The Aardvark Speaks - October 2002 Archive



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Thursday, October 31, 2002

Angry Norwegian Anchovies (C)FOX

Remember that Futurama episode where Fry spends a jillion dollars on a can of anchovies (pictured above), which are worth a fortune because anchovies have become extinct? Well, you may not have to wait for the year 3000 for this to happen, and it's not Dr. Zoidberg's people wo are responsible for the disappearance of fish.

According to a report in The Guardian, EU commissioner Franz Fischler has recently predicted a total ban on cod, haddock and whiting catches in UK waters next year. Apparently fish stocks are now so low that there is the severe danger of them becoming totally extinct if something is not done immediately. The British are, of course, mad as hell about this. They argue that a 100% cut is completely unacceptable and will spell the ruination of fishing in the North and Irish seas, not to mention the loss of thousands of jobs in the fishing industry.

Well, not that "100%" has ever meant "100%" in a EU context. On the other hand, I consider this to be a no-brainer: Basically, the British fishing industry has two choices:
  1. severely reduce catches to an absolute minimum this year and keeping catches pretty low for the foreseeable future so that fish stocks can regenerate. This will no doubt have a strong negative impact on the fishing industry and fishing communities and will severely reduce their income in the future; or

  2. keep on catching fish as if nothing happened. This will work fine for the next two or three years, until there's no more fish to catch. Then they'll go completely out of business forever - unless they start some sort of fishing war with the Norwegians or somebody else.
Fischler (whose name is a variation on "fisher", by the way) happens to be one of the most considerate and most competent politicians ever to come from Austria. He's not somebody who'll ask for drastic measures if they're not absolutely necessary - if he says there's severe danger afoot, you can count on it. Plus, he's a Conservative politician with a strong belief in free trade, so there's no political agenda behind this. I trust that he pushes for scenario 1 because he is convinced that otherwise, scenario 2 is inevitable.

Expect fish to become more expensive over the next few years, and hold on to your canned anchovies.
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Steven M. Cohen links to The Top 10 Reasons to Be a Librarian, while Jenny Levine downloads Grimm's fairy tales for the kids and is amazed at the brutality of some of the stories - well yes, that is Germanic folklore in all of its gory detail. In the meantime, Doris Lessing complains about spelling mistakes in her books and falling spelling standards in general, while people in Liverpool are excavating a labyrinthine system of tunnels underneath their city.

Elsewhere, the Vatican Apostolic Library is in the process of posting hundreds of thousands of historical manuscripts, previously accessible to a privileged few, on its Web page: "Manuscripts of Emperor Justinian, love letters of King Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn, and missives of Lucrezia Borgia to her father, who had become Pope Alexander VI -- all may be consulted at www.vatican.va.". And my own humble library at VU will bring its first set of e-books online on Monday.
[Sources: Library Stuff, Shifted Librarian, etcetera, Boing Boing Blog]
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Jeneane Sessum: "What I want to add to my site is an anti-blogroll. On my very own anti-blogroll I would list all the blogs I recommend avoiding because they spew hate and meaningless muck. There must be a way to develop an anti-blog button that, when clicked, actually removes linkage to these sites rather encouraging links. hmmm... The sum total of assholes on our combined anti-blogrolls could compete daily for a spot on anti-daypop, or--for more sizzle--'daypoop.'" An interesting concept. Tom Coates came up with a similar idea recently, but I like this one better.
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In the midst of the current election campaign in Austria, the main candidate of Jörg Haider's right-wing Freedom Party, Mathias Reichhold, has resigned for "health reasons" after being the Freedom Party's leader and main candidate for only 40 days. While some members of the Freedom Party have demanded that Reichhold be replaced by Jörg Haider himself (who recently resigned from most party offices), Haider said he'd only return after the November 24 elections. Reichhold was replaced by current minister of social affairs Herbert Haupt. Haupt announced today that Haider would be put back on the list of party candidates for parliament, from which he had been deleted by Reichhold. According to recent polls, the Freedom Party may receive only about 14% of the votes, plummetting from 27% three years ago.
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Want to know what "warblogging" is all about? Well, here's what Cato writes about Canada:
I wish the US would just close the Canadian border, permanently, with barbed wire and minefields. Canada produces nothing of any significant value to the US, or anyone else, for that matter. Canada is nothing but a fucking icebox full of Christmas trees. Their beer sucks, they make the world's worst whisky, and their sorry-assed dollars aren't worth 65 cents. Fuck'em, and the moose they rode in on.
What angers him so much, you ask? Well, basically this is because Canadian citizens of Middle Eastern descent have been advised not to travel to the United States because the Canadian Government cannot guarantee that America will respect their Canadian citizenship.

Toby Sackton has a less explicit statement on why he thinks this is a good idea.
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No, yesterday's post about my trouble with the RSS feed of b2-managed sites was not intended as a call for a boycott of b2. I was merely stating that I unsubscribed from feeds generated by b2 because I didn't want three feeds to mess up the other 65 feeds that I have. That's it.
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I apologize to everyone who's having trouble connecting to my website. There's some trouble at my ISP apparently, and my Domain www.aardvark.at is currently unavailable. If you use the alternative address http://mailbox.univie.ac.at/~prillih3/ instead, things should work, though.
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Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Hands
Yes, mine.
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Steven M. Cohen links to an article from Consumer Web Watch on how people evaluate a web site's credibility: the Stanford University Persuasive Technology Lab has been conducting a study, of which the results are now available online (PDF Format). [Library Stuff]

To train your own awareness of which web sites are credible and trustworthy and which are not, the people at SOSIG have come up with a helpful tool: The Internet Detective, an interactive tutorial on evaluating the quality of Internet resources. It takes about 40-60 minutes to complete, but is well worth the time spent. In my courses on using the Internet for research purposes, I usually have my students work their way through this tutorial, and their feedback has always been positive.

Speaking of the Internet: Jenny Levine points to Bill Thompson's recent article on governments exerting content control over Google and says that this is why you want librarians to be caretakers of information, not companies. I'm not sure I can agree. For example, I, as a librarian who is also an employee of the Republic of Austria, am bound to do what my superiors tell me to do; and the ultimate superior is of course the minister of education, i.e. a member of the government. So if the government tells me to burn all books by some author or from a certain period of time, I am by law required to do so. So does that mean that libraries and providers of information should be privatised? Obviously not, because then it would just be another company, and we've come full circle without reaching a solution... I guess there's no way to escape this vicious circle - at some point you simply have to trust somebody who's more or less trustworthy. Which leads us back to the notion of credibility that I started this article with. Like, who do you trust?
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Hady Hassan Omar's Detention is a frightening account from the New York Times of how an innocent citizen was detained and tortured by US authorities who refused to believe that he had no connections to the al-Quaida terror network. [via Craig's BookNotes]
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The fifth season of Ally McBeal started on cable in Austria and Germany yesterday, and I watched it, of course. Julianne Nicholson is kind of cute, but overall, I was slightly disappointed. Somehow the series now seems so dated, like it's from a totally different era. And if you think of it, it is: it's essentially a pre-Enron, pre-recession, pre-9/11, pre-WarAgainstTerror (and in Austrian terms also a pre-right-wing-government) series. It started only five years ago, but it seems like five years ago we were living in a totally different world. Well, we were. Maybe that's what killed Ally McBeal in the end, that it wasn't about our current world any longer, that in our post-Enron, post-9/11 world we need somebody other than Ally or John Cage to identify with.

After about 30 minutes into yesterday's episode, I lost interest and switched off. I left the VCR running though, just in case.
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One of the things that's being discussed in the weblog world at the moment is whether Russian president Putin was right to send special forces into the theatre where Chechen rebels/terrorists (delete inappropriate term) were holding over 800 people hostage. I'll just add my 2 eurocents' worth here, and promise to shut up on the topic afterwards.

Yes, of course it was the right thing to do to storm the building. Although I think it's unlikely that the rebels/terrorists would have blown up the building anytime soon, they started shooting the hostages. There was really no other choice than to go in.

And of course it was terribly wrong to use poisonous gas whose effects hadn't been properly tested and not to have medical teams standing by to immediately treat the poisoned hostages, of which many could have survived otherwise. What it looks like is that whoever gave the orders willingly accepted the death of possibly hundreds of hostages to kill the rebels/terrorists. I don't know to what extent that may have been a necessity and to what extent it could have been avoided; still, I find it frightening.

Speaking of poisonous gas: The Guardian reports that "respected scientists on both sides of the Atlantic warn that the US is developing new weapons that undermine and possibly violate international treaties on biological and chemical warfare. The scientists ... say the Pentagon, with the help of the British military, is also working on 'non-lethal' weapons similar to the narcotic gas used by Russian forces to end last week's siege in Moscow."
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I really wish some people who write weblogs would cite their sources. Many do, but many don't. Quite often I find something on some weblog that I posted too, and I'd really like to know where these people found it. I'm a bit paranoid, you see, and I always suspect they got it from my site (which is of course preposterous, as I'm not the centre of the universe). No, seriously, it really helps to establish how far a post or a topic has travelled, especially if you see a similar post on different sites with different sources. I kind of like the idea of travelling memes, and therefore I like to see the sources.

At school, you think that if you copy ideas from somebody else's paper, it's cheating. At university we learned that it's okay to copy from stuff somebody else has written - if you cite your sources. Copying and not citing is cheating, copying and citing (and, of course, adding a few ideas of your own) is, believe it or not, scholarly work - because it proves that you have done research, that you read and understood what you found and that you spent some thought on whether you want to use it or not.

In fact, not using any sources from other people makes you look like an amateur; and if it becomes obvious at some point that your material is from somebody else, you're not just an amateur, you're a cheat. Professionals use sources, and they state that they used other sources and exactly what those sources are.

You think I'm talking to you? No, I'm not. I'm talking very generally here. But if you think I may be talking to you, please reconsider the citing policy of your weblog.

Update: In a funny instance of synchronicity, Joe Jenett (well, actually Loyd Schutte) talks about the same thing and agrees.
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It seems that I was partly wrong about who's to blame for the mess in my news aggregator I talked about yesterday. The problem is not specific to one blog, but to the b2 software in general: in RSS feeds, it does not display links inline (i.e. as links), but instead adds them at the end of the post as footnotes. If there's a very long URL, no line breaks are inserted, and thus the URL will just try to squeeze itself into the Radio UserLand news aggregator in one line, extending the tables way beyond the limit of my screen.

I'd suggest that the people who wrote b2 fix this soon. In the meantime, I have unsubscribed from all RSS feeds from b2-generated websites.
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Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Kaba Kick

Kaba Kick is a Russian roulette for kids. The player points the gun at his or her own head and pulls the trigger. Instead of bullets, a pair of feet kick out from the barrel (which is shaped like a pink hippo). If the gun doesn't fire, the player earns points. [Source: 1000 extra/ordinary objects. Köln: Taschen, 2000.]

Funny that a web search for "kaba kick" did not bring any results for this toy company, but directed me to this website (among others).

Elsewhere today, Robyn Pollman and Joseph Duemer talk about firearms. Robyn: "You cannot possibly give me ANY explanation that is good enough for a civilian to own a Bushmaster .223. ... You don't need that much fire-power with cop-killing bullets to kill Bambi for dinner, or defend your family during a break-in." More here. Joseph: "the DC sniper ... seems a quintessentially American story ... a culture of entitlement to instruments of violence." More here.

In the film Intacto, which I saw a few days ago at the Viennale Film Festival, several people play a deadly game of Russian roulette in a desperate attempt to measure and possible win (quite literally) the other person's luck.

How do all these bits and pieces fit together? Well, I ask you that.
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The Dutch guys from MacFreak.org were at it again: after the Oud Hollands PC Werpen and the Ellen Feiss look-alike contest they are now offering a look into the sleazy world of computer porn - yes, you got this right, there's a website full of Mac Erotica (not suitable for minors; do not click this link if you are easily offended; consider filtering this URL if you have a Mac that is switched on and unattended). [Found via Der Standard]
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The McDonald's across the street from the main university building in Vienna is a typical example of the clash between Austrian and American food culture. It's not just that everybody's going there to eat while in private they're complaining about the Americanisation of food and that it tastes awful and is unhealthy; on a deeper level and more importantly it shows the fundamental difference in attitudes when it comes to eating.

I guess the expected, proper American way to eat at McDonald's is to enter, grab your food, eat it and leave as quickly as possible (or perhaps, even better, not eat it there at all, but simply take your takeaway bag and leave immediately). But this is Austria, you see. If you go someplace to eat, you just don't go someplace to eat. You go there to spend time, chat with friends perhaps, read the paper, be sociable. Oh yes, you also eat there, but that's just a minor part of it.

The consequence of this attitude is that said McDonald's doesn't function as expected and becomes quite chaotic at lunchtime. It's always crowded and you never get a seat basically because of the large numbers of students who just sit there at empty tables, studying books or lecture notes, chatting with friends or reading newspapers, but not eating and then leaving as expected. It's nice to see this icon of American food culture being undermined that way, even though it's a pain if you actually want to eat something there at some point.

When it comes to true restaurants, I see things somewhat differently. Austrian restaurant critic Florian Holzer has recently criticized the Austrian habit of not leaving a restaurant after you've eaten: "Everywhere else a table is occupied twice per evening, the first time around seven o'clock, and then again around half past nine" (my translation). Basically, I think Holzer's criticism is bollocks; first of all it's my choice as a customer when I'm coming and leaving, and any waiter who tells me otherwise will never see me again. And secondly, this is just the way things are around here. It's part of our culture, for God's sake, a remnant of a time when apartments were so small (and, for many, so crowded) that people only went there to sleep and spent the rest of the free day at the local pub or coffeehouse; there's a reason why these places were the centres of social and intellectual life.

Besides, buying a coffee at the exorbitant prices they charge you in Viennese coffeehouses was always justified in so far as it gave you the right to stay for an unlimited amount of time. Now that most restaurants are charging up to 40% more as a result of very liberal rounding after the Euro conversion (without serving 40% larger portions), I see it as my right to spend at least 40% more time there if I wish.
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Bettina wrote in an e-mail: "Speak back:0, speak back:0, speak back:0 ....- how do you cope with that? It'd depress me."

No, it doesn't depress me, though I must admit that I don't like the optical effect that all those zeroes create. I could get rid of the numbers, but then I wouldn't know if someone someday actually posted a comment. So there you go, I see no way other than to disable comments alltogether, and I don't like that, either.

Maybe it's just a matter of the kind of material I'm posting, It's not all that controversial or actually inviting comment, and I don't have a fan base like Davezilla has, where 50 per cent of the fun is not the weblog entries, but the comments. So I'm not really surprised that barely anyone is commenting. At least I'm not getting any hate comments or spam comments, as others have.

I'll take this opportunity to thank Tom, Pascale, Greengrl and Bettina, who have left comments on numerous occasions, and also Cato, with whom I disagree on a couple of many things, but whose comments have opened new perspectives for me.
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My Blogger code on September 16th:
B1 d t? k+ s+ u f i o x e l c-
My Blogger code today:
B2 d t? k s+ u f i+ o+ x e l- c-

Has this blog changed significantly over the past month? I like to think so. Further changes are afoot. You'll notice when they happen.
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For the past few days, my Radio UserLand news aggregator has been looking like this, which makes it a true pain to use. I'm not sure whether it's due to a Radio.root update or some new RSS feed I subscribed to, which manages to break my fixed-width table, but I'd appreciate any thought on how to fix this.

Update: And the loser is... a certain b2-managed site, which sends some kind of code over its RSS stream that manages to stretch my fixed-width tables totally out of proportion. At any rate, deleting their news items restores my aggregator layout back to normal. As it worked just fine last week, I suspect that they did some "tweaking" that broke something. They have been notified.
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Monday, October 28, 2002

Love Scenes: No. 2, Implantation, by Andy Wiener

Greengrl wonders if she's the only one who's disturbed by the existence of Lingerie Barbie, the latest incarnation of the timeless doll ("Barbie doll exudes a flirtatious attitude in her heavenly merry widow bustier ensemble accented with intricate lace and matching peekaboo peignoir. Ages 14 and up."). I must agree that I do find the concept somewhat daring.

So I did my own research and stumbled over a page that has suggestions for further Barbie dolls. My favourites are Divorced Barbie ("Sells for $199.99. Comes with Ken's house, Ken's car, and Ken's boat.") and Ally McBarbie ("Wears 1/16" length skirts, moans, whines, and grits her teeth. Optional accessories - coffee-cup, hot tub, Barbie's bathroom, dancing baby with spear.").

Elsewhere, Suzie Calvin explains why Barbie can't be a Mom: even though "Stages of Labor" Barbie, "Postpartum" Barbie, "Breastfeeding" Barbie and "I'm a Dad Now" Ken might sell well, Suzie doesn't think Barbie could handle motherhood.

