The Aardvark Speaks - November 2002 Archive



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Friday, November 29, 2002

Today is Buy Nothing Day, and by mere chance I actually managed not to buy anything.
posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

Get your war on

The return of Henry Kissinger and more news from the permanent war are now available online.

On a very related note, the Guardian has a story about how a number of convicted felons (such as John Poindexter, Oliver North, Otto Reich and G. Gordon Liddy) have started new political careers with help from the Bush administration. Weird world.
posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

Christian Crumlish writes about a supposed Blog gender gap, referring to an article by Lisa Guernsey about the relative prominence of men in the blogosphere as compared with women:
[T]he Venus-Mars divide has made its way into Blogville. Women want to talk about their personal lives. Men want to talk about anything but. So far the people who have received the most publicity (often courtesy of male journalists) appear to be the latter.
I don't know. I do write about personal stuff. I read a number of women's weblogs who don't. On my blogroll, 12 out of 38 blogs (31.6%) are written by women. On my extended blogroll, which includes a number of political blogs, it's still 30.6%. I see very little gender-related bias.
Are men statistically more likely than women to promote their own ideas about public things and try to build a large audience of strangers? Are women more likely than men to write about the things in their personal lives, their hobbies, their obsessions? I wonder.
Nope.

And even if they were, what consequences are there? Should we encourage women to write more about public stuff and men to write about personal things? What nonsense.
posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

Shockheaded Peter and other 19th century German stories by writers such as Wilhelm Busch, The Grimm Brothers, E. T. A. Hoffmann, Ludwig Tieck and others are available online in English, German and Hebrew. [via The Cartoonist]
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They were supposed to quietly fade away with the advent of the Internet, but libraries -- and librarians -- are enjoying a higher profile than ever before. They've mobilized in Washington, beefing up their lobbying presence and inserting themselves into far more controversial subjects than their usual bread-and-butter issues, such as literacy. [via librarian.net]

And now for something completely different: The university library of Trier in Germany has published a new online guided tour of the library (in German). You can choose between a cartoon-like "adventure version" with pictures and video clips and a more down-to-earth "service manual version" with just the basic facts. They're cvertainly upping the ante for other libraries with this. Well done. [via netbib weblog]
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Thursday, November 28, 2002

Wire

If you didn't believe my posting about the Wire concert yesterday, go ahead and have a look at this video. It should convince you that being fifty doesn't mean you'll lose the ability to rock seriously. When I'm 50 myself, I'd like to unpack my bass guitar, which I haven't played in years, and rock just like them.
posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

Got a nasty letter from the tax office yesterday. Seems I forgot to send in a tax form earlier this year, and now they've given me until December 13 to send it it, not failing to note that it's too late anyway and they are therefore reserving the right to charge me 10% extra if they feel like it. And I have to admit, it was my fault, so I'm afraid there's nothing I can do about it.

So I sat down today and filled in one of these nice forms (to be precise, it was form L1 for the year 2001) and put it in the mail. The form is actually designed to get money back from the government, but in my case I'm afraid it'll mean that I will have to pay extra taxes. I'm now awaiting an official letter that will tell me just how much more tax I'll have to pay (shudder) for what I earned last year. Not something to look forward to, I tell you.
posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

In the spirit of thanksgiving, I was thinking of people whose weblogs I read and whom I would like to meet in real life. I came up with seven names, but I won't mention them here, because it would seem unfair to the others, whose written stuff I like and where I still have the feeling that I wouldn't be able to connect person-to-person.

But maybe I'm totally wrong. After all, I don't know any of them. A point which I'm also making on my newly revamped About page, which is meant to seriously confuse those who don't know me. Even though I am telling nothing but the truth.

I also got rid of the passport pictures on the About page. I decided that I'd like to be a faceless entity to new visitors. It feels more comfortable this way. Being mysterious is simply more fun. There's a reason why hardly anyone is posting personal pictures of themselves.
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Now this seems to be a good idea: Buy Nothing Day. [The Presurfer]
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Can you spot the men in this politically totally incorrect quiz: Female or Shemale? I got 13 out of 16 right. [What kind of sick weirdo are you?]
posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

The online exhibits and digitization projects of the British Library are some of the finest in the world, and the Turning the Pages exhibit may be one of their best thus far. Utilizing the most contemporary advances in interactive display, visitors to the site can virtually turn the pages of the nine currently available original manuscripts located here. The nine manuscripts represent some of the most important printed pieces of material in the Library's collection, and in a few cases, some of the most important documents in world history. [netbib weblog]
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Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Almost forgot: the eye project has my eye.
posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

More and more people I know personally who have become aware of this weblog seem to come to the conclusion that writing this takes a lot of time and that it's really the only thing that I do all day. Even though this is not true, I think that they think that I should get a life. I wonder if they are right. It feels as if I have a life, mostly, but I could be mistaken.
posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

