keeping terrorists uninformed. [...] I regret the loss of this freedom, but I want to make a different point. I regret above all the widespread acceptance of this loss over the past year. [...] Pointing out that the country is less free is now regarded as an unpatriotic act. So is a willingness to discuss whether our diminished freedom is necessary to protect life. Patriotism in this sense is even regarded as more important than honest discussion or the constitutional values that patriotism is supposed to defend. I'm not dismayed that we've responded to a serious threat with serious measures, and a willingness to sacrifice important traditions if that proves to be necessary. But I am dismayed that serious discussion about it is suspect, that the information needed for serious discussion is censored, and that the value of serious discussion is not among the values we are trying to defend. [...] If our attackers [...] hated our freedom -- the freedom to borrow library books or send email without government monitoring, the freedom to know the facts on which public policies rest, the freedom to give or withhold informed consent, the freedom to participate effectively in self-government, the freedom to question and inquire, the freedom to speak one's mind, and the freedom to disagree even with true believers -- then they have made gains."
Read more... [Library Stuff]
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Dave Winer: "[L]ast night I saw there was a Frontline special on the spirituality of the event, and given that Frontline is so excellent, I had to give it a chance. It was very stimulating, both emotionally and intellectually. Well worth a watch. A common theme -- what kind of God lets this happen?"
(Please note that Dave is quoting; the following is therefore not an answer to his opinion, but rather to the question posed in the TV documentary)

One shouldn't bring God into this. All too often, God is used merely as a cheap excuse to deny one's own responsibility. If you do something, whatever it is, you should be ready to face the consequences.

If you smoke, you should be prepared to get lung cancer; it's pointless to ask "why did God do this to me?". If you don't protect the environment, you should expect global warming, failed crops, floods and the like; it's pointless to ask "why did God do this?". If you alienate the entire Arab world with your foreign policy, you should be prepared to get some kind of hostile response; it's pointless to ask "why did God allow this to happen?"

If, however, you believe that whatever happens is not a consequence of your actions, but the result of divine intervention, then consider the following:

The Bible has several chapters where cities are attacked and/or destroyed. Think of Sodom and Gomorrah, for example. In each of these cases, the people living in these cities had violated against God's laws; when confronted by God and told to reconsider their way of life, they saw nothing wrong with what they did and just carried on with whatever they were doing. So God decided to teach them a lesson in humility.

So if you seriously ask, "why did God allow this to happen?", the answer that you'll find in the Bible is: to show you that your way is wrong; to make you reconsider what you are doing; to show you that you are not all that important and teach you a lesson in humilty; to bring you back to His path.

Seeing it like this, it is ironic that the events of 9-11 seemed to have had the exact opposite effect, and that the ones who are referring to God all the time are those who are particularly blind to this rather obvious message.

I'll turn my "religious fanatic" mode off now. As I said above, due to my upbringing as a Catholic in Europe I'm very, very reluctant to bring God into this (and I cannot understand why Americans seem to be doing it all the time). In the end, what it amounts to is that people, as individuals, and also as a collective, are responsible for what they do and have to face the consequences. Or, if you absolutely have to bring God into this, then please go all the way and try to gather from His teachings just why He was doing it. Acting one way as individuals with a free will and then making God responsible for the consequences of your actions is the easy way out, but it's just not acceptable.