The picture above, Love Scenes: No. 2, Implantation is from a series of pictures by Scottish photographer Andy Wiener (b. 1959), in which he tells a narrative of love and sexual attraction showing people wearing masks of Barbie, Ken and He-Man.
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One and two.
[Thanks to netbib weblog and Attu]
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Günter Hack writes: "Before buying music: Check your OS!":
Just bought a CD by a band that signed with Universal. The CD is copy protected and won't play on Macintoshes. So you have to check your OS first, when buying music. Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer say "thank you". Palladium is coming soon. In William Gibsons cyberpunk stories, everyone is after analog money for making transactions that cannot be traced. Will good old vinyl and audio cassettes go the same way? [etter det vi erfarer]
An interesting, if scary thought. Depending on how current proposals of the record industry will develop, we might just end up in this William Gibson kind of dystopia. So value your vinyl records and audio tapes like treasures. Sorry, your non-copy-protected audio CDs don't qualify; they're already doomed.

Toni Siegert wrote this extremely interesting article on data storage longevity (in German - a similar article by Dieter E. Zimmer can be found here), in which he points out - among other things - that audio CDs have a lifespan of only about 20-30 years, after which they can become unreadable and have to be replaced (as it happens, the music collection of the German Library in Frankfurt already has problems with disintegrating audio CDs from the 1980s); too bad if by that time only copy-protected or DRM-managed CDs are available.

A grim outlook indeed. Günter may have a good point: treasure your analogue media.
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It's Monday - time for the new Tom Tomorrow cartoon. This week's topic: Morality, American-style. [Salon.com]
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The Penny Magazine was aimed at the working class as part of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge's program for liberal reform. For its reader, however, it was a source of information on subjects of general interest: everyday things like tea and coffee, well-known places in England, a series on animals and birds of Britain, descriptions of present-day manufacturing, even an American almanac and a serial of a personal account of an immigrant's problems. Poetry was published, too, and there are several illustrations in each issue. [Der Schockwellenreiter]

Bibliomania has thousands of e-books, poems, articles, short stories and plays all of which are absolutely free. You can read the world's greatest fiction by authors such as Dickens and Joyce, Sherlock Holmes mysteries, all Shakespeare's plays, or just dip into some short stories by writers such as Mark Twain, Anton Chekov and Edgar Allan Poe. [Der Schockwellenreiter]

The Livingston school board has voted 5-3 in favor of removing Rolling Stone magazine from the Park High School library. Principal Woody Jundt asked for the ban in early September, saying the popular culture-music magazine promoted violence, immoral sex, illegal drug use and phone sex. [H2Oboro]

Peter Bolger points to a website on London's Victorian Cemeteries and has some good advice: "never, ever visit old graveyards at night with a librarian." [etcetera]

Patently absurd: weird patents and useless inventions from the archives of the UK Patent Office. [IT&W]

The aim of the New General Catalog of Old Books and Authors is to catalog all deceased authors, and all authors of books published thru 1963, including their full name(s), date of death, date of birth, pseudonyms, sex & nationality (for non-EU citizens who died after c1920), and their books published thru 1963. [netbib weblog]

Providing home-spun wisdom and advice has been a hallmark of The Old Farmers Almanac since 1792, and their site features quite a bit of free information ... . Divided into sections similar to those in the regular publication, material can be located by topic, including Weather, which includes an article on "How To Predict the Weather Using a Pig Spleen," and Food, which has hundreds of recipes divided by dish type, courses, dietary requirements, and preparation style. [netbib weblog]
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A new study from GartnerG2, the research service of Gartner Inc., shows that consumers shun copy-protected CDs:
Music companies thinking of distributing copy-protected CDs to protect their content from piracy will likely raise the ire of consumers while lowering their revenue. ... Not only do the copy-protected CDs limit users options - preventing them to make a copy of the CD to play in their car, for example, just as one could with a cassette tape - they also limit their mobility. In some cases, the protected CDs cannot even be played in more than one of the consumer's CD players. These restrictions are likely to frustrate users, possibly resulting in a decline in revenue for the record companies, the researcher said. [MacCentral]
So it seems that while the debate on whether Internet file sharing hurts or helps the music industry is still unresolved, at least now we've got proof that copy-protected CDs hurt the business. I guess that's something.
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Joe Jenett quotes from an article on The Death Of The Internet by Jeff Chester:
The Internet's promise as a new medium -- where text, audio, video and data can be freely exchanged -- is under attack by the corporations that control the public's access to the 'Net, as they see opportunities to monitor and charge for the content people seek and send. The industry's vision is the online equivalent of seizing the taxpayer-owned airways, as radio and television conglomerates did over the course of the 20th century.
...
[N]ew technologies [are] being developed and embraced that can, in practice, transform today's open Internet into a new industry-regulated system that will prevent or discourage people from using the net for file-sharing, internet radio and video, and peer-to-peer communications.
Read more (the article was unavailable for a few days, but should be back online now). [jenett.radio]
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The Austrian news magazine profil caused quite an uproar when they reported that Conservative candidate Alfred Finz allegedly said during his election campaign, "Every vote counts, even if it's a woman's vote." Opposition politicians are now demanding Finz's immediate resignation. Finz has declined to comment, but the Conservative press bureau says he was misquoted; what he really said was supposedly, "Every vote counts, especially if it's a woman's vote."

Another PR stint of doubtful merit happened at the Conservative Party's recent election event in Linz, when they showed a video of none other than Silvio Berlusconi supporting party leader Wolfgang Schüssel: "Forza Wolfgang!"

The really disquieting thing about said election event is that at least according to the article, it seemed awfully similar to what the far-right Freedom Party's election events used to be: an unpleasant mix of propaganda and rhetoric intended to ridicule and denounce political opponents. Somehow it looks as if the Conservative Party's success in recent polls is at least partly due to the fact that they have absorbed some of the Freedom Party's populist ideology.
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Sunday, October 27, 2002

Prizes at the Big Brother Award ceremony

At a ceremony in Vienna yesterday, the Austrian Big Brother awards were given to various companies and institutions for outstanding mis-achievements concerning Austrian citizens' privacy and surveillance. The winners each received a glass cylinder filled with live cockroaches (pictured above). And the winners were...

Category "Business and finance": The Uniqa insurance company for a clause in their health insurance contract that allows them to collect information about the customer's health from just about anyone they please to ask - even from sources that would otherwise be legally bound not to disclose this information.

Category "Politics": The city of Linz for the surveillance system in the new underground tramway stations that are to be opened in 2004.

Category "Government and administration": the city of Innsbruck for a welfare benefit application form that asks a variety of personal questions and grants the city permission to hand this information on to third parties, without disclosing who those third parties are - so effectively, it's anybody who asks.

Category "Communications": three unknown judges at the Klagenfurt Chamber of Justice, who had signed a court order requiring all four Austrian mobile phone companies to send them full logs of all mobile phone calls and callers in the Carinthia province - because some burglars had lost a mobile phone at the site of a crime.

Lifetime achievement award: Austrian education minister Elisabeth Gehrer received the award for decree 38.000/11/Z/3-2001, which regulates the intended use of chip cards and biometry at Austrian schools, libraries, laboratories and gyms. The data to be recorded includes a complete profile of pupils and students, from movements in the school building, grades, attendance records to behaviour at school and receipt of social benefits - in short, total surveillance.

Public choice award: Austrian interior minister Ernst Strasser beat Microsoft Corp. in a survey among Austrian Internet users.
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Mikel Reparaz has been thinking about why President Bush is so bent on a full-scale military invasion of Iraq, and has come up with an answer: it must be because Bush has never played a single video game in his life. So, in an effort to prevent war, Mikel has started the Buy Bush a Playstation 2 Campaign, and so far the whole effort seems to be a success: as of today, the money for a PS2 console and a "SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs" game is in; if you visit Mikel's site and donate a few $$ more, he'll also be able to buy "Conflict: Desert Storm", a memory card and an extra controller for Mr. Cheney's use. I think it's a worthy effort. [found via Weblog Wannabe]
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  • Gore Vidal claims Bush deliberately allowed 9/11 to happen.
  • Woman told to stop breastfeeding at library that bans food and drinks.
  • The Realistic Internet Simulator.
  • What to do when you find yourself with too many books?
    [Sources: The Observer, Exploding Cigar, jenett.radio, Antipixel]
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  • Through a misguided Google search, I accidentally stumbled over a web page with 12 year-old pupils' science projects, and learned a few interesting things.

    For example, Lacey found out that water is better for cleaning windows than Windex brand cleaner - I guess the folks at Windex won't like this. Vanessa tested diapers for absorbency and found out they could hold over 300ml of liquid - and I always thought you're supposed to change a baby more often than once a day. And finally Jacob set fire to old clothes and noted which fabric burned fastest. Let's hope he'll turn into a bona fide scientist one day, and not a pyromaniac.
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    Michael Barrish: "I have resolved to write garbage. This is the only way out. Every day until the end of the year I will write some likely piece of garbage, and I will not miss any days." [Oblivio]
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    According to the BBC, Russian president Putin apologized for the death toll caused yesterday when special forces stormed a theatre held by Chechen rebels. Overall, 117 hostages and 50 terrorists were killed.

    Reuters reports that only one hostage died from a gunshot wound; 116 were apparently killed by the gas that was pumped into the theatre to subdue the terrorists (see also this story). The USA now demand to know what kind of gas was used.

    While the US and British hostages are apparently well, Austrian citizen Emilia Predova-Uzunov is among those that were killed by the gas.
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    Saturday, October 26, 2002

    Lee Marvin and Sissy Spacek in 'Prime Cut'
    Lee Marvin and Sissy Spacek in Prime Cut

    There's this old argument about European vs. American films. Americans tend to find many European films boring because more often than not there seems to be no real plot, let alone action, and the characters seem to be odd and behaving unpredictably, to say the least. Well, I tend to find many American films boring because, despite the fact that there usually is a plot, it's totally predictable. After about 10 minutes into any action movie, I can usually predict who's going to die at which point in the movie and how the whole thing ends.

    For example, the bad guy always dies. If you see somebody killing somebody else on-screen and he's not doing it in self-defence, he's doomed. If he merely sends in his henchmen, he might just be arrested, but be a bad guy and kill somebody on-screen, and you die. That's the rule. I'm sure there are a few exceptions, but I can't think of any at the moment.

    I saw two films last week that serve as good examples: In Insomnia, it's perfectly clear that both Al Pacino and Robin Williams have to die; in fact the need for them to die is so strong that the scene in which they're killed was about the only scene that felt awfully forced and artificial. On the other hand, in Prime Cut, Lee Marvin plays a hit man, and he does quite a lot of improbable but honourable things - probably so that he just can't be killed in the end. For some weird reason he doesn't even kill baddie Gene Hackman in their final confrontation (must be because Gene Hackman also hadn't killed anyone on-screen up till then).

    I see unpredictability as a virtue, but it has to be true unpredictability, not the Hollywood kind of unpredictability that is perfectly predictable because it's always the exact opposite of what you'd expect. Oh, by the way, I do also find some European movies boring.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Today is Austria's national holiday, commemorating the 1955 treaty on Austria's neutrality, which was the basis for the retreat of Allied troops from Austria and the fundament of the Second Republic.

    One Austrian tradition connected with the national holiday is that on this day no entrance fees are charged at all the state-owned museums. Sadly, due to the fact that all the state-owned museums have been privatised over the past few years, this is a doomed tradition: last year, the Leopold Museum was the only museum that was charging on October 26th; this year, some others have followed suit, and it'll probably only be a few years until there's no more free culture, not even on one day per year.

    Another tradition is the Austrian army's display of weapons and vehicles on Heldenplatz, which has this year attracted a record number of over 500,000 visitors (150,000 more than last year). What's so odd is that visitor numbers at this show are growing every year, whereas the number of Austrian youth doing their compulsory national service in the army is constantly shrinking: every year more young men try to evade army service by choosing to do social service instead, even though it takes them four additional months.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Today seems to be a particularly bad day for weblogging. I don't usually do this, but today I pulled no less than three posts - one because it was boring, one by accident, and one because I wanted to get rid of it. I almost pulled a fourth one as well, but didn't, and it merely ended up so heavily edited that it serves better as an example of my inadequacy as a writer than as an actual news item.

    Note to myself: Only write about what you want to write about, and never let current events dictate content. As today's blog shows, it'll invariably lead to disaster.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Nico quotes from an open letter to the record industry that was originally posted on UseNet. The letter examines the current situation of the record industry, attempts to explain it, and goes on to say why the Internet is helping, not destroying the music business. It's written in German, but to give you an idea, here's a brief excerpt translated into English:
    The truth is that it's you, the music industry itself, who is responsible for the current crisis you find yourself in, and this has nothing to do with people who burn their own CDs at home or exchange files over the Internet. In a nutshell: for years you've been producing too much trash that has increasingly shorter expiry dates, but comes at increasingly higher costs. You go for mass appeal instead of innovation, glossy covers instead of content, banality instead of values.
    ...
    As a customer, I feel like I'm punished by an industry that hasn't done its homework, that is ... not willing to accept that it needs to change, and that will, in its current form, therefore rightly perish.
    The full text (in German) is available here. [via nico | couchblog]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Scott Hanson wonders why notes that no-one is writing or blogging about the Moscow siege, where Chechen rebels have been holding 800 people hostage in a theatre for two days now. Well, I for one didn't write anything because the Austrian media are barely reporting about anything else - I was sure that everybody had by now heard all the details of this terrible story. First of all, I was so appalled that I didn't really know what to write, and secondly, I didn't really want to join the media choir in propagating a story that I thought everyone was aware of anyway. Nico says pretty much the same thing in response to Scott's post. Anyway, I have now posted a brief summary of the facts with a few links (see below).

    Strange though that neither the media outside Europe nor the blogosphere seem to find this newsworthy - instead we get stories about domestic violence in the John Muhammad household, and the top story on Daypop is about the death of a US senator, who died in a plane crash. Is this failure to report from Russia a late side effect of the Cold War, like we still don't talk about them because they used to be the enemy? I'd have hoped that the lives of 800 people mattered, whether they're Russian or not. Was I wrong?
    [Deleted this because it seems I didn't get my own point. There are pretty good reasons for not blogging about this.]

    Update: The BBC reports that the Moscow siege has come to a bloody end: Over 140 people (50 terrorists and at least 90 hostages) were killed as Russian special forces stormed the theatre this morning. Still, except for this small item in my news aggregator, nobody in the blogosphere except Scott Hanson seems to have noticed.

    Update: The Austrian newspaper Der Standard says that several of the dead hostages were killed by the unspecified anaesthetic gas used by the Russian troops. Der Standard also has pictures of the attack.

    Update: Glenn Reynolds is talking about it, too. Why he seems to support Damian Penny's idea that the Chechen rebels are in league with the 9/11 terrorists is beyond me, though.

    Final addendum: This must be the most heavily edited news item I've ever posted on this weblog. I think I changed it and added to it about 15-20 times. I apologize to everyone who got confused by all the changes and especially to those who are looking for the post Joe Jenett linked to - it got deleted by accident, but most of it is in here. I'll stop all this editing now and leave it as it is.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []



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    Friday, October 25, 2002

    Photo Shoot 1 by Jacqueline Donachie, (C)1994Jacqueline Donachie about herself in 1994: "I really wanted to be a lawyer. Right through school, I had it all worked out. The sharp suited yet still glamorous defender of the weak and underprivileged, mesmerising the court with my talents, championing the underdog and winning those unwinnable cases that no-one else would touch. Then Petrocelli ended on TV, and I discovered that the best looking guys all went to art school; it was just so much cooler to hang out in bars and talk about art than stay in and learn Latin. So here I am now; 25, no money, no ties. Too tall for Al Pacino, too old for modelling. Awaiting stardom. But hey, Petrocelli's probably still building that house of his."

    Jacqueline Donachie, born 1969 in Glasgow, is an artist and lives mostly in Scotland. An exhibition of her recent work will be shown at Kungliga Konstakadamien in Stockholm from November 15 to December 15, 2002.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    • Björk looks back on two decades of music.
    • Results of the Dutch Ellen Feiss look-alike contest.
    Dog Shoots his Owner.
    • Salon.com on Clueless George.
    • Either learn Elvish or just download some fonts.
    [Sources: Guardian, Wired, jenett.radio, Salon, Memepool]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Jeremy Hedley noticed an article on patents which he's "just cynical enough to take at face value", even though it sounds unbelievable:
    A key breast cancer test can no longer be done in B.C. because an American company has the gene patent.