Paranoia Cartoon
Well, actually...
posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

A follow-up to a posting from yesterday: Today, the Wiener Zeitung reports that for the fifth time this year, Austrian right-wing politician Jörg Haider has reversed his decision to resign from all political functions.
posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

The Prelinger Film archives (could be some very distant relative, who knows?) is a collection of over 45,000 "ephemeral" (advertising, educational, industrial, and amateur) films. It is located in New York City and San Francisco. Since its beginning in 1983, its goal has been to collect, preserve, and facilitate access to films of historic significance that haven't been collected elsewhere... all free to download. [via The Cartoonist]
posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

Went to a Wire concert last Saturday and was amazed about how these 50-somethings (they released their first album in 1977) were still playing noise punk like mad. It seemed a bit odd at first, but everybody soon got into it. At the end the audience just wouldn't let them go, and they played six encores, returning to the stage twice even though the lights had been switched on again - actually, the encores took about as much time as the regular programme. In short, it was quite an experience. Today's edition of Falter calls it "the best concert this year". I was deaf for three days afterwards, but it was worth it.
posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

Education news has an article on the lost art of research-paper writing: "Students no longer need the excuse "The dog ate my research paper" because in a large majority of our nation's schools, there are no research papers for the dog to eat! Many high-school teachers around the country have quit teaching research-paper writing because they simply do not know how to keep their students from plagiarizing off the Internet." More... [Library Stuff]
posted by Horst URL | Comments? []



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Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Americans and geography, part 3: According to CNN, Iraq has moved yet again. After having been found in Austria by a New York cop last week, it is now west of Prague. [via vowe dot net]
posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

Craig Taylor of The Guardian writes an article entitle Where am I? about how the heart of town lost its sense of identity and Britain's city centres became clones? [Guardian Unlimited]. As might be expected for a newspaper article, it doesn't go too much into depth, but it's a good starting point.
posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

Yes, after the devastating election results for his party, Austrian right-wing politician Jörg Haider has once again announced that he would resign. It was to be expected, after all he's already made similar resignation announcements four times so far this year. At least he's finally reached the stage where nobody believes what he says any longer. The Guardian has part of the story in English. [Guardian Unlimited]
posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

Seems like the whole of Austria is still in a state of shock after the somewhat unexpected election results (that includes the election winners, for whom this was as much as a surprise as for everybody else - opinion polls had predicted much lower results) - anyway, everybody is still talking about it, and they all have that strange expression of utter disbelief on their faces.

Said one of my friends: "They raised taxes to a record level, unemployment is as high as it's never been since 1945, inflation is up, and the budget deficit, which they promised to keep at zero, is higher than before they took office -- and they still get this whopping majority of votes?!?"

Reminds me of my friends in Britain who just couldn't believe how in the late 1980s and 1990s the Conservative Party in Britain got re-elected again and again and again, while nobody seemed to have voted for them. Here's a clue: your friends and the people you know just may not be representative.

Heck, I'm in no position to complain about the election results. After all, only a few weeks before the elections, the Conservative minister of education promoted me to full civil servant. Who knows what a minister from another party might have done.
posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

Sorry for not writing much lately... For the past two days I have mostly been pursuing three projects that took much of my time:
  • teaching a web design course, 8 hours per day
  • watching the first season of Twin Peaks
  • sleeping
I am, alas, sorry to say that I have only brought project #2 to a satisfactory closing. Postings on this weblog may therefore continue to be sparse for a few days.
posted by Horst URL | Comments? []



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Monday, November 25, 2002

Okay, so I haven't gone to bed just yet, but I thought I should tell you the election results of the district where I'm living (Vienna, 7th district), just to point out that this area has a population very much unlike the rest of Austria: Green Party 30.3%, Social Democrats 29.6%, Conservative Party 29.2%, Freedom Party 7.3%. And I'm really off to bed now.
posted by Horst URL | Comments? []



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Sunday, November 24, 2002

Austrian Conservative Party 42.3%, Social Democrats 36.9%, Freedom Party 10.2%, Green Party 9.0%. For the first time in 36 years there's no Social Democrat majority. The rightwing Freedom Party loses about two thirds (16%) of the votes and almost all of these votes go directly to the Conservative Party. Social Democrats and Green Party win votes, but not enough to break the Conservative-rightwing majority. The Carbonade Flamande was excellent, one of the best things I ever cooked. I was absolutely surprised how well it turned out. The election result was nothing like what the opinion polls had predicted, but remember how I told you that Austrian opinion polls never told the truth? Myself, I'm perfectly drunk (as is everybody else in this flat), and I'm just beginning to wonder how I'm supposed to be teaching web design tomorrow morning. I'll find a way, I guess. So that's it for tonight, signing off.
posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