Dave Winer closes his argument from the other perspective, and what he writes proves that he has understood what this is about: "9-11 was, imho, a small upheaval in getting to some kind of equilibrium in how the US participates in the world, both from the US perspective, and the world's perspective. That we got so much sympathy says how big the human heart is. That there wasn't more celebrating in the streets of world capitals says that they forgive us for our selfish attitude, which is back in force as if 9-11 never happened. So what were the lessons of 9-11 that the US has failed to learn? I think it's that God doesn't think we're as important as we do." [Dave's quotes are taken from DaveNet]
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This Modern World: What the president has learned since 9/11. [Salon.com]
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A week after the attacks, Susan Sontag wrote in the New Yorker:
The voices licensed to follow the event seem to have joined together in a campaign to infantilize the public. Where is the acknowledgment that this was not a "cowardly" attack on "civilization" or "liberty" or "humanity" or "the free world" but an attack on the world's self-proclaimed superpower, undertaken as a consequence of specific American alliances and actions? How many citizens are aware of the ongoing American bombing of Iraq? And if the word "cowardly" is to be used, it might be more aptly applied to those who kill from beyond the range of retaliation, high in the sky, than to those willing to die themselves in order to kill others. [...] We have a robotic President who assures us that America still stands tall. A wide spectrum of public figures, in and out of office, who are strongly opposed to the policies being pursued abroad by this Administration apparently feel free to say nothing more than that they stand united behind President Bush. [...] The unanimity of the sanctimonious, reality-concealing rhetoric spouted by American officials and media commentators in recent days seems, well, unworthy of a mature democracy. [...] Let's by all means grieve together. But let's not be stupid together. A few shreds of historical awareness might help us understand what has just happened, and what may continue to happen.
[The New Yorker]
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Steph writes: "The overblown and dare I say tasteless September 11th media frenzy is so over the top. I'd like to just check out for the next few days. Our lowest common denominator culture has taken September 11th and created a emotional monster that needs constant validation - the 'toddler down the well' syndrome on a cosmic scale. This constant validation cheapens and commercializes a very real and tragic event." [The Slat Rat Chronicles via clog]
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We're buying schlock because we want to remember. But the more we stock up on canned memorabilia, the faster we'll forget. [Salon.com]
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So far I have spared you any 9-11 related news items because I thought the media hype was already bad enough and I wanted to keep this down to the minimum. Today's edition of The Aardvark Speaks is, however, entirely dedicated to the events and consequences of Sept. 11th, 2001. Items will continue to trickle in thoughout the day.
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Tuesday, September 10, 2002

Dave Winer: "John Robb is the #5 John on Google; Tim Berners-Lee is the #1 Tim." [Scripting News]
Dave is the #2 Dave, by the way. And I'm the #58 Horst. How utterly depressing. I guess this is supposed to show me my relative importance in life. :(
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Yet another part of my holiday journal is online. Read what I did exactly one week ago on Crete.
03/09/2002: As far as I get I see how far I can get in a day with my car, visit ruins, chunks of rock and Zeus's beach and bathe in the rain. Two people are skinned alive, and the psychotic dog is, for once, remarkably silent. Read on...
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John Robb: "IE should include weblog software as part of its core functionality.  Working on this." [John Robb's Radio Weblog]
No, it should not. I for one would never ever install server or server-like software that bears the Microsoft label. You know, the kind that has the big "Hack me by exploiting one of my 2000 security holes" sticker on it. And I certainly would never allow it to freely shuffle files back and forth between my hard disk and my web server (and at the same time allow some hacker access to both of them). Nope.
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Andy Hodgkinson: "Rebecca Blood, author of the webloggers handbook, believes that the greatest strenghs of weblogging is also its greatest weakness: 'Let me propose a radical notion: The weblog's greatest strength--its uncensored, unmediated, uncontrolled voice--is also its greatest weakness.' So Rebecca has produced an ethical code for webloggers which should be of interest to all our webloggers out there, of course it might not be." [etcetera]
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I'm so glad I went to school in Austria, where abominabilities like this didn't exist (be sure to check out the pictures). [Link found on Memepool]
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This may sound or even be goofy, but in the light of current events maybe it isn't such a bad idea after all. [Link found in this article on Salon.com]
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On osOpinion, Jill Eriksson writes this story about web heroine Ellen Feiss: "I admit it. I love the Ellen Feiss ad. [...] Ellen is real. She's offbeat, goofy, and so typical that it hurts. She says 'like' several times, she fidgets, and she talks to you like you're one of her friends. She's in her own world, and appears to be one of the only people who seems not to notice she's speaking to a camera. [...] Out of 18 releases, a gem was destined to stand out among them. Apple just didn't know who, and were probably surprised to discover just why." Read more... [osOpinion]
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Krzysztof Kowalczyk writes: "The hard part about blogging is keeping the pace. Blogging is a marathon, not a sprint. That number on a calendar without corresponding link is the worst thing that can happen to a blog." [Krzysztof Kowalczyk's Weblog]
Is it? I can imagine worse things.
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Monday, September 9, 2002