    Utah-based Myriad Genetics Inc. has put a patent on two genes that can signal whether a woman may develop hereditary breast cancer.
    ...
    The [B.C. Cancer] agency used to do its own tests until the B.C. government recently ordered it to stop after legal threats by Myriad. Myriad now wants $3,500 US for the blood test, three times what it used to cost the province. And there's nothing B.C. cancer patients can do, other than paying for the test out-of-pocket.
    I can see it coming: one day some company will file a patent for a gene that is responsible for procreation, and we'll have to pay them a fee every time we have sex.

    On a related note, the Schockwellenreiter points to this Wired article on the Patent Process Madness: "If you've ever exercised your cat by having it chase the reflected spot of a laser pointer, you and kitty may be in violation of a bona fide U.S. patent." I'm more worried about developments like the breast cancer thing than about exercising my non-existent cat, but I agree that this madness needs to be stopped.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Here's the solution to Wednesday's election poster quiz:
    • A - Alexander Van der Bellen, Green Party
    • B - Mathias Reichhold, Freedom Party
    • C - Wolfgang Schüssel, Conservative Party
    • D - Alfred Gusenbauer, Social Democrats

    Tom Fox was the only one to actually post a guess, and he got it all right, so I'll send him a virtual cigar send him on a virtual cigar tour.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Here's one of the possible reasons why Austria ranks only 26th on the worldwide press freedom index (see also this item): Günter Traxler writes in Der Standard that René Freund, freelance writer for the Wiener Zeitung and one of the country's best columnists, lost his contract with the paper for writing a satirical article about being trapped between the new company building's security doors. As a consequence of this article, managing director Karl Schiessl told Freund in a letter that somebody who had such problems dealing with the strategic direction of the newspaper could not be a member of the team any longer, and Freund got the sack after being one of the paper's most successful writers for 17 years.

    Of course, this warrants the question what happens if one of the paper's journalists were to write a critical opinion about a truly controversial matter. If the managing director is so touchy about doors, what happens if somebody writes a commentary on - God forbid - politics?

    The Wiener Zeitung is the official newspaper published by the government of the Republic of Austria and used to be renowned for its factual, critical journalism. When the right-wing government took office in 2000, several of the editors and journalists were replaced by people that better matched the new government's political direction. Possibly Freund's dismissal could be due to a number of critical articles he published elsewhere (e.g. here) about the Austrian far right rather than his satire on security doors. At any rate, it's the lamest excuse for a dismissal that I've ever heard.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    The Iraq resolution is a lose-lose situation for the United Nations, writes Simon Tisdall in The Guardian. It could be so damaging that only al-Qaida may be said to have scored a victory. [Guardian Unlimited]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []



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    Thursday, October 24, 2002

    Canon

    Bill Turner says he loves his new digital camera. Call me old-fashioned, but I still prefer these beauties to anything else.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Reporters Without Borders have published the first worldwide press freedom index. Finland, Iceland, Norway and the Netherlands came in tops for "scrupulously respecting press freedom in their own countries but also speaking up for it elsewhere". Mainly because of the number of journalists arrested or imprisoned there, the USA only ranks as number 17. Shame on Austria for making it only to number 26, sharing the position with South Africa and Japan. At the end of the list are North Korea, China and Burma.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Greengrl summarizes a few reports about some weirdos who protest Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers because it brings back bad memories of September 11th. Satire or serious? You decide.
    Speaking of weirdos and September 11th: here is one of the most elaborate 9/11 conspiracy theories I've found so far.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Six hours at the office, six hours teaching, two hours (so far) blogging. I fear it shows in the quality of today's posts. Thursdays are hell. I think I should step down a bit, perhaps declare Thursdays blog-free days. I'm seriously considering it.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Jeremy Hedley: "I saw a great sig file at the bottom of a newsgroup posting once that said 'Don't anthropomorphize computers: they hate that'." [Antipixel]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

  • The police may have caught the Maryland sniper. (2)
  • Life at Indian call centers.
  • The UK government bans aspirin for under-16s.
  • Experts unlock mystery behind weird dreams.
    [Sources: BBC, CNN, Wired, Guardian Unlimited, eclectica]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

  • This is quite ironic, but it probably had to happen sooner or later: Apparently the amount of junk e-mails has risen to such proportions that even the Direct Marketing Association says it's time for legislation to limit spam. Yep, the spammers themselves fear their marketing strategies are no longer effective because there's so much spam. Of course this is not at all about stopping spam; it's mostly about making sure the right companies get the right to spam on whereas others can be shut down or limited. The right to spam becomes a commodity itself. Interesting.

    Bill Thompson is looking forward to a spam-free future. Why? Because the present isn't and current filtering technologies aren't helpful: "Putting pressure on ISPs to secure their networks properly, and teaching those who run their own servers how to do the same, would do more to stop spam than any amount of filtering."

    Joe Jenett writes about a new scheme to make spammers pay: IronPort, an e-mail gateway maker, is putting a novel spin on the war to end spam as we know it. Acting as a 'white' list, mass e-mailers agree to pay every time they stray.

    And lastly, Wired has an article about the joys of taking a spammer to court, and it's not good fun.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Recently there've been a lot of reports pointing out that library use has increased, not fallen because of Internet use. Today comes this article from The Daily Northwestern which says that a survey in the US shows libraries losing popularity as students head online for research: This survey of the 'first wired generation' shows 73 percent of college students surveyed prefer the Internet for research. [etcetera]

    (Speaking of online research: it seems that Google excludes sites from French and German listings. [InfoWorld])

    Another survey in the wake of the USA Patriot Act shows that librarians may be too good at keeping quiet: In February 2002, just a few months after the law's passage, the University of Illinois Library Research Center anonymously surveyed more than 1,000 public libraries. Already 85, or 8 percent, had been forced to reveal patron information. Library officials estimate there must be hundreds more by now. Yet despite widespread outrage among librarians, so far no one has come forward, and the statute remains untested in the courts. The search for Conan the Librarian continues. [Library Stuff]

    This list of books you're not allowed to read has been travelling around for a while now: the books are by authors that have died more than 50 years ago, which places them in the public domain in many countries, particularly those outside the US and Europe. However, they remain copyrighted under United States law, where works copyrighted in 1923 or later can be protected for up to 95 years after publication. In Austria, it's 70 years, so it's illegal to read them here, too. [Library Stuff]

    Light and Matter has an article on e-books and how they failed. [Slashdot]

    And finally, here's a great website on the evolution of type. [netbib weblog]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    In preparation for the war against Iraq, an increasing number of American military aircraft are flying over Europe. A week ago, Austrian Green MP Peter Pilz has already criticized that American fighter jets have been violating Austrian air space on a regular basis for the last few months, but Foreign Secretary Ferrero-Waldner denied these allegations.

    Now Pilz is getting support from an unexpected ally: the Austrian army has confirmed that two American stealth bombers violated Austrian air space last Friday. The two bombers attempted to fly across Austria in the radar shadow of an American tank aircraft which had received permission to cross Austrian air space; they were only barely recognized on Austrian radar screens. Two Austrian jets were sent to intercept them, and despite the American pilots' attempts to change course and evade identification, the Austrian pilots were able to identify and photograph them. The pictures were sent to the American government, along with a formal note of protest.

    The Austrian Neutrality Treaty of 1955, which was signed by Austria, the USA, the UK, France and the USSR, explicitly forbids any kind of Austrian involvement in or support for another nation's war efforts. This includes the clause that no other nation's attack weapons may pass through, or fly over Austrian territory. As far as I know, the USA is the only nation that has ever violated this treaty.

    The Austrian National Holiday (celebrated this Saturday) commemorates exactly this treaty, which was signed on October 26th, 1955 and is regarded as the foundation upon which the post-WWII Austrian Republic was built.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []



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    Wednesday, October 23, 2002

    candidates for the upcoming Austrian elections

    It's pre-election time in Austria, and there's posters with the leading candidates everywhere.

    Now here's a quiz for non-Austrians: In the picture above you see parts of posters of the leading candidates of the Conservative Party, the Social Democrats, the far-right Freedom Party and the Green Party. But who is who? Click on Speak Back and tell me your guess; I'll post the solution on Friday.

    And while you're Speaking Back, please also post the letter of the person you'd personally vote for, even though all you know about him is his picture. I know that this may seem kind of unfair, but hey, such is life.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    The leader of the Austrian Social Democrats, Alfred Gusenbauer said yesterday that his party would not be part of the next government if they didn't get the relative majority of votes in the November 24 elections - even if the Social Democrats and the Green Party together would have an absolute majority. Apart from the fact that we heard this kind of statement from Conservative leader Wolfgang Schüssel before the last elections and know what it's worth (nothing), this is a cheap, despicable attempt to lure votes away from the Green Party back to the ailing Social Democrats, who have so far been unable to show any concepts for their future politics. It also shows that Gusenbauer and his party are not willing to enter coalition talks with another party if they're not in a superior position from which they can dictate their terms.

    On a related note, it seems that Austrian expats are receiving letters from Conservative Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner, in which she urges them to apply for voting cards and also doesn't fail to mention the achievements of the Conservative Party: "During the past two years, we managed to strengthen Austria's position in the European Union and internationally, for which I'm personally responsible."

    Not all Austrian expats agree that Austria's position has become stronger. An Austrian living in the US writes: "Ever since this government has been in office, I'm constantly being approached about them and I constantly have to justify their politics. This letter is totally out of touch with reality." [Der Standard, my translation]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

  • Our resident interviewer Haldur Gislufsson is worried about mad deer disease.
  • Yann Martel wins this year's Booker Prize for his novel Life of Pi.
  • Things on air safety cards that you never bothered to read.
  • Where Las Ketchup came from: a history of girl groups.
  • Sean Penn vs. George W. Bush.
    [Sources: Salon, Antipixel, Presurfer, IT&W, Attu]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

  • Well, at least some people get it: Charles A. Kupchan writes in The Atlantic Online that the next clash of civilizations will not be between the West and the rest, but between the United States and Europe. It is possibly the first article on the US-EU relationship by an American author which I've read in a long time that actually makes sense. Read it. I'll just post a very brief excerpt here:
    [J]ust as the Byzantines and the Romans parted ways over values and interests, so have the Europeans and the Americans. The two sides of the Atlantic follow different social models. Despite recent deregulation across Europe, America's laissez-faire capitalism still contrasts sharply with Europe's more centralized approach. Whereas Americans decry the constraints on growth that stem from the European model, Europeans look askance at America's income inequalities, its consumerism, and its readiness to sacrifice social capital for material gain.
    ...
    The two have also parted company on matters of statecraft. Americans still live by the rules of realpolitik, viewing military threat, coercion, and war as essential tools of diplomacy. In contrast, Europeans by and large have spent the past fifty years trying to tame international politics, setting aside guns in favor of the rule of law. ... Europeans see America's reliance on the use of force as simplistic, self-serving, and a product of its excessive power; Americans see the EU's firm commitment to multilateral institutions as naive, self-righteous, and a product of its military weakness.
    ...
    As a multi-ethnic immigrant nation, America has begun to wonder about a Europe that remains hostile to immigrants despite its shrinking population, and that falls prey to bouts of intolerance and anti-Semitism. Europeans, in turn, take a dim view of an America wedded to gun ownership and capital punishment. At root, America and Europe are driven by different political cultures. And the cultural distance appears to be widening, not closing, putting the two sides of the Atlantic on diverging social paths.
    The full text is here. [Found via d/blog]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    The BBC reports that the White House says its patience with the United Nations is running out, as Russia and France object to a new draft resolution on Iraq. At the same time, back in the US, police in the US state of Maryland issue a warning that now it's children who are under specific threat from the sniper who has already killed nine people.

    This brings up an interesting question a friend of mine asked a couple of days ago: how on earth are the USA going to deal with a ground war in Iraq if they can't even deal with one mad sniper in their own country? After all, there's going to be more than one sniper in Baghdad.

    In other news, I found this solution to the Maryland sniper problem on Davezilla and see it as a desperate attempt at black humour in grim times. I just don't think the relatives of the murder victims can laugh at it.

    Update: A post by Joe Jenett alerted me that I may not have expressed myself clearly enough: I am of course aware that a sniper shooting at random at civilians cannot be compared to a sniper shooting at soldiers in a war situation. The basic idea behind my friend's statement was, I guess, merely the contrast between the "we'll-be-totally-in-control" attitude that the Bush administration shows in regard to an attack on Iraq vs. the relative helplessness in the face of these insidious sniper attacks in the USA. My own conclusion is just that sadly things are never really under control.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Everybody is talking about RSS validation these days (e.g. here, here, and here), which is supposed to be the next cool thing for weblogs. Great. It's just that I, as a poor measly Radio UserLand user, have no control over my RSS feed whatsoever, because Radio generates it automatically, so this RSS validation thingy is pretty pointless for me. Heck, my weblog doesn't even validate as HTML 4.0 or XHTML 1.0 because the code generated by Radio's built-in macros just isn't clean (it still generates things like BRODER=0, even though I told them to fix this about 2 months ago).

    I sincerely hope the people at UserLand would clean up this mess before worrying about RSS feeds. Heck, my whole site has clean HTML or XHTML, it's only the Radio-generated pages that don't. It's truly embarrassing.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    I mentioned that Dutch Mac freaks were staging "Oud Hollands PC Werpen" earlier this week. Now Thomas Schlijper has the pictures. [via shutterclog]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []



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    Tuesday, October 22, 2002

    Otto Berchem: Men's room etiquette (1994)

    I saw this installation by Otto Berchem first at the New Art in Scotland exhibition at the CCA in Glasgow in 1994, and it has stayed in my memory like few other art installations have. I guess it touched some deeply rooted point in my male psyche - basically, I'm reminded of it almost every time when I go to some public men's room. The partition boards between the non-existent urinals and the spots on the walls where you're supposed to pee (oddly out of touch with reality, where more often than not there are no partitions and men seem to be strangely incapable of directing their flow to the correct spot) seem to be almost archetypal of some fundamental male experience. Weird.

    Here's what Otto Berchem himself says: "With the body of work Men's Room Etiquette I have tried to demystify certain notions of the Men's Room - has it become one of the last refuges of machismo in our increasingly unisexual world? For some it is an arena to swagger and strut, for others it is an intimidating place. Why? Perhaps it is due to the fact that it is one of the few places where men willingly allow themselves to become vulnerable. With the unzip of a fly you are open to inspection and even attack. Each man deals with this experience in their own particular way. Eventually, going to the Men's Room involves your own ritual to deal with the experience."
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Yes, I'm kind of in rant mode today. I promise to be funnier tomorrow. On the other hand, my rants are mild compared to what Glenn Reynolds has to say about the political left. Makes you feel glad you're a conservative. If you are one.

    Reading through Glenn's rants (question to myself: why am I doing this?) just made me realise that Tom Tomorrow (love his latest strip) is so right: Now that R. Robot (I mentioned him before) has his own blog, warbloggers like Glenn or Andrew Sullivan have become obsolete. I love R. Robot, he's brilliant.

    And finally, one last rant thing: in the Daily Telegraph, David Frum has found the reason for anti-Americanism in Europe:
    it [anti-Americanism] often seems motivated by envy rather than hatred. "You have to understand," one Left-wing journalist told me over a boozy lunch, "that everybody in our business here wonders whether he didn't make the mistake of a lifetime by not moving to the United States when he was 22."
    Yeah, right. Sure. Whatever you say.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Why is it that Americans constantly criticise European gun control laws, make it responsible for crime in Europe and tell Europeans how wrong they are to restrict firearms, and at the same time they just can't stand it when Europeans talk about firearms use in the United States?

    I had seriously wanted to post this, but fortunately and just in time I remembered something that Justin, a British guy I met on IRC, told me a long time ago, and which I have been preaching on IRC and UseNet myself ever since: "There's two things you must never discuss with Americans: guns and social security. Never bring up the topic, never join the discussion if it's already started. Never ever."
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    • Top Ten Reasons to vote Republican in November
    • The gallery of bellydancing librarians
    • A much-needed add-on for your avatars in The Sims.
    • Doonesbury on weblogs.
    Version A (official) and Version B (Davezilla) of the same story.
    [Sources: BookNotes, Presurfer, Schockwellenreiter, Paris, Davezilla]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    The UK DVD edition of David Lynch's Mulholland Drive must be the only DVD around that doesn't have a chapter division on it. That's right: the only way to watch the movie is from beginning to end, there's no way to jump forward or back to a specific scene other than the good old fast-forward and fast-rewind buttons like those on your VCR. Oh, and forget about any interesting extra features: none of those available either. Somebody at Universal is possibly having a good laugh at all the stupid people like me who bought this DVD in the hope that they'd be able to take advantage of the technological advances of the DVD over the VHS tape. Nope. The people at Universal just take the five extra quid that the DVD costs more and rejoice.