I invited a few friends over tonight for an election dinner. We figured that since there is no election result that would please us, not even a very hypothetical one (basically we're dissatisfied with all the parties and think that with the current class of politicians there is simply no result that would actually benefit Austria), we need some forum to vent our frustration. So I'll be cooking a Carbonade Flamande (a slightly different recipe than the one I linked to) and we'll be looking at the election results on TV together and most likely we'll be weeping together. Oh yes, we all went voting, of course. Not that I'd like to see the party I voted for in power; I just like the other parties even less.
posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

As you probably know if you read my weblog regularly, today there are parliamentary elections in Austria. The headline of today's Kronen Zeitung reads: "Diese Wahl verändert Österreich" ("These elections will change Austria"). What nonsense. After these elections, we'll most likely either have a Conservative-rightwing coalition government like the one we've had for the past three years, or we'll have a Conservative-Social Democrat coalition government like we had for 13 years before that. Even though opinion polls indicate that there is a very slim chance of a Social Democrat-Green majority, this just won't happen, as (a) the Green Party always has about twice as many "voters" in polls than actual voters in elections, and (b) even if there were a majority, the Social Democrats would never form a coalition government with the Green Party. These elections will change nothing.
posted by Horst URL | Comments? []



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Friday, November 22, 2002

British Pathé have put thousands and thousands of hours of old British newsreel footage online. Tons of previews are available for free at the moment, though high resolution video clips are rather costly. Still, this is a great archive to browse around in. [not sure where I found this, it was on many other weblogs; I think Jenny and BoingBoing had it]
posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

Fark reader Jason Oh needs a bone marrow transplant [Boing Boing Blog]. The comments on the Fark forum would suggest that the readers are mostly a bunch of clueless morons who couldn't care less about a person's life. So to set a few things straight:
  1. Bone marrow compatibility has little to do with the donor's or the recipient's race. It's a game of chance in any case.
  2. If you have a brother or sister, chances that their bone marrow is compatible with yours is 1:4. If you don't have any siblings, chances that someone else's bone marrow will match yours are about 1:500,000.
  3. In Austria alone, over 1,000 people are waiting for a bone marrow donor. Austria is a fairly small country with about 8 million inhabitants. Do some maths to check how many people are looking for a donor in your country.
  4. If you want to donate bone marrow, it's not because you want to help a specific person (at a 1:500,000 compatibility rate, this would be pointless). It is because decided that you want to save somebody's life. Somebody you don't know and somebody you never will know. But you'll most probably save their life.
  5. The procedure is as follows: once you register as a donor, you give a small blood sample. This is then typified, and the resuilts are stored in a worldwide database.
  6. Then, nothing happens for a long time. In case somebody who's compatible with your bone marrow needs your donation, you'll get a phone call. The chance of this ever happening is pretty slim.
  7. You go to hospital, and under general anaesthesia, about 1 litre of bone marrow is extracted from your hip bone. This is painless, and the risks are the same as with any general anaesthesia. You stay in hospital for one day. Your body will replace the 1 litre within a week or so.
  8. The bone marrow is filtered and transported to somewhere else in the world. After filtering, about 30 cl are left, which are then injected into the patient's hip bone. This has to happen within 36 hours of the donation, or else the marrow dies and is useless. About 4-5 weeks after the transplant, the bone marrow will have grown to an extent that the patient's blood production is almost back to normal.
For more information, check out: If you ever feel like saving somebody's life with little or no risk to yourself, this is it. I can assure you that somebody out there will be forever thankful. The morons at Fark.com don't get this. Maybe you get it.
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Don't even get me started.
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Dark Passage is a webzine devoted to the exploration of abandoned buildings. Implosion World has everything you need to know about controlled building demolition. [Boing Boing Blog/Memepool]
posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

Telepolis has an interesting article (in German) on Google changed students' and journalists' research habits. From the results: students no longer go to the library, are happy with fragmented bits of information without checking if they're true or not, and accept other people's arguments instead of thinking themselves. Read more... [netbib weblog]
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The "first-ever" published interview with Ellen Feiss (of Apple 'Switch' ad fame) appeared in today's edition of the Brown Daily Herald. The paper is the official student publication at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. The newspaper has advertised its November 22 issue with a series of posters around the campus, says one MacNN reader, noting that the slogan "The apple of Apple's Eye - Ellen Feiss" accompanies a large photo of Ms. Feiss. [The Macintosh News Network]
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Thursday, November 21, 2002

Big cat

Test your pop culture literacy. The Museum of Hoaxes has images that have circulated widely both in the media and on the internet. A number of them have probably shown up in your e-mail. Can you guess which are the hoax photos (i.e. those that have been digitally manipulated or staged in some way) and which are real? [via The Presurfer]
posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

For some reason ;-) I just had to relay this: Quarsan has more on Americans and Geography: The Daily Mirror, armed with a copy of a children's atlas took to the streets of New York to quiz 100 people on geography. 80% couldn't find Iraq:
New York cop John Riley, mounted on his trusty steed Hoss, studied our map for several minutes, saying: "I've got to get this right." Then, with his finger hovering over northern Europe, he declared: "I know it's round here somewhere. "Ah yes, there." With a firm stab of his finger, he picked Austria as the new Iraq. [My life in the bush of ghosts]
Austria? Ouch. Close, John, but not quite. Although we have one particular politician who really loves to travel to Iraq [1] [2], we are thankfully still at some distance to the real Iraq (we're not even in the Middle East - thank God, I couldn't stand the high temperatures).