The BBC has two more stories on the collapse of the Austrian government: a piece on the power struggles in the far-right Freedom Party that ultimately caused the collapse, and a summary of the right-wing/conservative government and possible perspectives for the future. [BBC News]
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Yet another installment of my holiday diary is now online.
02/09/02: What is stupidity? Stupidity is buying insect repellent and thinking several times about applying it, then lying down and falling asleep without applying it and waking up an hour or so later with a red swollen ear, which is itching like hell because some mosquito has been happily sucking away on it. Read on...
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This is so sweet I just had to link to it (requires Flash). [pepilog.de]
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From the BBC: "Iraq could produce a nuclear bomb in months if it were able to obtain materials, a report by a defence institute in London says." [BBC News]
Give us ten stories like this one and we're ready to start a full-scale war against Iraq. No kidding: now that the USA needs every reason to finally attack Iraq, we are going to hear news like this more often - whether it's true or not. It's all part of a marketing strategy. Sometimes I feel that war propaganda is just about as bad, if not worse, as the fighting.
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The Independent and The Guardian have articles in English on the current government crisis in Austria.
Update: There is now also an article on cnn.com, but this one is giving a rather simplified and misleading account of the events.
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Sunday, September 8, 2002

From the BBC: "The vice-chancellor resigns along with the finance minister after a dispute with far-right politician Jörg Haider. Read more [BBC News] The Austrian newspaper Der Standard also has an online special on this (in German).

Funny I had to find this news item on BBC with my news aggregator... anyway, this is going to be interesting. It seems that the controversial right-wing/conservative coalition government is on the verge of imploding. The resignation of two key ministers, who have been enjoying high popularity among the electorate as well as the Austrian media as moderate figureheads of the right-wing Freedom Party is certainly a destabilising factor; but then it's impossible to say what Chancellor Schüssel will finally decide. Schüssel has always seemed bent on keeping the government together and in place at all costs (he even made some rather controversial decisions to accomplish this) and has remained enigmatically silent on all matters concerning the government ever since he took office. There are rumours that there will be new general elections in November, but it's just as likely that the Freedom Party will merely nominate two new ministers, and Schüssel goes along with this. This could be interesting.

At any rate, even if there are new elections, the question is what the results will be like. The political landscape in Austria hasn't changed all that much, so I cannot see the Social Democrats and Green Party get a majority of the votes, and I don't think that a return of the former Social Democrat/Conservative coalition government is likely or desirable; so the most likely option is probably simply a continuation of the present government. With the two most popular Freedom Party politicians gone and the Freedom Party having lost much of their popularity during the past two years, it'll be interesting to see what happens.

However, there is this old Chinese curse that says, 'May you live in interesting times.' I can see the point of this curse. Whatever happens, this could turn out really bad.
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Part 3 of my totally boring holiday journal, which is detailing everything I did on Crete last week, is now online.
01/09/02: Adverse reactions I am eaten alive by mosquitoes, find a cool beach, am almost hit by a bolt of lightning and have an allergic reaction to my dinner. Read on...
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From E-Week: "Imagine a library where you can walk in with your laptop, plug in to an unobtrusive network jack, and access both the library's resources and the Internet through a common portal. If the network doesn't yield what you're looking for, a librarian wearing a headset and carrying a personal digital assistant can find a particular book or get the answer in seconds. In the brief time you have to wait, you can interact via streaming video with staff members tending a 15,000-gallon saltwater tank or dial in from the office to a library videoconference that lets you watch your child at story time."

"This library of the future, dubbed the Millennium Library, provides patrons in the city of Cerritos, Calif., with networked access to a variety of applications integrated through a portal that patrons say makes information access itself a fun learning experience." Read more... [E-week via Library Stuff]
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After finding the Modified Librarians yesterday, it was only logical that today I should stumble across this.
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Niek Hockx of the famous clog blog (or probably just 'clog' without 'blog') has recently been posting a number of pictures of a woman called Tanja who he claims is a librarian from Holland. Now while she definitely looks Dutch (she's rather tall and has those incredibly straight teeth that only the Dutch have), she doesn't look at all like a librarian, even though she tries hard in this picture -- for the truth about librarians, check out this web site [some knowledge of German is required] or this page [English, but nowhere near as funny].