    By the way, the French edition comes in a 2-DVD set with lots of extras (and chapters), and the German edition has better sound and a few more extras. It's apparently really just the UK edition that sucks so much.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    I almost freaked out yesterday. It was a case of extremely bad karma, bad vibrations, or whatever. I don't think I had ever experienced something like this before. A new teacher showed up in my Tai Chi class yesterday, and I disliked her from the moment I first saw her. I don't know what it was - she wasn't unattractive at all, nor did she say much, in fact I disliked her before she even said anything. She seemed to emanate bad vibrations like I had never experienced them before. During standing meditation (chi kung), I was sure I would lash out at her if she so much as touched me (luckily, one of the other teachers came around to correct my posture). As time progressed, I felt myself getting more and more tense in her presence; the fact that her teaching style sucked big time didn't help either. Usually when the class is over, I'm energetic, but relaxed, this time I was totally tense and aggressive. It took me a dinner at a Greek restaurant afterwards (see entry below) to relax and loosen up again. No idea what caused this. I barely recognized myself. How can you feel such extreme dislike for a person you've never seen before and you haven't even interacted with in any way?
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Just in case you were worried: no, I wasn't really all that drunk yesterday, and I was pretty far from looking like the man in the Bellows painting (I also was not subdued by any woman). It was just that I had returned from dinner at a wonderful Greek restaurant nearby, where I had had a wonderful dinner with an ample amount of retsina, after which the owner had brought me a Metaxa on the house... so I wasn't really too sure whether I was still in "blog shape". Elsewhere, Mark Morris also had some doubt about drunk blogging a while ago. It's always better not to post something than to post it and pull it later.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []



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    Monday, October 21, 2002

    The DrunkShould one write a weblog entry when drunk? Probably not.

    Signing off for today.

    Image on the right:
    The Drunk, ca. 1924. George Bellows created this tense, violent image of a wife struggling desperately to subdue her drunken husband to illustrate an article titled "Why We Prohibit," which appeared in Good Housekeeping in 1924, in the midst of the Prohibition era.
    [Source: Library of Congress]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Theoretically, Der Spiegel has an article on librarians (in German). However, it costs EUR 0.40 to read it, so I have no idea what it says. They do have a free article on the lack of silence in university libraries though (also in German), but it's neither particularly funny nor particularly interesting.

    The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) has posted The Glasgow Declaration on Libraries, Information Services and Intellectual Freedom.

    The Times has an article on how the British library saved a man's life by providing an article in a medical journal about treating severe blast victims just in time.

    There's a discussion on librarians going on at Slashdot at the moment: Libraries Are 31337. A summary from one of the comments: "A librarian who is upset by all the 'librarians are losers' stereotypes wishes for us to read a brief article which, contrary to the nerdy librarian's expectations, does nothing to dispel said stereotypes." Good fun.

    O'Reilly has more news from Richard Koman and Brewster Kahle on their cross-country crusade in the Internet Bookmobile to provide lessons to school kids.

    And finally, The Arizona Republic writes that libraries may be the last, best hope for desperate people looking for information in the age of the Internet.

    [Sources: Library Notes, Library Stuff, netbib weblog, Der Schockwellenreiter, Slashdot]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    12 noon: Iraq 'to empty its prisons'. The Iraqi Government announces an amnesty for all prisoners, including people jailed for "political reasons". [BBC News | WORLD]

    10 pm: Iraq amnesty scorned by US. Saddam Hussein pardons all prisoners, including political detainees - a move dismissed by Washington as political manipulation. [BBC News | WORLD]

    Question: In the extremely unlikely case that Saddam Hussein were to resign and hand himself over to US authorities, would the USA also dismiss it as 'political manipulation' and still go ahead and attack Iraq?

    In the meantime, Salon.com reports that Gen. Anthony Zinni, Bush's Middle East envoy, says hawks in the Bush administration may be making deadly miscalculations on Iraq: "I'm not sure which planet they live on."
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Craig William Jensen posts links to three articles on President Bush on his weblog: I don't know what to make of this. While it is certainly true that President Bush's behaviour has overall been rather erratic, and with regard to Iraq almost obsessive, I'm not sure if that is a sign of a generally addictive personality. Read the articles yourself and make up your own mind. [links via Craig's BookNotes]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    This is so ridiculous. Nature reports that Japanese scientists are working on genetically modified onions that don't make you cry when you're chopping them. This is just the perfect example of science gone completely mad - "we do it because we can do it, even if it makes absolutely no sense at all".

    First of all, hardly anybody in western society is actually still cooking themselves, and secondly, on a priority scale of what chefs want, I'd consider tearless onions pretty far down at the bottom of the list (at least as far as I'm concerned, and I'm cooking a lot myself, they're not even on my list). If you want to play around with genes, find a cure for cancer, for God's sake. That would prevent a lot more tears than genetically modified onions.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Pong (requires Flash)
    Hidden Mozilla prefs [via Mark]
    Earth erotica [via Attu]
    The nonsense of 'knowledge management' [via Jörg]
    Being 18 [Guardian Unlimited]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    The Direct Marketing sector regards the telephone as one of its most successful tools. Consumers experience telemarketing from a completely different point of view: more than 92% perceive commercial telephone calls as a violation of privacy.
    Telemarketers make use of a telescript - a guideline for a telephone conversation. This script creates an imbalance in the conversation between the marketer and the consumer. It is this imbalance, most of all, that makes telemarketing successful. The EGBG Counterscript attempts to redress that balance. [via monoklon.de]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []



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    Sunday, October 20, 2002

    Haldur Gislufsson interviews Horst Prillinger

    Haldur Gislufsson (left) interviews yours truly (right) about The Aardvark Speaks and weblogs in general.

    Haldur: You started your weblog on August 3rd, and after two months you're listed almost daily in the Top 100 Radio weblogs. Congratulations. My first question is: Why are you doing this?
    Horst: Oh, thanks. I guess I'm doing it just for the fun of it. As I'm not getting paid for it, I see no other reason.

    Haldur: So your political commentary isn't intended to convert other people to your point of view?
    Horst: No, no, not at all. I don't think that's possible, really. Just look at all the warbloggers and anti-warbloggers: most of them are spending their time preaching to the converted anyway. No, I'm just stating my point of view, invite commentary perhaps, but I'm well aware that I'm not in a position to "convert" anybody.

    Haldur: Don't you think that in a time when everybody is exposed to more and more surveillance, publishing a weblog with your very personal thoughts isn't very dangerous, or at least revealing?
    Horst: I spent some thought on that, but haven't really come to a conclusion yet. While I agree that the blog may be revealing in some respect, it doesn't really reveal all that much about me, at least not things that couldn't be found out in other ways. My political orientation is pretty obvious for anyone who bothers to check what I did when I was a student representative in the Austrian Students' Union, and I've become very moderate since then. Besides, I keep many things to myself. I'd never discuss my sex life in my blog...

    Haldur: But you do seem to be talking a lot about your penis...
    Horst: Oh come on, that's a joke, I'm not serious about this at all. No, what I wanted to say is that to some degrees weblogs may be actively helping to block surveillance. With the huge amount of data that's being created by weblogs on a daily basis, who's able to actually do something with all the data?

    Haldur: So you're saying that webloggers are a kind of web spammers?
    Horst: Well, if you want to put it that way, yes. I mean, Google has changed their algorithm partly because of weblogs. Add to that that quite a few webloggers have assumed a certain persona when blogging, so what they are writing doesn't necessarily say anything about who they really are.

    Haldur: You mean people like the reverse cowgirl...
    Horst: Exactly! I mean, for all I know, she might not even be a woman. And the whole thing is quite obviously very tongue-in-cheek.

    Haldur: Have you ever thought about making money with your blog?
    Horst: You're kidding, right? I mean, who would actually be stupid enough to pay me for this? Let's be honest: the actual value of this blog (in financial terms) is, I'd say, minuscule. That's not to say that I wouldn't accept money if somebody were actually willing to pay me and I'd still have full control over my content. But that's just not going to happen.

    Haldur: Do you feel any obligation to blog on a daily basis?
    Horst: Hm, good question. I thought not, but that's not really true. I've now got about 60-100 readers per day, and first of all I don't really want to lose them. Even though I don't know who they are, they seem to like me and the stuff I'm writing, and I wouldn't want to disappoint them. So I noticed this phenomenon that others have also written about, that they start out writing a weblog purely for themselves, but with a certain amount of readers you realize it's not just for yourself any longer. While I don't feel (yet) that I should post something every day, I certainly feel a certain obligation in regard to content quality - I'm much pickier about what I'm posting now than I was at the beginning.

    Haldur: Speaking of "picky", are you aware that your weblog looks just awful with Netscape 4?
    Horst: Yes, I am. I've tried just abolut everything, and I'm at a total loss there. It's like the title and the left half of the page are missing. As far as I can tell the code is okay. I don't know how to fix this.

    Haldur: So how long are you planning to keep your weblog running?
    Horst: Basically, as long as it's fun. I'm ready to stop writing this blog as soon as I feel I've run out of ideas or as soon as I feel obliged to do it rather than wanting to do it. I have no idea when that might happen. It might be next week, or it might be in ten years. If the Internet as we know it still exists then.

    Haldur: Thank you for the interview, Horst.
    Horst: Entirely my pleasure, Haldur.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    The fifth season of Ally McBeal is finally coming to German cable TV, starting on October 29. However, feedback from the US on the fifth season has been so bad that I'm not sure how much I'm looking forward to it.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Reuters reports that hundreds of US Navy computers are missing: "Nearly 600 computers are missing from the US Pacific Fleet's warships and submarines as of late July, including at least 14 known to have handled classified data, an internal Navy report said."

    In related news, Der Standard reports that a substantial amount of computer equipment, including almost a dozen video beamers, has been stolen stolen from the University of Vienna during the past months. In one case, three men in work clothes entered a lecture theatre during a lecture, put up a large ladder and simply removed the video beamer from the ceiling, with hundreds of students watching. As there is large-scale renovation going on in the building at the moment with construction workers everywhere, nobody thought twice about the whole thing. [Der Standard]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []



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    Saturday, October 19, 2002

    If you live in Austria and don't know yet for whom to vote on November 24, wahlkabine.at can help you decide (in German). [Wortlog]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    After a couple of days I lost interest in my FDSR project. It turned out not to be as funny as I thought.

    My total score was 1/7, i.e. out of seven faked search requests, one made it onto the DSR website. Sorry Danielle, but "gorilla smashed beer bottles" wasn't an actual search request, it was just me trying to be funny. However, from now on, if any search requests on DSR sound particularly absurd, rest assured that they haven't been faked by me.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    In a recent edition of The Scientist, neurologist Jeffrey Boone Miller writes about Impact Factors and Publishing Research. Miller talks about how a publisher had wanted him to add several other articles to his list of quoted articles - even though he hadn't even quoted them. Miller assumes the publisher had simply wanted to raise the impact factor of the journals in which these articles had been published and assumes that impact factor manipulation is taking place on a large scale. A page on the website of Austrian national television network ORF explains the concepts of scientometrics and impact factors and why they're so problematic (in German). Of course, librarians have been criticising them for a long time now. [via netbib weblog]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []



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    Friday, October 18, 2002

    Momoko Kikuchi

    Apple has extended its Switch campaign to Japan. Will Momoko Kikuchi be the next Ellen Feiss? [via Der Schockwellenreiter]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Mark Pilgrim: "If you have ever wanted a quick way to download all the files (images, video clips, zip archives, etc.) from a single page, then the leech add-on is for you. Also, Mozilla 1.2 beta is out, and it runs much faster than previous builds on Mac OS X 10.2, which itself is much faster than running Mozilla on previous versions of Mac OS X." [dive into mark]

    Be warned though that the most stable version of Mozilla is still 1.0.1 (the one that Netscape 7 is built upon), but the additional features in 1.1 and 1.2 beta are sure impressive.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    My iBook has returned from Ireland, and not only did they repair the broken DVD drive, they also fixed the extremely squeaky lid. I've successfully installed Mac OS X 10.2.1, and it seems to be much faster and snappier now than before. Also moved my backup installation of Radio back from the other computer; everything seems to be working smoothly so far. :-)
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Just another proof that the concept of a "sovereign state" is a tricky one: CTV reports that 4 in 10 Americans support annexing Canada. [via Scripting News]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    As it seems that everybody is linking to this, I'll just bow to peer pressure and join the pack.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    The New York Public Library has a way cool picture collection. This site contains 30,000 digitized, public-domain images from books, magazines, postcards, etc. There's a quick search on the front page. An advanced search allows you to search on different fields including title, image, and source code. [netbib weblog]

    IFLANET has an excellent explanation of how current copyright issues are negatively affecting libraries: "It should not be forgotten that copyright is a monopoly right. Without exceptions, copyright owners would have a complete monopoly over learning, and thus control access to knowledge in the digital age." [The Shifted Librarian]

    The Ann Arbor News reports that despite (or because of?) the Internet, an increasing number of people are checking area libraries: "You would think the Internet would cause the usage to go down, but really people are using the library more and more." said Tim Grimes, the library's manager of community relations. "Almost everything we do is going up." [Craig's BookNotes]

    LLRX.com has an article on limiting information access: "[One] role that librarians play is in limiting access, called gate keeping. ... The most extreme gate keeping is limiting access to information because, for your own reasons, you simply don't want users to have it." [Library Stuff]

    A Festschrift is an obscene event, says this article (in German). I can't but wholeheartedly agree. [netbib weblog]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    I've said this before, and I'll say it again: the people who read my weblog are quite obviously not the average crowd (these are yesterday's statistics, representing the last 300 visitors, i.e. about 3 days). If the web were a bit more like this, there wouldn't be a Microsoft browser monopoly - 45.8% Netscape and Mozilla users is actually pretty impressive.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Yesterday, et cetera posted the recipe for Authentic Hungarian Goulash. However, the recipe contains a slight inaccuracy: as any Hungarian (or Austrian) will tell you, for a true gulyás you need the same amount of onions as the amount of meat. So if you take 2 lb. of meat, you also need 2 lb. (and not just 2) onions. At least that's the way we cook our goulashes around here.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []



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    Thursday, October 17, 2002

    Hans Krankl

    Team coach Hans Krankl yesterday, after the Austrian soccer team was defeated 0-3 by the Dutch team in a match that showed that Dutch and Austrian soccer are two different ball games: "The Dutch coach goes to Milan and Barcelona to pick the players for his team; I'm going to Pasching and Ried." [Der Standard]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Greengrl has found this: dribbleglass.com's real (strange) sex laws. No way of telling if all of these are really true, but they're sure interesting to read, even though my librarian soul is wishing for some kind of order on this list. [What Kind of Sick Weirdo Are You?]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    In Austria, it took Jörg Haider's right-wing Freedom Party 14 years to make it into government, and then internal struggles in the party led to a government collapse after less than 3 years. The Dutch seem to be invariably more efficient at the same thing: It took Pim Fortuyn's right-wing LPF only one year to make it into government, which then collapsed (due to internal struggles in the LPF) after only 3 months.

    The BBC has the details on the collapse of the Dutch government. Another article from Der Standard (in German) is here. Also check out Niek Hockx's comments.

    Update: The Guardian has an analysis of The end of List Pim Fortuyn.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Mark Pilgrim has another good article on web design; this time he's deconstructing the myths of web accessibility. Yes, you too can design an accessible website. [dive into mark]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Is this guy (another page here) a clueless idiot with bad language or does he just have a very twisted sense of humour? And is he using a Russian server because no-one else lets him publish his rants? I always thought trolls lived in Scandinavia. [via Memepool]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    The American Civil Liberties Union has had enough of some aspects of the Bush administration's Patriot Act, and it's launching a visible, nationwide campaign against it (more at Wired News). [Privacy Digest]

    Meanwhile, after imposing trade restrictions on Europe, the USA is now taking on Canada and threatens to "drastically slow trade across the northern U.S. border if the Canadian government relaxes its marijuana laws." [CNN.com]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []



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    Wednesday, October 16, 2002

    0-3
    In today's lesson of "How to Play Soccer", the Austrian team lost 0-3 against the vastly superior Dutch team. Fortunately, the Dutch weren't interested in humiliating the Austrians and cut some slack after having scored their third goal in the 30th minute, or this could have become truly embarrassing. Austria's next match in the qualification for the European Cup will be against the Czech Republic some time in April 2003; before that, they'll be playing a test match against Norway in November.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Newgate Calendar"The Newgate Calendar was one of those books, along with a Bible, Foxe's book of Martyrs and the Pilgrim's Progress, most likely to be found in any English home between 1750 and 1850, a sort of rolling case history (done as a calendar) of why people got hanged in London. Children were encouraged to read it because it was believed to inculcate principles of right living - by fear of punishment if not by the dull and earnest morals appended to the stories of highwaymen and other felons."