I had a close call with geography myself today, though. I mentioned the American geographical illiteracy phenomenon in class today, and one of the three exchange students from Lithuania countered: "But you do know where Lithuania is?" - "Umm, yes, I think so. It's the southernmost of the three Baltic states, right?" I managed to stammer. Thankfully, I was right.
posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

I received my Twin Peaks Season 1 DVD set in the mail today, and while watching the opening credits of the pilot I was again reminded of the Institute for Naming Children Humanely (INCH).

The name that prompted this memory was that of lead actress Madchen Amick. Now as someone whose native language is German I have to fiercely protest: "Madchen" is not a first name. Spelt correctly with an umlaut ("Mädchen") it is the German word for "girl", and while I find this somewhat banal for a girl's first name (and it's certainly not used as a first name in the German-speaking world), I shudder when I try to imagine how this might be pronounced by English-speaking people.

Similarly odd is another German-inspired first name, which I see quite often in opening or closing titles of American movies: "Gretchen". This is, as you can imagine, a German diminutive of "Margaret", which, however, sounds so utterly childish in German that no German-speaking parent in their right mind would ever dare name their child that way. And certainly no American would pronounce it correctly ('gret-khun) anyway - the sound of "gretshun" (just like "madshun" for "Mädchen") makes me wince. Profoundly.

Now I have nothing against honouring your German forefathers by giving your children German or Germanic names. Like Horst, for example (which is kind of odd in my case, as, like many Austrians, I have mostly Czech forefathers). But this weirdness of German-sounding names, which just aren't names, is, um, just weird.
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Jeff Cooper has a very smart article on why some conservative webloggers who think they're really smart when they're "fisking" other people aren't really all that smart: "It harps obsessively on individual word and phrase choices, and in doing so it repeatedly ignores or mischaracterizes the larger point. This isn't missing the forest for the trees; this is missing the forest because of a relentless fixation on one square foot of bark after another.". Brilliantly said.
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The Süddeutsche Zeitung has an article (in German) that starts kind of funny with an anecdote on the döner wars in Berlin, but takes this as a sign for a potentially dangerous development: Germany may be heading towards deflation. The recent "Teuro" inflation, the economic crisis, higher taxes and the general feeling that everybody has less money in their pockets has started a save-a-penny craze, in which everybody seems to be hunting for sales and special offers. The economy has a hard time coping with this. [via nico | couchblog]
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Last part of the series. Here's the grand finale:

The 2 euro coin

2 euro coinThe 2 euro coin has a diameter of 25.75 mm, is 2.20 mm thick and weighs 8.5 grams. It is the largest of the coins, and its color scheme is also quite unique, so you should have no trouble identifying it.

Austrians hated the 2 euro coin at first, because they were not used to a coin of such high value. In the meantime, everybody has stopped complaining. Contrary to the Austrian 1 euro coin, which has been criticized as being a mere flat Mozart chocolate (music alert!), the 2 euro coin carries the portrait of Bertha von Suttner, the highly popular Austrian Nobel Peace prize winner (she's so popular among my generation because she used to be on the 1000 Schilling bank note back in the 1970s and 1980s). The 2 euro coin is a nickel battery like the 1 euro coin, so general advice is not to keep it in your hand for too long.

National sides of 2 euro coin
The national sides of the 2 euro coin, left to right:
Belgium (King Albert II*), Germany (federal eagle*), Greece (Europa and the bull), Spain (King Juan Carlos I*), France (symbolic tree*), Ireland (harp*), Italy (Dante Alighieri), Luxembourg (Grand Duke Henri*), Netherlands (Queen Beatrix*), Austria (Bertha von Suttner), Portugal (old royal seal*), Finland (cloudberries and cloudberry flowers).
* indicates that the motif is the same as on the 1 euro coin.