Back to Tanja: the only proof she seems to have for being a librarian are a couple of books she's holding up into the camera. Hmmm, not sure if that's sufficient to convince me... ;-)   So either this is a clever photographer's marketing trick, or an attempt to work against the perceived stereotyped image of librarians, or, of course, Tanja is really a librarian. Come to think of it, at VU Library we also have a couple of extremely good looking librarians (even though none of them has such uncannily straight teeth - but then none of them is Dutch).
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Saturday, September 7, 2002

My vacation on Crete made me start thinking about moustaches. Here in Austria, only soldiers and policemen wear moustaches; in Greece (and even more so in Turkey), moustaches are much more common. I myself have never once considered wearing a moustache, but that may be totally determined by my cultural environment. I wondered if I had grown up in Greece or Turkey, would I be wearing a moustache?

Moving on to other parts of the body: why am I, a certified librarian, not getting the point of these people? I realize that they are absolutely serious about it, but their choice of words on the page makes it sound so... absurd, like they were some kind of support group dealing with a serious health/psychological problem. Only I don't see much of a problem there, except in the way they talk about themselves.
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Part Two of my travel journal is now online. Learn all about my endeavours and discoveries on Crete a week ago.
31/08/02: The Day of the Three Beaches I test three beaches, get to know a rather challenging mountain road and eat way too much. Read on...
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Yes, I have been wondering about that, too. [MSNBC.com via Slashdot]
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From The Register: "Variants of the Klez worm were by far the most common viruses circulating on the Internet last month. ... The Register received evidence from security experts that spammer's computer systems were infected with the Klez-H virus and spreading it along with their unsolicited emails." Read on...

I certainly have received several infected spams. Luckily, I use e-mail software that's immune to the virus. Oh, and perhaps it's time to sow a few new seeds for spambots: hlrygxmf@xhomjn.br, qgk@pyrlqnweg.net, ivr@bukkjoy.fr, prgrv@wapvfxwdfo.com, emfvg@edpiig.edu, bvjf@ljypdeydvp.de, pboks@fcnxalhmc.ca, hxls@ojkthubszv.it, yguosjioit@excvpeof.dk, eefniquami@dqwiwn.ar
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Friday, September 6, 2002

So I return from Greece to find a ridiculously large parcel from Amazon.com in the mail, open it and find lots and lots of Fill-Air(TM) air cushions inside. Oh yes, and hidden under the invoice there are two long-awaited audio CDs. Eagerly, I open the first CD ("Small Planes" by The Innocence Mission), i.e. I remove the shrink wrap foil, break the seal, open the jewel case, all in high anticipation -- and am stunned to see that there is no CD inside. The CD case was just empty. Not exactly what you expect from a sealed CD. (This has, actually, never happened to me before). I wrote a note to Amazon.com. Let's see what they think about this. I hope they believe me. Since the seal is broken, I can't, of course, prove that the CD wasn't inside. For the first time I am experiencing part of the dilemma of Schrödinger's cat first-hand.
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So many books, so little time... From Salon.com: "September is to book reviewers what Christmas is to little kids, and even though the economy is idling, publishers have stuffed our stockings with more delights than we can handle. This month, we were showered with new books by some of our favorite authors, including Zadie Smith, Paul Auster and Haruki Murakami. There's Jeffrey Eugenides' long-awaited follow-up to 'The Virgin Suicides' and a new short story collection that shows A.M. Homes at her merciless best." Read more... [Salon.com]
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Guess what I did last week... no, you're wrong, I really took a week off everything and went to Greece, or rather Crete, to relax and just do nothing. I booked myself into a basic hotel in a village called Hora Sfakion (which doesn't really offer much for the average tourist, but was still fine for me), rented a car, drove around mostly southern and western Crete and enjoyed myself on various nice beaches. And yes, you can read all about my endeavours, as I will be publishing my travel journal on this site. With a delay of one week, you can read what I was up to exactly 7 days ago.
30/08/02: Arrival/Welcome to the Village: "Where am I? In the village. What do I want? Relaxation. Who am I? You are number 26. I am not a number, I am a free tourist!" Read on...
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