    The full text of all the Newgate Calendars is now available online at exclassics.org. [Boing Boing via Industrial Technology & Witchcraft via Der Schockwellenreiter]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    I love this scene from Bill Forsyth's movie That Sinking Feeling where one of the protagonists, who's at this point working for the police, gets this totally garbled message over his radio, which is absolutely impossible to understand - and he responds, repeating everything he has been told, because he has perfectly understood everything.

    I remembered this scene today as I was waiting at a tram stop and they made some lengthy announcement over the speakers - only you couldn't understand a word of what they were saying. The message went on for a while, so I guessed it was a complex matter, and as I saw two trams being redirected, I figured it meant the usual 'we regret that there is a service disruption' thing, so I decided to walk. Bad choice. While I was still walking, and at a safe distance from any tram stop, two trams passed by. If there really was a service disruption, it must have been on a different line.

    Sometimes I wonder if there's somebody somewhere who can actually understand these announcements. And sometimes I wonder why they bother to make those announcements at all.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    LIS News asks "Who should be on a READ poster?", and both Steven M. Cohen and Jenny Levine are suggesting the picture of George W. Bush holding a book upside-down. I was more thinking of some cool pic of Salman Rushdie half-hidden behind some book, but then I felt I should come up with some famous Austrian instead. However, hard as I thought, I couldn't come up with an Austrian who would actually look convincing with a book in his hand. How embarrassing. Karl Kraus might be an option, but he's been dead for a long time now.

    Via Library Stuff comes an article on How Internet search engines work, and via netbib weblog comes a link to the Ressources en histoire du livre sur le web, over 500 links on book history.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Davezilla is almost always good entertainment, but sometimes he has a true gem like today's anagram interview with Natalie Brahan. If you don't find it funny, please forgive me and my weird sense of humour. [davezilla.com]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    I thought the Germans were obsessed with anal functions for printing literary texts on toilet paper, but according to the NY Times, the Japanese are even worse - a huge toilet-tech industry seems to be emerging over there. Frankly, I can't think of any reason for spending more time on the toilet than is absolutely necessary. [Link found via netbib weblog]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    It seems that spam (i.e. unsolicited commercial bulk e-mail, also referred to as junk e-mail) is just about to accomplish what censorship failed to bring about: the end of the Internet.
    1. Spam killed e-mail. In some cases, more than 50 per cent of private e-mail is commercial junk e-mail, making opening your private mailbox a severe pain. According to a BBC article, the problem is spreading fast in the business world as well: "around 10 per cent of the working day is spent dealing with unsolicited e-mail, which in turn is having a big impact on business productivity. The answer ... will be more surveillance in the workplace and even tighter controls on what goes through the corporate e-mail network." So spam kills privacy, and I don't want to think what it's going to be like in a few years, as analysts agree that spamming is far from having reached its peak yet.

    2. Spam is now intruding in other ways of Net use. The Register has an article about the latest development in spam technology: "a devilish tool whereby spam can be sent to thousands of Windows users in minutes, in the guise of system alerts ... [it's] essentially a NetBIOS attack tool." For the moment it seems to be limited to MSN Messenger users, but I have this nightmarish vision that in a few years there'll be pop-up alerts popping up whenever I'm connected to the Internet, no matter what application is running. (see also this article on Wired)
    "Add to this the fact that spammers will increasingly take advantage of wireless networks and users could expect an exponential rise in the amount of junk," says Satish Ramachandran, chief executive of Mirapoint, a company which provides software to deal with the menace of unwanted commercial e-mails.

    Given that due to the global nature of the Internet national legislative measures are pointless and spammers are constantly finding new ways to send out their junk that render known filtering techniques obsolete, we can safely assume that in a couple of years, spammers will have effectively killed the Internet. Even parasites see to it that they don't kill their hosts. Spammers are the worst kind of parasite; if they're not stopped soon, we can forget about the Net as a viable communications network. [Sources: BBC News | TECHNOLOGY, The Register and Wired News]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    :-)
    I'd like to say thanks to Mike for his kind words and to Joe for passing them on. It felt really good.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    While the USA is getting ready to attack Iraq, Iraqi officials are attending the SOFEX 2002 trade fair in Jordan, where they are looking at the newest developments, in weapons and military transport technology from UK and US manufacturers. Among other events, a British Minister will lead a major sales drive by UK weapons and military technology firms at an exhibition attended by high-ranking Iraqi military officials this week. At least the news has sparked some outrage among arms control campaigners: 'It is absurd that we are gearing up to fight a war against these people and simultaneously rubbing shoulders with them at an arms bazaar,' said Martin Hogbin of the Campaign Against Arms Trade.

    Buzzflash reports: As Bush Marshals America for War Against the Axis of Evil, American and British Arms Companies are Showing Them Our Weapons:
    Yes, as Bush continues to use fear as a political tool, he's allowing American arms merchants to hawk their wares at a weapons of war "trade show" in Amman, Jordan, as we write this editorial.

    And who might be among the delegations attending this military weapons bazaar? Get ready for this: Iraq, Iran, Libya, Sudan, Syria, and delegations from more than 40 other countries. According to one of our readers, 10 U.S. firms and 14 from the United Kingdom are, as you read this, polishing and shining their weapons of war for an eager audience of Bush's axis of evil terrorist states.
    Heck, who still believes war is about values, liberty and democracy anyway? We all know it's always about money. It's just always nice to experience those brief moments (like this one) when the truth surfaces for a few seconds. [via Craig's BookNotes]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    "The Invisible Library is a collection of books that only appear in other books. Within the library's catalog you will find imaginary books, pseudobiblia, artifictions, fabled tomes, libris phantastica, and all manner of books unwritten, unread, unpublished, and unfound." [via Memepool]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []



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    Tuesday, October 15, 2002

    Wallace and Gromit

    Aardman Animations has produced 10 new one-minute Wallace and Gromit shorts entitled Cracking Contraptions in preparation and training for the upcoming feature length film. BBC News has the first short available for download. [Slashdot]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    It's unbelievable: Austria's less-than-famous soccer team actually beat Belorussia in Minsk on Saturday. Tomorrow they're taking on the Netherlands here in Vienna. Of course, nobody believes they have the slightest chance, but still everybody seems to be in a state of football fever at the moment. I'm not a huge soccer fan, but I'm also going to watch this. I can always switch off if it turns out to be too humiliating an experience.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Thanks to Pascale Soleil, who found this before I did, here comes a website which reviews movies primarily on the basis of whether they conform to known laws of physics: Insultingly Stupid Movie Physics. Find out all about what falling through a glass window is really like, how a silenced gun is not at all silent, and how the early Star Trek episodes depicted space explosions more precisely than the later ones. [Yahoo's Picks of the Week via both2and]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    So Microsoft wanted to start their own Switch campaign and place ads of Mac users who are now using Windows XP. Hacker sleuths at Slashdot became aware of the web page on Microsoft's server and quickly found out that the picture was just a stock photo from the Getty database and that the whole thing was apparently a fake.

    Then it turns out that just the picture is a fake, the person actually exists, and she is a Microsoft PR employee who really switched from Mac to Windows. The story created quite a media echo, so Microsoft pulled the ad and kind of apologized.

    The question remains, why? What's the point of the whole exercise? It's not that Apple's 5% market share actually hurts Microsoft in any way; on the contrary, it's quite helpful in the monopoly trial. Seems like some bad idea gone awry; it's a matter of being incompetent rather than evil.

    Update: John Gruber has posted a detailed roundup and his view of things: "Bad marketing is one thing. Bald-faced lying is another."

    [Links found via BBC News, CNET News.com, Privacy Digest, Scripting News and Slashdot]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Jenny Levine finds that e-books are somewhat popular somewhere. Apparently, a comparison of circulation of identical titles available at the University of Pittsburgh in e-book and print book format indicates that e-book circulation is higher than print book circulation. Yes, but I think one should be careful about circulation vs use. I believe instantly that the ciculation of e-books is higher because they're more easily accessible, but my own experience would tell me that when it comes to actual reading, library users still prefer printed material. I'm therefore not sure what's rhetorical about Jenny's question why e-books aren't more popular. I think she has a different answer than I have, and I'd really like to know hers.

    Elsewhere, in the face of FBI agents scouring US libraries in search of terrorists, Law.com tells librarians to say 'No' to book cops: "Here's something they forgot to read on the way in: 'Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances'."

    Meanwhile, The Modesto Bee has found that librarians are actually pretty cool: "They're not a bunch of old ladies with buns in their hair. It's as diverse as any other occupation." Whew. What a relief.

    Still, as cool as we are, there is a trend, especially in the US, but also elsewhere, to replace librarians with cheap clerks (or just get rid of them without any replacement). Therefore Uncle Frank asks the all-important question: Who Needs Librarians? Let's Get Some Trained Monkeys! Read this especially if you are a library administrator.

    Maybe monkeys or untrained clerks would be helpful in the recent attempts to curtail information freedom. As The Spokesman Review notes, Spokane residents demand that the library install internet filters: "The Spokane Public Library is allowing children and sexual predators the ability to surf the Internet for vile and sexually violent material. This is dangerous for children, library patrons and library staff."
    [Found via Library Stuff, The Shifted Librarian and librarian.net]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Today has been extraordinarily busy, with me correcting HTML errors in about 100 documents by hand (long live BBEdit!). At the moment, all I see is HTML tags and brackets. Blogging will continue at a slow pace today.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Here's four links for cat lovers: one two three four. (Requires Flash) [rathergood.com]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    As pleasant as it is to see that someone has placed a link to your weblog from their homepage, it's even more painful when you notice that they've removed the link again. I have just been removed from Attu sees all. Bummer.

    Update: Attu wrote to say that it was a mistake. :-) Glad to hear that I didn't do anything wrong, although I would have accepted being removed from somebody else's link list as part of life. Read the comments to this post for details.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []



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    Monday, October 14, 2002

    Xian's impression of the band. (C) Christian Crumlish
    Christian Crumlish was at a Bob Dylan gig a few days ago, made a few notes and posted them today. Wish I had been there. [Radio Free Blogistan]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    MacNN reports that on October 19th there will be a huge gathering of MacFreaks in the Netherlands, where they will have, among other things, an Ellen Feiss look-a-like contest and a contest called "Oud Hollands PC Werpen," where they will have a couple of hundred people trying to throw a PC as far as possible. [The Macintosh News Network]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Salon.com has an article about the Internet Bookmobile: "The Internet Bookmobile is a van on a mission: to drive across the country, stopping at schools, museums and libraries, making books for kids and spreading the word about the digital library that is the Net." [via Tomalak's Realm]

    I guess we could use something like this here in Austria to heighten the public's awareness of what libraries are actually doing these days. Sadly, while many librarians are using the Internet, the idea of going public or even promoting one's services is a foreign concept hereabouts.

    Heck, what do you expect from a country whose largest library is running out of space fast and the general policy is to remain silent about it and not launch a media campaign so as not to attract the possible wrath of the authorities?
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    I have a new project. It's called Faking Disturbing Search Requests. Let me explain.

    People enter all kinds of search terms in web search engines such as Google. Now what they don't know is that whenever they find something in Google and click on it, the search terms are actually sent to that web site, and the owner of the site can look it up in their referrer log. Now there's a couple of people (quite a lot, actually), who post the strangest and most disturbing search terms that they find in their referrer logs to a web site called Disturbing Search Requests (DSR). I assure you that some of the things people are looking for are truly disturbing.

    Now this is where I come in. My project is to actively fake disturbing search requests. I go to the DSR web site, look for a person who posts there regularly, visit their website and have a look at some older page, which must have been indexed by Google by now. From words I find on this web page, I form some mostly absurd, mildly disturbing search request (e.g. "shove fruit up motorists hiney"), enter it in Google and have myself redirected to that website again. Voilà. Then I sit back and watch if it shows up on the DSR website.

    I plan to do this for the next 10 days, with two faked search requests per day. My score so far is 0/2.

    P.S. If you're interested in what people mostly search on my weblog, I've written an article on current search trends.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    This is brilliant: Tom Fox has found The Instant Warblog Generator. Just enter a name, and R. Robot will write a scathing comment on what an idiotarian, unpatriotic, leftist liberal that person is. The scary thing is that R. Robot sometimes makes more sense than some of the human warbloggers. As Tom says: "What are warbloggers to do now that they've been betamaxed by technology?" [via Paris]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    On a lighter note, the Loebrichs write that Leonardo, a mummified, 77-million year-old duck-billed dinosaur was found in Montana. Nearby, the scientists who excavated him also found Leonardo's ID card with his name in it. That was quite a stroke of luck, because "John Doe" is really a stupid name for a dinosaur. [National Geographic via Loebrich.org]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Simon Tisdall writes in The Guardian that not all Americans are pro-Bush and pro-war and quotes reader mail:
    "We are being rail roaded into war over here. I am astounded by our president and his tactics utilising fear," says one writer. "When I voted for Bush I had no idea what he would unleash," says another. An Arizonan believes that Bush is "a complete and pathetic idiot ... I think enough Americans are beginning to see that the real regime change needs to take place at the White House". [The Guardian via Craig's BookNotes]
    No doubt there's opposition against Bush's politics. But I don't share Tisdall's optimism that the people of the United States might stop Bush; my own guess is that considerably more people are backing Bush than opposing him. It may really just be about the oil, but Bush's ideologues have turned it into a modern-day crusade of the American way of life vs. the Arab way of life, with the latter allegedly posing a deadly threat for the former.

    If there's one thing Americans will fight for to the death, it's protecting the American way of life and American values. And since this is supposedly what Bush's War is about, American modern-day crusaders will no doubt march to Jerusalem Baghdad to liberate it from the heathens. You'd have to brainwash the entire American people before you could find a majority against that.

    Meanwhile, Accuracy.org fisks Bush: Find here a point-by-point refutation of Bush's big speech [via Radio Free Blogistan], and in The Independent, Robert Fisk himself writes about what George Bush wants us to forget. [via Adam Curry's Weblog]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Steven Den Beste writes the following about the bill just passed by the US congress to pave the way for Bush's War:
    What this means is that even if Saddam actually comes (or seems to come) 100% into compliance with UN resolutions, Bush still has permission to attack if he concludes that our national security is at risk, and he does not have to explain that decision to Congress. They have authorized him to make that decision and have not reserved that decision to themselves, nor do they intend to second-guess it as a formal action. [...]

    This fully frees Bush from any requirement to actually work with the UN. From now on, dealings with the UN will only have propaganda value; they won't be legally required. [...]

    By the same token, this relieves Bush of having to actually prove that there was complicity by Iraq in last year's attack against us. Whether iraq was or not, and whether it can be proved or not, truly doesn't matter: Iraq is dangerous to us and Saddam must be removed. [USS Clueless]
    The scary thing is that Steven (and no doubt many other Americans) seems to think that this bill is actually a good thing. Could anybody who's not a US citizen please tell me what's so good about this?
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    I knew that Glenn Reynolds wouldn't like the fact that Jimmy Carter won the Nobel Peace Prize.

    Other people seem to think it was a good idea, though.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Niek Hockx's shutterclog is back from the abyss, at a new address, and this time entirely hand-coded.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Radio UserLand crashed on the computer that I was using to blog remotely at some point on Saturday, so I was unable to post anything yesterday. No idea what caused it. When I had a look at the computer today, the OS X beachball cursor was spinning. Must have been spinning for 36 hours.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []



    Permanent link to this day's archive

    Saturday, October 12, 2002

    Angry SaddamHit Saddam where it really hurts him: The Whoops-o-matic is the perfect way to get rid of Saddam Hussein once and forever. If only we had one of those in real life. (Requires Flash) [Craig's BookNotes]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Following my posting on a friend's theory that the suicide rate in Vienna and the amount of dog dirt are directly related, Tom Fox wrote to say that the situation in Paris is no different and that he seemed to remember close links between Vienna and Paris in terms of city planning.

    Actually it wasn't just in terms of city planning; during the monarchy, the French court served as quite a model for the Austrian court. There are still more French words (or words of French origin) in the Austrian variety of German than there are in the German variety, and their pronunciation is also closer to "real" French - just let an Austrian and a German pronounce the word "Chance", and you'll hear what I mean.

    I guess the stupid idea to keep dogs as pets in a big city was also imported from Paris, but at least the French know better how to deal with this. There's a lot of dog poop on the streets in Paris (see the running gag in the movie Prêt-à-porter), but at least they've got all sorts of gadgets to clean it up, and they actually do clean it up, more or less.

    Vienna is worse, because (a) there are definitely more dogs, (b) the dogs in Vienna are usually larger than their Paris counterparts (no-one settles for a pocket pooch when they can have a German shepherd), and (c) nobody feels they're responsible to remove the dog dirt.