A summary of all eight parts of this series can be found on this page.
posted by Horst URL | Comments? []



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Wednesday, November 20, 2002

According to CNN, young Americans may soon have to fight a war in Iraq, but a survey of 18-24 year-old Americans reveals that only 1 in 7 can find Iraq on a map. 11% of young citizens of the U.S. couldn't even locate the U.S. on a map. The Pacific Ocean's location was a mystery to 29%; Japan, to 58%; and the United Kingdom, to 69%. Furthermore, interviewees from other countries were better able to identify the U.S. population than many young U.S. citizens. Here's the National Geographic article. [My life in the bush of ghosts]
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The United States is reportedly becoming less a nation of readers. It is no secret that millions of students, including high school graduates, do not learn to read above a minimum level. The average American learns about the news from viewing television rather reading print media. Even many teachers read little. [Library Stuff]

Well, at least the United States is becoming better surveilled: Karlin Lillington writes: "[T]he shocking attempt to wrest away everyone's privacy in the name of national safety continues. Do you believe this will only be used against 'terror and espionage suspects'? The US government is sounding and acting far more paranoid these days than in the ultra-paranoid years of Nixon and the Vietnam War. Secret U.S. court OKs electronic spying. A secretive federal court grants police broad authority to monitor Internet usage, record keystrokes and employ other surveillance methods against terror and espionage suspects." Read more... [techno\culture]
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Speaking of damaged books: From time to time, I will be showing you books from the vault of Dr Heim. He is one of the librarians at VU library in charge of old books, and sometimes a particularly damaged book emerges from our stacks. Today's example is pretty extreme:

Damaged book

First I thought that the missing portion of this book had been eaten by some animal. Not so. Turns out that the damage stems from having been shot at. No, not by a law-abiding American citizen celebrating National Ammo Day; most likely this damage was sustained during World War II, when, to avoid bomb damage, the library's books were packed in wooden chests and transported to somewhere in Lower Austria. The library was not bombed, instead many books were lost or damaged during transport. I have no idea whether this one was hit by a stray bullet or used for target practice, but the damage sure is impressive.

PS.: VU library is looking for a sponsor to help us repair this and other damaged books. Contact information can be found on this page.
posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

The Chesterton Tribune reports that library books are not getting the respect they deserve from patrons: Dropped in the bathtub? Chewed by a dog? Westchester Public Library Board members expressed surprise Thursday over the number of damaged books being returned by patrons. Said WPL assistant director Jane Walsh Brown, "I am utterly amazed by the damaged books. I have about 25 books every two weeks." Although some can be repaired, others can not. [Library Stuff]
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As my web art project AYEO is still nowhere near completion, I have now filled the void on my webart page and put one of my photographic pieces from earlier this year online instead: I'm not happy (577K animated GIF, may take a while to download).

(It's just the title of this piece, by the way, no statement about how I feel at the moment.)
posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

Interesting news on how the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other health agencies are changing their tune on AIDS-prevention, at the behest of the White House. Instead of promoting condom use, they're asking people to abstain until marriage, and then be monogamous:
The only 100 percent effective way to avoid nonmarital pregnancy and STD infection is to avoid sexual activity outside a mutually faithful, lifelong relationship - marriage," says the Texas-based Medical Institute for Sexual Health. The group's founder, Dr. Joe S. McIlhaney, Jr., now sits on the presidential AIDS panel.
Do I get this right - the best way not to get children outside marriage is to get married? Duh. Seems like these people a couple of Protestants are trying to be more Catholic than the Pope. [via Boing Boing Blog]
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My colleague Markus became a father a few days ago, Steven became a father yesterday, and Risto will be a father anytime soon. Congrats to them all, and may their children live long and prosper.
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The penultimate part of the series... the grand finale is due tomorrow.

The 1 euro coin

1 euro coinThe 1 euro coin has a diameter of 23.25 mm, is 2.33 mm thick and weighs 7.5 grams, and is thus slightly smaller and lighter than the 50 cent coin. However, due to its different colour, it should be easily discernible.

The 1 and 2 euro coins spawned quite a controversy due to their nickel content. Many people are allergic to nickel, and for some obscure reason it seemed that people were more allergic to the new euro coins than to the old German coins, which actually contained more nickel. Then it turned out that this was possibly due to the fact that two different alloys are used in the coins; if you add sweat, which is slightly acidic, you get a kind of battery effect between the two alloys, which releases more of the nickel than coins made of just one alloy would release. The coins are therefore universally hated by allergics all over Europe.

National sides of 1 euro coin
The national sides of the 1 euro coin, left to right:
Belgium (King Albert II*), Germany (federal eagle), Greece (ancient Athenian 4-drachma coin), Spain (King Juan Carlos I), France (symbolic tree), Ireland (harp*), Italy (Leonardo da Vinci's Vitruvian Man), Luxembourg (Grand Duke Henri), Netherlands (Queen Beatrix), Austria (W. A. Mozart), Portugal (old royal seal), Finland (swans flying over a Finnish lake).
* indicates that the motif is the same as on the 50 cent coin.