    The dog owners feel no responsibility to clean up after their pets, the city is cleaning only irregularly, and the janitors, who are responsible for cleaning the sidewalk in front of their houses, are increasingly being replaced by cleaning companies, who only show up once a week. Actually, one of the first things the conservative/right-wing government did after taking office three years ago was to abolish the law regulating the legal status of the janitors, so that dirt and smell levels during the past summers have reached hitherto unprecedented heights. Basically, most of the cleaning is done by the rain. It's embarrassing, really.

    Letting your dog defecate on the sidewalk and not clean up after it is actually forbidden by law, and dog owners could be fined. Theoretically. The police and the politicians fear the dog lobby and don't do anything about it. Some streets in Vienna are veritable "dog toilets", visited by hundreds of dogs and dog owners every day. A few years ago, residents of one such street had enough and there were some violent confrontations between dog owners and residents. The dogs and dog owners are using a different street now.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Ani Difranco's new CD So much shouting, so much laughter is easily one of the best live albums since Neil Young's Weld. Okay, so it's a totally different style of music, but it's equally powerful.
    Order So much shouting... from: Amazon.com Amazon.co.uk Amazon.de
    Order Weld from: Amazon.com Amazon.co.uk Amazon.de

    Sweet Ride - the best of Belly is perhaps not aptly titled. While it does contain all the hit singles, 11 out of 18 tracks are single B-sides or previously unreleased material, and even of the singles 3 are not the album versions. If you're a Belly fan, this is a great way to complete your collection.
    Order from: Amazon.com Amazon.co.uk Amazon.de

    Earlier in my blog, I was quite unkind about The Innocence Mission's Small Planes, a collection of "lost and found songs, 1996-2000". My earlier feeling that it's a mediocre collection of leftovers and outtakes has changed; it's actually a pretty brilliant collection of leftovers and outtakes.
    Order from: Amazon.com Amazon.co.uk Amazon.de
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    The weather here has been awfully wet and cold lately. Somehow we seem to have gone directly from August to November, with no intermediate months in between. The weather report keeps telling us since early September that it's "too cold for this time of the year." Okay, and when are they going to do something about it? Even the Weatherpixie on this web page (see left, at thebottom of my blogroll), who had been wearing T-shirts in pretty cold weather for a while, has finally given in and put on a sweater.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Quarsan: "The rush to war against Iraq is crippling the war against terror because it is diverting military strengh away from where the enemy is located, is losing the support of moderate Islam and turns the conflict from a broad coalition against terror to the US acting alone." Read more... [My Life in the Bush of Ghosts]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Recently I talked about the mysteries of banking and how my bank is constantly raising the overdraft limit on my bank account in an obvious attempt to make me overdraw my account and have me pay them huge amounts of interest.

    They just did it again.

    I am now allowed to overdraw my bank account by the completely obscene amount of 17,500 Euro (roughly the same in $). That is a lot of money, and I'm certainly not so stupid as to actually ever use it, especially because, due to my measly income, I see no way to ever pay it back. However, as for other people, who might be so stupid, I don't think it's nice of my bank to tempt them into debt that way. It may look like a friendly offer, but it's actually just an insidious attempt to make money and to make you dependent on them.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Thanks to Bettina, who made me aware that such things existed, I am now the proud owner of a nasal hair remover (scroll down to model ER-412).
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Ah, you noticed I'm blogging even though it's a Saturday. Good observation, Watson. No, my iBook is still in Ireland, I'm using Radio UserLand's remote blogging feature to post this. Shame on me for taking so long to figure out that this feature existed.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Yesterday, I promised to post a review of the green-leaved garlic vausage (vegetarian sausage) as soon as I'd eaten it. I can now say that I've eaten it, though not all of it. It tasted truly vile, actually; barely edible,with a hint of sawdust that neither mustard nor ketchup were able to eliminate. I'd have tried the mayonaise which is suggested with it, but I already felt too sick to be able to stomach mayonaise. Perhaps the mistake was that I had cooked it and that I should have grilled it instead. At any rate, I think I'll stick with conventional sausage for the time being.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Web translators haven't become any better; if you understand German, go and marvel (and laugh) at what one visitor got when he wanted one of my pages translated into German: Das Schlechte Reich: Informationen über Microsoft, Wanzen, Sicherheitsbohrungen und schmutzige Geschäftstaktiken.

    If my Italian were better, I'd read this site regularly. It seems to have good content, but I don't understand much of it, and I don't really trust online translations.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []



    Permanent link to this day's archive

    Friday, October 11, 2002

    Rye breadTraditional rye bread. Traditional Austrian bread is made from a sourdough of a mixture of rye and wheat flour (80%:20%). This gives it a thick crust and a very distinctive, intense taste, which is sometimes augmented by the addition of spices such as caraway seed or coriander seed. This kind of bread is very typical of the Alpine region and can be found almost exclusively in Austria, southern Germany and northern Italy (I don't know about Switzerland).

    One famous advertisement from the 1950s or 60s, when tourism to other countries was just beginning, was the Anker bakery's slogan: "What are the Viennese looking forward to when they come back from their holidays? Viennese spring water and Anker bread." Anker bread has somewhat lost its popularity after they were taken over by a German company and the quality of their bread deteriorated somewhat, but all other bakeries in the country are keeping up the tradition and the basic type of traditional Austrian rye bread is still something that cannot be found anywhere else. If you've been raised on the stuff it's quite impossible to get used to anything else, as Austrian expats will unanimously tell you.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    "Make no mistake, we are voting on a resolution that grants total authority to the president, who wants to invade a sovereign nation without any specific act of provocation. This would authorize the United States to act as the aggressor for the first time in our history. It sets a precedent for our nation -- or any nation -- to exercise brute force anywhere in the world without regard to international law or international consensus."

    Not every Democrat has caved to Bush's martial fervor. Salon.com reprints the fiery statement delivered on the floor of the House Wednesday by veteran California Democrat Rep. Pete Stark. [Salon.com]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Davezilla has posted the authoritative list of the Top Twenty Internet Superstitions. I assure you they're all true. [davezilla.com]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Recently I talked about a Viennese sausage stand that had started to sell Vausage (vegetarian sausage). I now found that exactly the same products that are sold there are also available at an Austrian supermarket chain. Of course I had to immediately buy and try them. The curry vausage tasted kind of okay; it was well-spiced, but the substance was a bit odd and might take some getting used to. I've got the broad-leaved garlic vausage (is there really no better English word for "Bärlauch"?) still in my fridge; I'll post a test result as soon as I've tried it.

    Still, I can't think of a reason why a vegetarian or even vegan should ever want to eat something that looks like and even remotely tastes like a meat product. If you have a craving for meat-lookalikes and meat-tastealikes, then you probably shouldn't have become a vegetarian in the first place.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    The guys who claim to have found the world's funniest joke (see here) have their own web site: LaughLab. You'll also find a breakdown of popular jokes by country, and short essays on the brain and why we laugh in the first place. [via Librarians' Index to the Internet]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    To mark National Poetry Day, The Guardian published a poem composed entirely of actual quotes from George Bush, which was reportedly compiled by Washington Post writer Richard Thompson. [Guardian Unlimited]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Toby Sackton on Hubris:
    Until now, the U.S. has tried to say that the Iraqi people are not the enemy, only Saddam Hussein. But how is an ordinary Iraqi supposed to feel when confronted by an American military government running his own country? I imagine he or she would feel like a conquered, subjugated, person. In the U.S., such an affront would spark resistance and revolt. Isn't this the unrelenting message of the NRA and various right-wing paramilitaries? Does no one think this would happen in Iraq? [Toby's Political Diary]
    I think that they probably think that the Iraqis will happily recognise that their ways have been wrong all along and that American values are far superior. As a consequence, they will not resist or revolt, but instead gladly and swiftly adopt a western lifestyle and a western set of values. Or perhaps not.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    News from the Frankfurt Book Fair: Klo-Verlag, a German publisher, is printing poems by German literary giants Heinrich Heine and Christian Morgenstern, as well as tales and detective stories onto toilet paper rolls. [via jenett.radio]

    This is further proof, I guess, that Alan Dundes is right and anal fixation is indeed a German national characteristic.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Dave Winer wonders why Radio UserLand isn't listed in the news readers category on Open Directory (dmoz.org). [Scripting News]

    Perhaps no-one at UserLand ever cared to submit it? Entries at dmoz.org don't generate themselves, you know.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    The Library of Congress announces that it will put audio magazines online for blind and physically handicapped users: "Library patrons who are blind or physically handicapped can soon access selected audio magazines on the Internet thanks to new digital technology at the Library of Congress. In a pilot test to be launched in 2003, selected eligible readers will have access to periodicals produced by the national audio magazine program of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) in the Library of Congress." [Library Stuff]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Greengrl has found out that curry is good for you. What a relief. It is, after all, one of my favourite foods.

    By the way, should you ever need to find an Indian restaurant in Vienna, I've compiled a complete list of them.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Salon.com has two articles on Bush's War against Iraq: One is about how "democratizing Iraq" after a military strike, may, according to many experts, not be as easy as President Bush thinks. Plus, U.S. officials say the White House is exaggerating the threat posed by Saddam and pressuring the intelligence community to "cook the books." [Salon.com]

    More on this in The Guardian:
    "Basically, cooked information is working its way into high-level pronouncements and there's a lot of unhappiness about it in intelligence, especially among analysts at the CIA," said Vincent Cannistraro, the CIA's former head of counter-intelligence. [The Guardian]
    The Lefty Libertarian did some historic research and found out this has happened before, with President Johnson and President Roosevelt for Vietnam and WW2. He concludes: "We have a problem: the President is lying to us to try and start a war. Pass it on." [The Lefty Libertarian]

    As further proof that the Bush administration is pushing for war at all costs, Washington turns down an offer by Baghdad to inspect Iraqi weapons facilities for itself, as US and British jets strike Iraqi air defences. [BBC News | WORLD]

    In the meantime, the BBC also reports that early results in Pakistan's general elections show surprisingly strong gains for an alliance of anti-American Islamic fundamentalist parties. [BBC News | WORLD]

    "Surprisingly"? After what has been going on for the past months, why would anybody be surprised that support for anti-American Islamic fundamentalists is getting stronger?
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []



    Permanent link to this day's archive

    Thursday, October 10, 2002

    A friend of mine has this theory about why people in Vienna are always in such a bad mood and why there's such a high suicide rate. He says it's because of all the dog dirt on the streets. In order not to constantly step into dog poop, the Viennese have to constantly look on the sidewalk to see if it's safe. That way all they see every day is asphalt and dog poop, but they no longer see the sky, the sun, the trees, or even other people.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    This is utterly ridiculous. My hair is getting thinner on my head, but to compensate for that, it's growing like crazy in all other places. I've still some way to go until I look like Robin Williams, but I really hate that. Especially I hate the hairs growing out of my nose. I don't know how much time I spend per day pulling them out, but it doesn't seem to accomplish anything. Somebody should invent nose hair shavers. Seriously.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Pragmatics is the branch of linguistics which deals with sentences that are not to be taken literally. For example, if I ask you "Can you open the window?", you are not going to estimate your ability to reach the window and then say "yes" or "no" according to your height, but you are rather going to open it, even though I didn't explicitly tell you so.

    It's pre-election time in Austria, and the first election posters have just appeared. The current one of the Conservative Party (ÖVP) advertising Wolfgang Schüssel, the present chancellor, is a perfect example of pragmatics in action. I wonder if and when other parties are going to take advantage of it:

    Wolfgang Schüssel

    The slogan "Wer, wenn nicht er" translates roughly as "Who else?" (literally: "who, if not he?"). I take this to mean "Who else should become chancellor?" Now if there were no such thing as pragmatics, here's a list of possible answers:
    • if you're a Social Democrat: "Alfred Gusenbauer." (their candidate)
    • if you like the Green Party: "Alexander van der Bellen." (their candidate)
    • if you're a Freedom Party sympathizer: "Uhmmm..." (with Susanne Riess-Passer gone and Jörg Haider not available as a candidate, it's a tough choice)
    • if you're unpolitical: "Somebody."
    • if you're an anarchist: "Nobody."
    • if you're fed up with Schüssel: "Anybody."
    So contrary to what the Austrian Conservative Party might want us to believe, there are answers to the question if you forget about pragmatics for a moment. The people who made werwennnichter.at seem to think so, too.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Recently, I had a brief exchange of comments with Cato the Youngest, with whom I disagree on many points, but who does have a couple of good arguments for his case. Afterwards, I knew even less why Bush wants to attack Iraq; after all, even a warblogger like Cato agrees that the terrorist threat mostly originates from other Arab countries, especially Saudi Arabia. So why Iraq?

    I guess it's simply because Iraq has probably the most advanced weaponry of all the Arab states. Were Bush to attack any other Middle Eastern state, he would have to expect some kind of retaliation from Iraq, and that could be very messy. By taking on Iraq first, he can easily render the most dangerous arsenal of weapons in the area ineffective and can then move on to other countries in the area without having to fear about a retaliation from Saddam's weapons of mass destruction.

    Does Bush want to move on to other Arab states? I don't know. Cato the Youngest wrote this:
    Even a confirmed warblogger like myself, who ends every post with the words "Riyadh delenda est", would have gladly waited fifty years, or a hundred, for the Arabs to recognize the value of our ways, and enjoy the fruits of liberty.
    I can imagine that Bush wants to spread "the value of our ways" to the Arab world. Bush firmly believes that American values are superior to those of the Arab world. Plus, he needs allies in this part of the world, and he needs new markets for his ailing economy. I'm not sure to what extent he would use military means to accomplish this, though. But given that he even intends to attack the Netherlands if he deems it necessary, I'd say it's not impossible. And if he ever does so, he certainly has to get Saddam's weapons and army out of the way first.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Quarsan says that President Bush's recent speech sickened him and talks about how Bush's claims seem to get more bizarre every day. He also links to a comment in The Independent, which reminds readers of the common past of Saddam Hussein and Donald Rumsfeld. [My Life in the Bush of Ghosts]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Thanks to Steven Den Beste, who placed a link to my blog yesterday, I briefly made it to number 13 of the Radio Userland Top 100 visited sites. It's interesting what one tiny link can do if it comes from the right site. I wonder how many of those one-time readers will return.

    This means that finally, finally my blog beat "Ursula Lotzes Ferienhäuser in Frankreich", a Radio-managed site that offers holiday cottages in France for rent and hasn't been updated for two months now, but is still getting an uncanny number of hits every day.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    David K. Every has an interesting article about the Recording Industry and DCMA: "Media companies (like the recording industry) have been passing waves of bad legislation in order to "protect" us. Even the government got in the act (or started it), by passing laws granting them a monopoly on invading our privacy. The problem is that the issues is that they are very complex, and hard to legislate. The laws passed often imply contradictory or outright silly things. I can tape video of you undressing, but audio is against the law. Cordless phones can be freely monitored -- by government, but not by other people. Cordless cell-phones are not the same as cordless phones. And the worst laws have to do with private data." Read more... [iGeek]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []



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    Wednesday, October 9, 2002

    Wiener SchnitzelViennese Schnitzel. Here's a traditional dish if there ever was one. Everyone in Austria, if they are not vegetarians, will more or less regularly eat a Wiener (=Viennese) Schnitzel. An Austrian who hasn't had one in a long time will at some point suddenly feel a strong, irresistible craving for a schnitzel and simply have to have one at all costs. Schnitzel is typically served with potato salad or roast potatoes; sometimes you'll get french fries, but rice as a side dish is officially verboten.

    The Wiener Schnitzel originally came to Vienna from Milan and is made of veal. However, these days you'll typically get the cheaper (and less tasty) pork variety just about everywhere, plus, in areas with a larger Muslim population, there are also turkey or chicken schnitzels. Insist on the original if you can afford it.

    Contrary to what the travel guides will tell you, the largest Schnitzel in Vienna is not served at Figlmüller's, but at the "Schnitzelwirt" in Neubaugasse in the 7th district, close to the tram stop of tram 49. They're also much cheaper.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Sausage stands are an elementary part of Austrian fast food culture, even though they've lost some ground to kebab stands and take-away pizza in recent years. Typical Viennese sausages such as the Burenwurst, Käsekrainer or Waldviertler are tasty, meaty and filling, and, due to their high fat content, a challenge for every digestive system. A beer or coke to accompany your sausage is highly recommended.

    Now yesterday, there's been some fuss about a hitherto unknown phenomenon -- it seems Vienna's first vegetarian sausage stand has opened. Apparently, they're not serving "Wurst" (sausage), but "Vurst" (vausage), and they've also got vegetarian burgers and vegetarian Leberkäse (impossible to translate; you must eat it to understand the concept) made entirely of wheat products. The vausages are sizzled in their own (vegetable) fat, and you can have the usual mustard or vegetarian mayonaise with them.

    An interesting, if utterly strange concept. I mean, food at the sausage stands is supposed to be meaty, fat, and totally, completely bad for your health. Now who would actually want to eat healthy sausages?
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    I'm kind of embarrassed. Now that I've appeared on some people's blogrolls, I noticed that quite often I'm listed in top position. That's probably to do with the fact that "aardvark" is alphabetically quite ahead of most other words. Now I get the impression that people might get the impression that I chose the name in order to be listed at the top of such lists. How embarrassing.

    I hadn't thought of that. Honestly. True, I picked the domain "aardvark.at" because of an in-joke among English students about the first noun in every English dictionary. But I bought the domain long before I started my weblog. When I named my blog (which wasn't a blog back then), I wasn't aware that blogrolls even existed.

    So please, if you include me on your blogroll, just act as if "The" was a noun and file me under "T". I mean, I still feel honoured if you place me on top of the list, but I don't want people to think I'm a cheap trickster. It's enough if somebody likes what I write and links to me. Just place that link anywhere that makes sense to you, and don't worry too much about the alphabet.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Today's Guardian has an interesting article entitled "Car-friendly Tories 'would ban tube strikes'": A future Conservative government would ban tube strikes and halt Labour's 'war on the motorist', the Tory party conference heard today. [Guardian Unlimited]

    It's good to see that some people will never lose their 1960s mindframe.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    From the Financial Times: Tough new copyright rules could make lawbreakers of teachers, librarians, academics and computer programmers, digital rights campaigners have warned. The government is planning to push through legislation by the end of the year to comply with the European Union's copyright directive. But the moves could mean that groups who copy information as part of their jobs, such as librarians, would be breaking the law. [Library Stuff]

    Austria is also affected by the EU directive: According to Telepolis News, Austrian lawyers and librarians fear that due to the collapse of the Austrian government last month there might be an overly hasty new copyright law that may render life extremely difficult for libraries and information providers, especially where databases are concerned. [via Der Schockwellenreiter]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    I didn't really know that as a librarian I was supposed to do that, but still, here it is: an information brochure on how librarians can help kids become sexually healthy adults. [via librarian.net]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Today's Radio.root update seems to be crashing Mozilla whenever Radio UserLand tries to open a new window. This is a major nuisance. Now blogging with Internet Explorer, which is again slowing down my Mac like mad, and I'm angry.

    I found the reason for the crashes, and it seems Radio is only half to blame. The real fault lies with Mozilla, which crashes when it has to display certain special characters which it can't display. Apparently some news item which I had imported via Radio's news aggregator had contained some special character; when I posted it, Radio converted the special character in some way and afterwards, Mozilla didn't just not display the character, but crashed. I found the bug when I went through the day's postings one by one and noticed a lot of &#s in one of them. Got rid of them, and there were no more crashes.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Lots of hits last night, thanks to a link from Steven Den Beste, who was referring to an old posting of mine. Steve also was kind enough to write to me about the response and the link. I thought his new article was quite good, and I wrote back to him to tell him so. About his earlier post, which I had criticised, I wrote:
    In the earlier post [...], you are mostly venting your anger and raising conjectures about a country and a people that you don't seem to know all that well, and that shows [...]. I think that anger obscures many of the finer points in many warblogs, and I find that sad. It makes it so easy to dismiss them as hatemongering, even though they might contain some valid arguments, whether you agree with the general idea of a war against the Arab states or not.
    Steve sent a reply almost immediately; what he wrote has convinced me that he does not have bowl of fresh qagh on his desk, even though he seems to have some in his refrigerator for special occasions (he has, sort of, admitted that).

    So I guess I have to revise my earlier conjecture that Steven and Cato the Youngest are Klingons; they're apparently not, even though they are somethimes using Klingon rhetoric.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    What was the number 1 hit single on the day I was born?
    UK: Please Release Me - Engelbert Humperdinck
    US: Love Is Here And Now You're Gone - The Supremes

    Neither of these has influenced my musical tastes in any way. [via jc-log]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []



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    Tuesday, October 8, 2002

    Zeit im BildZeit im Bild. The Zeit im Bild (ZIB) is the longest-running news programme on national Austrian television (ORF), broadcast daily at 7:30 pm on both Austrian TV channels (this means that if you don't have cable or a satellite dish, there's no other choice than to watch it). Even though its format has slightly changed several times over the past decades, it's one of the few permanent things of Austrian life: everybody remembers that it's always been there, and if the world doesn't end, it'll probably always be there in the future.

    The quality of the programme is considered to be quite high, even though the change from a centre-left to a conservative/far-right government three years ago has demonstrated that there is (and probably always has been) some political bias towards the ruling parties. Attempts by right-wing Freedom Party politician Peter Westenthaler to repeatedly influence news coverage after his party had joined the coalition government have, however, been unsuccessful and led to a series of strong protests from the ZIB journalists.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    According to the Sacramento Bee, the Net has boosted the need for librarians: "Yes, the Internet is a wonderful, powerful resource but there are millions of pages on the World Wide Web," said Julie Walker, executive director of the American Association of School Librarians. "Even a sophisticated searcher might have trouble finding exactly what they need, much less a a child just starting out in the search process." [Virtual Acquisition Desk via explodedlibrary.info]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Natalie Brahan remembers William McGonagall and other pretty bad poets. [Luminescent.org]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Sometimes when I'm blogging, I feel like I'm one of the characters from this Tom Tomorrow cartoon.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    I followed a link on my referrer log back to Google and found what must be the crudest and most useless article on the breakup of the current Austrian government in this issue of the Socialist Worker. If you're clueless, you shouldn't let it show that much.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    I accidentally found this tribute page on the web while searching for something completely different. At first I thought it was some right-wing website, but then I found his name listed alongside people such as Raoul Wallenberg, Sophie Scholl, Edith Cavell or Rosa Luxemburg. This feels just so wrong.

    Unlike everybody else on the list, this man's status as a "fallen martyr" is highly debatable. In 1933, he suspended Austrian parliament and erected a Fascist dictatorship. In 1934, he turned a small protest into a bloody civil war in which about 2,000 innocent Austrian citizens were killed. Yes, he opposed the Nazis and was killed by them in the same year, but doesn't make him a better person.

    I guess Austrian historians are to blame for the terrible misunderstanding that would make this man appear on this list. To make sure that there could be no doubt that Austria was regarded as Hitler's victim rather than collaborator in 1938, the period of Austrian Fascism (1933-1938) was largely neglected or "forgotten" in history books and historic studies after World War II. It is only since the early 1990s that books on the subject have been published.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Remember yesterday's post about Mr. Khol, parliamentary fraction leader of the Austrian Conservative Party (ÖVP), who said there could be tax cuts in 2003 even though his party had just ended a coalition government because its coalition partner, the right-wing Freedom Party (FPÖ) had demanded those exact tax cuts and Mr. Khol's party had said that was not possible?

    Well, all is well again. After current FPÖ party leader Mathias Reichhold had congratulated Khol on the idea, there was a clarification from Mr. Khol yesterday. It seems he had been "misunderstood." There wouldn't be any tax cuts until the year 2004.

    I'm not all too sure what to make of this, but at least Mr. Khol's party has got some of its credibility back. But they did lose some on the way.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Panda bearLast week, the Vienna Zoo, the world's oldest, and in the last couple of years also probably the world's busiest in terms of PR, has announced that they'll receive two panda bears on permanent loan from the Beijing zoo. I didn't find that really newsworthy, so I didn't report it on my blog.

    Then yesterday, the daily newspaper Kurier brought a report that the panda bears will be the subjects of a study in sexual behaviour. Apparently they're extra interesting in that respect because of all mammals, panda bears are said to have about the lowest libido imaginable. The two bears will be in their puberty when they arrive, so the scientists think that this might be interesting.

    So let's see what conclusions they'll be drawing if one of them throws a temper tantrum or if they prefer sitting on the sofa in some corner chomping bamboo sticks rather than being interested in the opposite sex. Remember: this is the city of Sigmund Freud after all.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    The Lefty Libertarian has added me to his blogroll. Thanks. Seems I'm filed under "Nonpolitical." Well, I guess one could argue about this. But then it's also some kind of relief. Tom Fox's comment that "[the] opinions expressed on this blog [...] would be enough to have you sent to a work camp under the Nazis" had me a bit worried if I shouldn't tread a bit more lightly on political commentary; it's good to find out that I needn't worry too much about it, apparently.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Joanna of the eclectica weblog found this story of a book that's been overdue for 56 years. Apparently the fine has amounted to $4,088, but the man who brought back the book (incidentally, it was The New Simms History of South Carolina) won't have to pay it.

    Must check the Guinness Book of Records if there's a category for overdue books or library fines. Nothing on their web site.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Pascale Soleil noticed with some anxiety (or shall we call it angst) that Google lists her as the number 1 search result for "adolescent angst." Oops. Better be careful about what you write in your blog, Pascale. :-)

    But if it's any consolation for you, I'm the number 1 search result for "aardvark penis." And no, I don't know yet how to live with this stigma.

    In the meantime, while some people are worried (though admittedly to different degrees) that due to the new Google algorithm they're no longer the number 1 "Dave", the number 1 "John" or the number 1 "Mark", I have moved several notches up and am now the number 52 "Horst" and the number 71 "aardvark". Oh, and I'm now also the number 1 "Prillinger" and d*rn you Google if that should ever change! ;-)
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []



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    Monday, October 7, 2002

    CoffeeDecent coffee. Coffee is drunk all over the world, but Austrians are among the top consumers per capita, and they are also the pickiest consumers when it comes to what they consider a decent cup of coffee. But then what did you expect from the country where the coffeehouse was invented? German or American coffee is typically dismissed as "dishwater", while at the same time many people also don't like the strong, intensely-roasted Italian blends.

    My personal favourite is Julius Meinl's "Präsident" blend, which has a strong, very aromatic, but not bitter taste. The "Präsident" blend had one of the best marketing stints ever a few years ago when Austrian President Klestil's ex-wife Edith was featured in a TV spot briefly after her divorce and advertised Meinl's "new President" with the slogan "This is what freedom tastes like."
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Thanks to Adam Curry for reminding me about an item I had found last week and intended to post, but then completely forgot about:

    According to a study by British scientists (who else?), which was recently published in the British Journal of Urology, there is no statistically significant correlation between shoe size and penis length. How reassuring for some of us.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Jörg Kantel rightly slams Microsoft Internet Explorer, because it's slowing Radio UserLand performance down to a minimum, advising Radio users with Mac OS 8 and 9 to use a "real browser" instead. I agree. Radio is pretty slow with Mac OS Classic already, and using Internet Explorer grinds it down to a halt. Even under Mac OS X, where Radio is much, much faster, Internet Explorer still manages to slow it down considerably. Substituting IE with Mozilla under OS X has about doubled Radio's performance for me.

    So, you ask, what does Jörg think is a "real" browser? I'd have said Netscape 7, Mozilla, Chimera or Opera. Jörg, however, suggested using iCab. What? A browser that's been in beta for three years, still cannot properly interpret CSS and has severe problems with JavaScript? Is he serious?

    Update: Please don't get me wrong on this. I appreciate the work done by the iCab authors, and I think that so far they've done a great job. iCab is a good, fast, lean browser. I merely wanted to say that in order to deserve the title of "real" browser, it should fully support CSS and JavaScript.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    From The Repository:
    Sure, the Internet has changed the library business. In some cases, the world of the Web has become a tool that library employees use to find information for residents who don't have computers or don't know how to narrow their searches. Other times, the information has to be found in - gasp - a book.

    Let me translate that for the computer geeks out there: Books are those things with hard covers and lots of white pages. "When our Internet is down," Kline said, "I'm not stymied. It just sometimes quickens things." [Library Stuff]
    No further comment.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    The Apostrophe Protection Society is a much-needed institution fighting for a worthy cause. No, seriously. They may sound as if they've escaped from an Avengers episode, but incorrectly placed apostrophes just drive me nuts. [found via Telepolis News via Der Schockwellenreiter]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    From the BBC:
    Children apparently know more about the internet than about books, a survey suggests. Six out of 10 youngsters questioned knew that "homepage" was the front page of a website - but only 9% could explain what the preface to a book was. More than a third knew that "hardback" was a type of book, but 57% identified "hard drive" as part of a computer. Children said they were regularly using the internet to help with their school work. [found via Library Stuff]
    I can certainly confirm that every year it's getting harder to convince my students that information found on the Internet is generally not as reliable as printed information, and that they should really visit the library instead of the computer next door.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Meanwhile, here in Austria: Interesting developments on the tax sector. The leader of the parliamentary fraction of the Conservative Austrian People's Party (ÖVP), Andreas Khol, has announced that the much talked-about tax cuts would come in 2003 if the ÖVP gets the majority at the upcoming elections. This is good news; after all current conservative/right-wing ÖVP-FPÖ coalition government has raised taxes to a record level since it's been in office.

    But wait a moment - didn't the ÖVP-FPÖ coalition government break up a month ago precisely because Mr. Khol's party had said that it was not possible to lower taxes and the right-wing FPÖ had insisted on tax cuts? And now it's Khol who announces tax cuts for 2003? Just what does this say about this man's credibility?

    On a related note, in yesterday's communal elections in the Austrian province of Burgenland, which was seen as a kind of test for the upcoming federal elections on November 24th, the Social Democrats (SPÖ) won 1,547 council seats (+211), the Conservative ÖVP got 1,341 (+118), and the right-wing FPÖ (who were never particularly strong in this province) lost more than half of their seats and plummeted to 96 (-107). The Greens are still of only very minor importance, but managed to quadruple their seats and are now at 13 (+10).

    While the result is not in anyway representative of the country as a whole, the general trend (i.e. losses for the FPÖ, gains for all other parties) probably is, although it's impossible to tell just to what extent each party is going to win or lose in the national elections.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Toby Sackton has an article on what it's worth fighting for, and no, it's neither oil nor democracy. He seems to have different priorities than President Bush, but my own experience and feelings tell me that Toby has a good point there.

    In a different story, Toby describes his problem with President Bush:
    He is the perfect example of corporatism run amok. Every fiber of his being is dedicated to the idea that corporate interests and the corporate class are entitled to wealth, government favors, power, privilege, and the right to rule. Any whiff of popular feeling, whether patriotism or a willingness to sacrifice, is simply a tool to be used for more effective manipulation.
    I'm not sure if it's Bush himself or the Bush administration who's like that, but Toby has got a point there. And it's exactly the reason why US-European relations are dwindling.

    Come to speak of US-European relations, Glenn Reynolds quotes Mark Steyn:
    The real phenomenon of the last year is not Europe's anti-Americanism, which has always existed, but a deep, pervasive and wholly new American weariness with Europe.
    Now why is it that I think that Mark Steyn's quote in context sounds fairly neutral, in Glenn Reynolds's context it sounds like a positive development, and in my own perception it sounds frightening?
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    My trusted mooseI had wanted to start this week's blog on a personal note, but it seems that politics got into the way once again. :-/

    Anyway, not that the news is all that interesting, but a very nasty bug hit me this weekend, so that I had to spend most of it in closer proximity to the toilet bowl than I wanted. By now I've ingested so many carbon tablets that I feel a bit like a coalmine, but thanks to my trusted friend Elchi (pronounced EL-kee; pictured on the right), who is not only a cuddly, compassionate companion, but also a professional hot water bottle, I have mostly recovered.

    Bit of a bummer really, the weekend was wrecked and not even a few days of sick leave. :-( I guess my employer is delighted, but I'm slightly disappointed, like I want some sort of compensation for two days of feeling really lousy, and there's no way to get any.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Recently, I posted an article about warbloggers "Blogging to themselves". Now, thanks to Joseph Duemer, I found an article by Jeff Cooper, who says:
    As the fall elections draw near, though, and as we move closer to action against Iraq, I find myself reading the warblogs less and less. It's not simply because they support the president's posture toward Iraq, a subject about which I have serious misgivings. It's that so many of them deny any legitimacy whatsoever to those who hold positions different from their own. [Cooped up]
    This is perhaps an even better summary than what I wrote.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Glenn Reynolds quotes an article from the Daily Telegraph about a rising number of men joining the British army and concludes "Seems like there's some support for the war there." Well, maybe. Or maybe it's also the prospect of a well-paid job in times of rising unemployment.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []



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    Friday, October 4, 2002

    Manner Schnitten Manner wafers. Invented by Josef Manner in 1898, these delicious hazelnut-cream-filled wafers have delighted generations; they're unversally known and enjoyed by just about everybody, and Austrian expats are known to regularly send letters or e-mails home asking for them. The Manner company uses a picture of St. Stephen's cathedral in Vienna as their trademark; the church granted them the right to do so in exchange for paying the church one stonemason for as long as they're using the trademark. That's what they've been doing for 104 years now.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    The Willard Library in Evansville, Indiana is supposedly haunted by the ghost of the "grey lady", a former librarian. They've installed a number of webcams, which you can use for ghost hunting. An archive of sightings and spoofs is also available. [via netbib weblog]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    A few months ago, Austrian right-wing politician and political enfant terrible Jörg Haider caused quite an uproar when he travelled to Iraq on what he claimed was a "humanitarian mission", met and shook hands with Saddam Hussein and extended his greetings and "the best wishes of the Austrian people" to Saddam. Green party leader Alexander van der Bellen, usually a very stoic, thoughtful man, summarized pretty much what just about everybody in Austria thought when he said: "Haider has now gone completely gaga."