A summary of all eight parts of this series can be found on this page.
posted by Horst URL | Comments? []



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Tuesday, November 19, 2002

Volker Weber: "Spam is getting worse every day. I think the noise level in my main inbox is now higher than 50%." [vowe dot net]. I agree: Thanks to the advances of technology and the spam filter of Apple's Mail.app, I am now only getting about as much spam as a year ago. However, with advances in spam technology, I fear that in a year or so at the latest I'll be back to normal.

Slashdot reports that Slate.com has an interesting article on how spam may be killing email as we know it. With the increase of spam, the argument is made that more users will switch from blacklisting spammers to 'whitelisting' specific, trusted addresses, making email more like instant messaging: if you're not on someone's 'buddy list,' you have to prove you're an actual person (e.g. identify a word in an image) to send a message. [Slashdot via Privacy Digest]
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How do you notice you're getting old? Well, for example, you realise that you own thirty-six of Pitchfork's Top 100 albums of the 1980s [found via Greengrl]. How do you notice you got old in style? Well, at least they're supposed to be thirty-six of the Top 100 albums of the 1980s.

(If anyone's interested, I own number 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 13, 14, 17, 21, 22, 23, 26, 30, 31, 32, 33, 36, 39, 42, 48, 57, 58, 60, 62, 68, 70, 76, 77, 80, 81, 82, 93, 94 and 98. Says something about my musical tastes back then, I suppose. I still like many of them, by the way.)
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If I am to believe weblogs, many people must have spent last night on the roof or in the desert to watch the Leonid meteor showers, apparently a once-in-a-century experience. Anyway, the sky in Vienna was so overcast you couldn't even see the moon. I went to bed early and had a good night's sleep.

Yes, I was disappointed.
[links via Scott Rosenberg]
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Oh my God... I must be a cyborg! How else could this accurate description of what I seem to be doing much of the time be explained:

Humanoid Optimized for Repair and Scientific Troubleshooting

Find out what your name acronym would stand for if you were a cyborg... [via techno\culture]
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It's National Ammo Day: "Celebrate the Second Amendment by buying an extra 100 rounds of ammunition on November 19th. Great for hunting, self-defense, target practice and annoying the anti-gun lobbyists."
There are an estimated 75 MILLION gun owners in the United States of America. If each gun owner or Second Amendment supporter buys 100 rounds of ammunition, that's 7.5 BILLION rounds in the hands of law-abiding citizens!
...
Imagine the power of that message... we can say to our fellow citizens that there are BILLIONS of rounds of ammunition in the hands of law-abiding citizens. Take THAT Gun-Grabbers and Million Mommies! We'll celebrate A BILLION ROUNDS.
Spooky. [found this by accident via a spelling mistake in a Google search]
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Part 6 of this series brings you the last of the eurocent coins. Tomorrow we'll continue with the 1 Euro coin.

The 50 cent coin

50 cent coinThe 50 cent coin can also easily be distingished from the 10 or 20 cent coin: its diameter is 24.25 mm, which makes it noticeably larger than the 20 cent coin, unlike which it is round again. At 2.38 mm it is noticeably thicker, and with a weight of 7.8 grams it is quite heavy. A few of these will substantially weigh down your wallet.

I checked for items that a 50 cent will buy you, but contrary to my expectations, I didn't find much. In some railway stations in the Vienna area, there are vending machines that will sell you chocolates (like KitKat bars) or other small sweets if you feed them 50 cents. You can make a 1-minute phone call from a public phone to someone with a cell phone or a 3-minute regular phone call, and at the D'più discount supermarket you get a box of raw pasta, but I'm afraid that's about it.

National sides of 50 cent coin
The national sides of the 50 cent coin, left to right:
Belgium (King Albert II*), Germany (Brandenburg Gate in Berlin*), Greece (Eleftherios Venizelos), Spain (Cervantes*), France (sower*), Ireland (harp*), Italy (Michelangelo's Campidoglio square with statue of Marcus Aurelius), Luxembourg (Grand Duke Henri*), Netherlands (Queen Beatrix*), Austria (Secession building in Vienna), Portugal (old royal seal*), Finland (heraldic lion*).
* indicates that the motif is the same as on the 20 cent coin.

A summary of all eight parts of this series can be found on this page.
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I sometimes wonder about human nature... you know, the good, the bad, that sort of thing. I usually start getting into this kind of mood when I see children or weirdos, and I'm always amazed at how dangerous, deeply antisocial and/or threatening they can be. I am slowly coming to the conclusion that civilisation is a mere construct to keep this darkness, which is hidden in the human soul, somewhat under control.

For example, yesterday, on the bus, there was this man in his fifties who looked normal enough, but once the bus had started moving, he first started mumbling something to himself, then he shouted: "Das werden ihr büßen... das werdet ihr büßen... mit dem Tode!" ("You will pay for this... with your life!"). He then went quiet again, only to shout a few minutes later: "Ich lasse euch allen den Kopf abschlagen!" ("I will have you all beheaded"). It was, as you can imagine, not a very pleasant bus ride.