    Saddam Hussein doubleNow it seems Haider didn't meet Saddam after all. According to the Austrian news magazine Format, German forensic law professor Dieter Buhmann claims that Haider merely met one of Saddam's doubles. Buhmann says that he has done extensive research on video footage of Saddam Hussein, and his results have shown that there are at least three doubles of Saddam, surgically altered to look like him. Haider was apparently not important enough to be met by the real McCoy Saddam, for the person on the picture with him (left) was not the one that spoke to the League of Arab Nations earlier this year (right).

    Saddam Hussein double meets Jörg Haider doubleBut wait! Take another look at this picture. Maybe the person on the left isn't Jörg Haider at all. Maybe Haider felt that Saddam wasn't all that important and therefore sent one of his own doubles. Or maybe we'll soon hear a press release from the Freedom Party that Haider wasn't really in Iraq, in fact somebody else sent a Haider double to Iraq to discredit him. Haider double meets Saddam double. The possibilities are endless...
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    British scientists (who else?) have been doing research on the world's funniest joke (actually, the world's funniest joke is still "Wenn ist das Nunstruck git und Slotermeyer? Ja! ... Beiherhund das Oder die Flipperwaldt gersput!" - what they were looking for was a joke that is found consistently funny all over the world).

    The results were published yesterday. Hm. Why am I not surprised that I think I heard funnier ones? They've also listed one particularly popular in Europe with an alsatian [dog] in a telegram office, which I find absolutely hilarious. The article also contains some other interesting facts, for example that jokes with 103 words are considered funniest and that people found jokes funnier at 6:03 pm that at other times. Somehow, explaining humour statistically seems to take the fun out of it. [found via The Shifted Librarian]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Bizarre. No, not the subject matter, the website itself. Surely you don't need a spanking anymore after you've been there. Listening to the music alone is domestic discipline enough. [via The Presurfer]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    lava lampI've wanted one of these beauties for a long time now, and two days ago I finally decided to go and get one. Lava lamps sure are the coolest thing on Earth. When it comes to watching moving things, I must say that, at least for now, watching the lava lamp has a significantly greater appeal than watching TV or, the other favourite that I find oddly compelling, watching the washing machine. I can't think of a reason why in the 1960s, when these things were hugely in fashion, people would take mind-altering drugs and then look at their lava lamps. Surely the effect without drugs is mesmerising enough. But I can imagine the effect would be interesting...
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    It seems some pesky bug in Radio UserLand has eaten Niek Hockx's shutterclog. He was merely trying to change his categories to save disk space, then there were some desperate shouts on his RSS feed, and when I checked his blog yesterday, there was nothing there any longer. Today, he's posted an explanation:
    When I found myself doing an all nighter again, because of stupid Radio problems I really asked myself this question: "Why am I doing this? This isn't fun anymore! [...] Like I said before: this kind of "content management" takes away too much time from the content. I'm going back to good old basic HTML and my copy of Dreamweaver, should I feel the urge to publish something on the Web again. [shutterclog]
    What a bummer. Niek's blog will be sorely missed, at least by me.

    On a related note - the relation would be pesky bugs in Radio -, Pascale Soleil talks about priorities at UserLand, the company that develops Radio, and I think she has a very good point there:
    The entire time I and others have been experiencing this [the First-of-the-month] bug, Userland has been working on instant outlining, instant messaging, RSS 2.0, and other stuff that I'm less than interested in ~ while basic functionality has been broken. Whizzy features are wonderful... in their time. In my developer's book, that's after the stuff you've already shipped works the way it's supposed to. [both2and]
    Exactly. I encountered the bug for the first time on October 1st. Within 5 minutes I had found a workaround. Following other users' complaints after October 1st, it took UserLand not even 2 days to fix the bug. So why did it have to take so many complaints for them to try to fix it?
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Is there a difference between anti-Semitism and criticising Israel's politics? If I understand this correctly, then Mike Silverman does not think so. For once I really hope I'm wrong. [via Instapundit]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []



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    Thursday, October 3, 2002

    Jenny Levine has found an interesting article on The Librarian as Astronaut, Innovator, and Expert: "Libraries are not seen as particularly big-budget, exciting, or adventurous, but in fact they are. In our own ways, we are astronauts and explorers, seeking out new technologies and strange information formats, often going boldly where our public has not gone before." [The Shifted Librarian]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Scott Rosenberg:
    Andrew Goodman writes that metatags -- those labels hidden in Web pages' HTML that are supposed to help search engines determine what the pages are about but that have become a tool for out-of-control online marketing -- are dead.
    That's a very dangerous statement, and I wish that Andrew Goodman had not made it that way, because it is completely and utterly misleading. I daresay that many people will pick out this paragraph and stop using meta tags altogether. That would be a very bad idea.

    Fortunately, Andrew Goodman manages to specify what he really means:
    But note that he qualifies his conclusion fairly narrowly: "Metatags as we know them today - I refer specifically to the meta keyword and meta description tags inserted into the head of an HTML document - don't factor into this future."
    Thanks for this clarification: meta keyword and meta description tags. As Scott Rosenberg says:
    This qualification is important, because, while HTML metatags have proved far too easy to abuse, the concept of meta-information -- information that describes what other information is about -- will only become more important as the Web continues to grow in both volume of information and complexity of available services.
    As archivists and librarians throughout the world will tell you, they are currently struggling to find ways of cataloging and describing online content to make these resources available for their users. The Dublin Core Metadata Initiative was one step in this direction.

    While it is true that we probably don't need meta tags for search engines any longer, we need different meta tags for indexing web content, and we need them more than ever. [via Scott Rosenberg's Links & Comment]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Mark Pilgrim writes about some major changes to the Google search algorithm in their most recent update:
    The changes appear to be an attempt to stop two phenomena: explicitly selling ads based on PageRank, and Google bombing.
    [...]
    Unfortunately, the algorithm tweaks necessary to stop these two techniques have caused a wide range of collateral damage, apparently coming down hardest on medium-to-large sites that had previously been doing everything right.
    [...]
    Google's search results in general appear to be significantly degraded in many key areas. The forums are full of people complaining that spam sites, doorway pages, and obvious cloaking attempts, which Google used to be so good at filtering out, are now popping up in top spots with disturbing frequency.
    Read more... [dive into mark]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Michael Koch writes: "Basically, 50% of all weblogs do nothing other than copy the Daypop Top 40 and post reports on the consistency of their cats' urine. How very interesting." [my translation, German original found via Der Schockwellenreiter]

    Which is why I'm not too enthusiastic about the Daypop Top 40 (henceforth referred to as DPT40). While I find the idea itself good, I'm very much against using the DPT40 as a source for your blog. It should be totally the other way round: your blog should be the source for the DPT40. Otherwise the DPT40 becomes nothing more than a kind of self-perpetuating thing that constantly digests its own output.

    So spread the word: Don't use the Daypop Top 40 as a source for your blog. If you find an interesting blog item somewhere, feel free to add it to your own blog, but if you find it on the DPT40, just don't use it. First, it's not a particularly original thing to do (and you want your blog to be original, don't you?); and second, chances are that everybody has already read it anyway.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Hey -- you can OWN a Bible Belt while living in the Bible Belt. It's a genuine leather belt with a Bible-shaped buckle, complete with the slogan: "Shout Hallelujah and hold your pants up at the very same time!" To polish off the ensemble, how about a pair of "Holy Socks"? [Ain't too proud to blog]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Thanks to Tom Fox for linking to my Haider article from yesterday.

    However, I'm not happy that he called it "a history of the Austrian [...] extreme right". While Jörg Haider has made a number of remarks that did express sympathy for Hitler and the Third Reich, you couldn't call him a Neo-Nazi. The FPÖ is certainly a right-wing party that tries to appeal to those of the far and extreme right, but they are within legal limits (even though they have been trying to bend those limits). There are, however, a number of extreme-right groups that make Haider and his party look like schoolboys. Therefore, I'd say my article is really about the rise of the FPÖ as a nationalist, populist party. The Austrian extreme right are an entirely different story.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []



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    Wednesday, October 2, 2002

    Recently, Tom Fox posted a link about 'the decline of the Austrian Right' on his Paris weblog. There was a brief discussion on the topic in the comments to this post, during which I promised to write a brief summary of what I think about the situation of the Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) and the possible election results in November. The result of my thinking is now available online. Click here to read it.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    I don't trust people who study economics, and I don't trust banks. I see both as some kind of necessity, but as I feel it takes a special kind of anal fixation to develop such a close relationship to money as these people do, I keep a distance to them whenever possible. Now for the past months my bank has been behaving in a manner that I find, well, disquieting. They obviously want me to overdraw my bank account.  Read more...
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    There's this story going round the blogosphere about What the net is doing to you. I guess by now you've all read it, so I won't bother you with the details. Yesterday, there was a response from Pascale Soleil, who pretty much hit the nail on the head:
    Beware: coming to a university near you, the Department of Internet Studies Department. (Redundancy not optional.) We will now have innumerable papers written by people with axes to grind about how the web is good for you, or not, or good for society, or not ~ and what laws should be passed to make sure that it's good for you and for society.
    Read more... [both2and]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Two Flash movies in search of the answer to two questions: Why is war pushing all other stories aside? [via Craig's BookNotes] and Why we must invade Iraq. [via Der Schockwellenreiter]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Yesterday, 8:00 pm:
    Iraq and UN agree return of inspectors. UN and Iraqi officials agree practical arrangements for the return to Iraq of inspectors looking for weapons of mass destruction. [BBC News | WORLD]

    Today, 8:00 am:
    US rejects Iraq inspections deal. Washington says it will oppose new arms inspections until the UN Security Council lays down some tougher rules for the mission. [BBC News | WORLD]

    Today, 12 noon:
    US is 'afraid of inspections'. Iraq says the US has rejected an agreement for inspectors to return there because Washington fears they will not find any hidden weapons. [BBC News | WORLD]

    Not that anyone would be surprised by any of these statements.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Derek: "Nerd. No, installing OS 10.2 via a 4X SCSI CD Rom drive does not proceed very quickly. Yes, I am a dork." [Dog Door of Death]

    "Not very quickly" indeed. It took 1 hour 25 minutes on my G4 with a 24x drive. Derek must be a man of endless patience, a true disciple of Zen.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Here's another round of gems from my referer log. Let's have a further look at what people were looking for on search engines before they got sent to my site.

    "Britain sexiest members of parliament" - This person got sent to my site? They should have been sent here instead. It's time for one of my favourite John Cage quotes. Let's all say it together: please!  And I promise never to mention George Galloway and Emma Peel on the same page again.

    "winxp product key" (6 search queries, with some variation in spelling). - I don't have one. Really. I'm a Mac user, and there is no such thing as product keys on Macs. Really.

    "ellen feiss nude" (3 queries). - As this just doesn't exist, the search results are mostly people talking about search results: "it will probably be only a matter of time before 'Ellen Feiss Nude' becomes the leading Google search request." Not quite, but we're getting closer. We'll have to give them some picture one of these days.

    "poison pigeons" - Now that's one I like. ;-)

    P.S. I thought that the sexiest Brit MP thing was so good that I finally joined Disturbing Search Requests and posted it there.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []



    Permanent link to this day's archive

    Tuesday, October 1, 2002

    Christian Crumlish writes about bloggers who want to change the world, but increasingly find out that they are merely talking to themselves and aren't able to reach out to the people they'd like to talk to.

    I think it's obvious why that would be so. Frankly, I have so grown tired with the rhetoric on some political blogs that I can't be bothered to read them anymore. Read about why that happened in this story.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    The Washington Post reports that new U.S. doctrine worries Europeans and that they fear that decades of coalition-building are at risk: In Brussels, "officials are expressing emotions ranging from concern to alarm to anger as they contemplate the growing gap between themselves and the Bush administration. [...] One senior European official said the new U.S. message to Europe was: 'You have become irrelevant, and unless you do something dramatic to raise your defense expenditure, this is the end. '" [The Lefty Libertarian]

    If the article is correct and US politics continue as they are at the moment, then I'd say the NATO could be history in a decade or so.
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    Yesterday, for the first time that I noticed this blog scored well over 150 hits and stayed in the Top 100 list of Radio UserLand-managed weblogs throughout the entire day. Thanks to everybody who visited!

    The visitor statistics continue to be interesting, with Netscape 6/Mozilla and Mac OS users well above the usual average. Again my apologies to the 2.4% Netscape 4 users: there seems to be nothing I can do to fix the rendering problems.

    As for interesting referer log entries, I found "preference giving boy in the Arab world", "The Fashion Police Overalls", "films of the erotics" and "bird penis" the most interesting ones, especially as all of them have very little to do with the content of my web site. To my knowledge, the only birds with penises are ducks, by the way.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    From Aftenposten:
    Norway's public libraries are finding that providing free Internet access can be a headache as they try to cope with porno watchers who tie up machines and offend fellow library visitors. Asker Library felt obliged to ban a boy from using their Internet service for three months after he was found surfing sex pages and installed a pornographic image as the desktop background on one of the library computers. [via Library Stuff]
    Seems to be a worldwide trend. When talking to our clients and trying to convince them to view their daily dose of porn in private did not help, we had to resort to installing kiosk software on most of our computers.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    From The Guardian: "Saddam set to let inspectors in. Saddam Hussein appeared poised last night to agree to resumed UN arms inspections in Iraq, in a deft move that looks likely to complicate Washington's resolve to unseat him.[...]

    But while UN officials were optimistic about returning to Baghdad to enjoy 'unfettered access', Donald Rumsfeld, the US defence secretary, described any Iraqi pledges on inspections as 'patently false'.

    With the Vienna talks nearing a breakthrough [...] the big question was how the US would respond and whether it could push through a new UN resolution mandating armed force against Iraq." More... [Guardian Unlimited]
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    Toby Sackton notices a disquieting tendency in the war against terrorism:
    Earlier this week, the Iraq war party thought they had a smoking gun. Two men were caught smuggling 35 pounds of enriched uranium into Syria from Turkey. Turns out it was a false alarm - not 35 pounds but 5 ounces, and not uranium but a harmless mixture of iron and maganese. This seems part of a pattern.

    --False terror alerts
    --Arrests of the wrong people [...]
    --Inability to identify any evidence linking Saddam Hussein to terrorists.
    --No Osama Bin Laden or Mullah Omar.

    With this record, isn't it time that more people started questioning the Bush record in the fight against terrorism. It seems that incompetence is only trumped by stupidity. [Toby's Political Diary]
    I personally see it as an indication that the anti-terrorism campaign serves more and more as a pretext for Bush's War against Saddam Hussein. As others have already observed, the Bush administration's focus is no longer on the terrorists, or they would be pursuing entirely different strategies. I consider this extremely careless and dangerous, as it puts the American people at a great risk.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    With the beginning of this new month I noticed a bug in Radio UserLand that causes a Macro error when you're posting blog entries and have the 'automatic title link' option enabled - also the title will not be added, and the post will not be published to any categories. Here's the workaround:

    First, publish the blog entry without a title. Then, switch to Radio, and from the Radio menu, choose "Publish - This month's weblog archive pages". Once Radio has created the archive pages and uploaded them, go back to your entry and add the title. Everything should work smoothly from then on.
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    I think I have to rephrase yesterday's posting re comparing last week's protest marches. The new version is as follows, including one new link:
    COMPARE LAST WEEK'S FOXHUNT PROTEST in London with today's antiwar protest in Madrid and I think it's easy to see who's in a position to win over the public.
    Much better, eh? ;-)
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

    From Infotoday: Gale Launches E-Books with OCLC's netLibrary:
    Gale Group [...] has launched an e-book program that will make a large collection of its reference material available to online library patrons through netLibrary. Any library with a netLibrary account can access the Gale e-books. At press time no list of titles was available, but the company plans to offer 30 to 50 of them sometime this fall with hundreds more scheduled for the future. [Library Stuff]
    With all the conservation, tech compatibility and financial issues that libraries are facing at the moment, and not even counting traditional user conservativism when it comes to reading material on-screen rather than on paper, do they really expect to make money with this?
    posted by Horst URL | Comments? []
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