However, more or less weirdos always say that sort of thing, like threats or doomsday. Makes you wonder sometimes if that stuff isn't hidden inside yourself, too, but just doesn't come out. Scary thought.
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Monday, November 18, 2002

Die Blumen des Bösen

If you understand German and like Baudelaire, this is surely the flower shop of your choice.
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So librarianship is described as being a "great job", huh? Then why does this librarian give this piece of advice to other people: "Listen to your heart and do what it tells you to do, no matter how scary it seems." So you have to tell people it's a great job because being a librarian is so scary? Just how scary does it seem to be then? That's what I'd really like to know. [found via librarian.net]
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I had my first OS X crash yesterday. It was slightly reminiscent of the "bomb" crashes in earlier versions of the Mac OS. Suddenly, the computer froze and a white window appeared in the middle of the screen. It had no bomb on it, and it didn't mention the words "system error", but it said in four languages: "Your computer needs to be restarted. Press the power button on your computer for a few seconds." As the computer wouldn't respond to anything else, that's what I did. Lo and behold, the computer restarted.

And I had thought that system errors of that kind were not supposed to exist in OS X. As for what caused the crash, I have no idea. The only two applications I had running when the crash occurred were Mozilla and Radio UserLand. Go figure.
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I have added a Who's Who on the Euro Coins to my overview of the Euro currency. New names are added every day as the faces appear on newly-added coins. So that you know who these people are.
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Anubis
Read more... [via The Presurfer]
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Bran: "Why do toasters always have a setting that burns toast to a horrible crisp no one would ever eat?..." [how now Ophelia?]

Ah, at last an opportunity presents itself to finally post my comments on burnt toast, which I promised many months ago, but somehow never managed to write.

You see, I like the smell of burnt toast in the morning. Not the smell of toast that has been transformed into a black, smoking lump of coal, but the smell of toast that has been toasted, well, slightly beyond edibility. It's a smell that you barely ever get in Austria, because nobody here ever eats toast, and barely anyone actually has a toaster.

I think my liking for the smell of burnt toast goes back to the time when I was living in Scotland as an exchange student and the smell of slightly burnt toast was ever-present in our student residence. I remember once waking up in the morning from the sound of one of my flatmates scraping the soot off his burnt toast with a knife. Imagine my surprise when somebody moved into our house a few months ago who actually has a toaster and, by the smell of it, likes their toast well-done. Pure bliss, I tell you.

And that is probably why toasters have this setting, to please perverts like myself who actually like the smell of over-toasted toast. Mind you, I only find the smell of burnt toast pleasant in the morning, and the weather has to be slightly coldish and wet, as it was back then in Scotland. I must have been conditioned.
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Part five of an eight-part series:

The 20 cent coin

20 cent coinThe 20 cent coin can easily be distingished from the 10 cent coin: with a diameter of 22.75 mm it s noticeably larger, with a thickness of 2.14 mm it is noticeably thicker, and with a weight of 5.74 grams it is also noticeably heavier. In addition to this, it is the only Euro coin that is not round, but has the so-called "Spanish flower" shape. It's the second of three coins to be made from Nordic gold (see entry on 10 cent coin for details).

What can you get for a 20 cent coin? In Austria, 20 cents is the minimum you have to pay to make a call from a public telephone. It's also what it costs now to weigh yourself at one of the public scales that you can find all over Vienna. Theoretically, the denomination is a great concept to reduce clutter in your wallet, but this was thwarted because many vending machines, most notably those for public transport tickets, refused to accept 20 cent coins. Some of them have now been reprogrammed to accept them after consumers protested; some still don't.

National sides of 20 cent coin
The national sides of the 20 cent coin, left to right:
Belgium (King Albert II*), Germany (Brandenburg Gate in Berlin*), Greece (Ioannis Capodistrias), Spain (Cervantes*), France (sower*), Ireland (harp*), Italy (sculpture by Umberto Boccioni), Luxembourg (Grand Duke Henri*), Netherlands (Queen Beatrix*), Austria (Belvedere Palace in Vienna), Portugal (old royal seal*), Finland (heraldic lion*).
* indicates that the motif is the same as on the 10 cent coin.

A summary of all eight parts of this series can be found on this page.
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Bran: "vroom! vroooom!. please visit this site. please. download the video. do it for the children...." [how now Ophelia?]
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Sunday, November 17, 2002

Myra Hindley
"That Medusa-like snap-snot, taken in 1966, with her peroxide hair swept up and back and a fixed, almost defiant, look in her eyes, became one of the icons of crime in the latter part of the 20th century." [The Guardian]
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We seriously need traffic signs like this here in Vienna, too. After all, we do have the second-largest tramway network in Western Europe.
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Coin number four - four more to come...

The 10 cent coin

10 cent coinThe 10 cent coin has a diameter of 19.75 mm, is 1.93 mm thick and weighs 4.10 grams. It's smaller than the 5 cent coin, but easily discernible as it has a totally different colour. It is the first of three coins to be made from so-called "Nordic gold", which isn't gold at all of course, but an alloy consisting of copper, aluminium, zinc and tin.

10 cents won't buy you much. You can get a piece of liquorice or fruit gum at a sweet shop, but that's about it. People here in Austria still have to get used to the fact that they're actually worth much more than the 1 Schilling coin they are kind of replacing - I find that many people spend their cents too easily, perhaps confusing them with our former Groschen coins. It's worse in Greece, where people were so used to high figures in prices that they aren't taking cent coins seriously and the government is now planning to start a campaign telling people to take better care of their cent coins to lower the risk of inflation.

National sides of 10 cent coin
The national sides of the 10 cent coin, left to right:
Belgium (King Albert II*), Germany (Brandenburg Gate in Berlin), Greece (Rigas Velestinlis), Spain (Cervantes), France (sower), Ireland (harp*), Italy (Botticelli's Venus), Luxembourg (Grand Duke Henri), Netherlands (Queen Beatrix*), Austria (Saint Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna), Portugal (old royal seal), Finland (heraldic lion*).
* indicates that the motif is the same as on the 5 cent coin.

A summary of all eight parts of this series can be found on this page.
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Saturday, November 16, 2002

Job
After I made my way through the masses at the Vienna Christmas market today (see entry below), I attended an event at the book fair, in which René Freund read from his latest book. The reading was funny, and I talked with him briefly afterwards. Turns out that the story about him losing his job at the Wiener Zeitung because he was writing a satire about the newspaper's doors is true, and the decision hasn't been reversed (as was hoped).

He said there wasn't much hope of him getting back his job unless the managing director, who fired him (and who has a contract until the year 2008), were to leave; and he also has no idea why he was fired - actually none of the journalists at the paper has the faintest idea what he did to deserve the wrath of the managing director. After all, it was just a satire about doors (and a hilariously funny one at that). On the other hand, I also never knew why one professor at the VU English department hated me so much that he felt it necessary to thwart my career at university several times. It was a personal thing, I guess.
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In response to my series describing the Euro coins, Niek Hockx gives his two cents about the Euro currency:
I resent it! Big time! And I'm certainly not the only one, who does in Holland or in the other Euro countries! It's not even about the fact, that the Euro has made everything more expensive in Holland. ... [W]hat troubles me most is the fact that the Euro is the biggest undemocratic scam of the century. ... I don't know how things did go about in the other Euro countries, but in Holland people never had any democratic say in the matter. The Euro was forced upon us by the banks and the government and is unpopular with most Dutchmen. [shutterclog]
Well, in Austria the story was somewhat different. We joined the EU rather late, and there was a referendum in 1995, in which a whopping 66% voted to join. Now that wasn't strictly about the Euro currency, but the whole Euro thing was part of the deal, and anybody who cared to inform themselves at the time certainly knew what they were voting for. Those who didn't, well, they're not really in a position to complain now, are they? But I agree that many other states didn't give their citizens the possibility to decide.

At any rate, despite the fact that everything got more expensive here, too, the Euro currency itself isn't all that unpopular - people are more angry at the shops/companies who raised the prices than the currency. Yes, the Schilling was more popular, but according to a recent poll, most people here still think the Euro currency is a good idea, even though the current debate about Euro stability criteria isn't helping much.
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Perhaps I should explain the concept of föhn, which I mentioned in my previous article. Föhn is a kind of wind that is typical for the eastern Alpine region (i.e. Austria). It's also a warm wind that can raise temperatures by 15 degrees or more over night. It's a nightmare for people who are sensitive to weather or have circulatory problems. Usually it's a matter of one or two days, but we've been experiencing a pretty strong spell of föhn for four days now; everybody feels the weather is completely mad.

Föhn can also cause pretty strong storms, and there's been much damage all over Austria caused by strong winds, especially in Salzburg province. In Vienna, the temperature merely rose from 0°C to about 20°C and everybody's pretty cranky from headaches and sleep problems. After what we've been through weather-wise this year, I'd say the weather gods seem to pretty mad at us. I wonder why (no, I don't).
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I had one of my more absurd experiences this year when I tried to get into the Vienna city hall, where there's currently a book fair and readings by various authors. In trying to get there, I found out that the big Vienna Christmas market in front of the city hall had already started (it opened today, actually).

Never mind that it's the 16th of November, and Christmas is over six weeks away. Never mind that we're currently experiencing a wave of föhn that has raised temperatures from about 0°C to 20°C. Never mind that it takes some serious meditative technique to get yourself in a Christmas mood. Never mind that the Vienna Christmas market is selling mostly kitsch, plastic toys and bad food. The people at the stalls were happily selling hot chestnuts and mulled wine, despite the fact that it's much too warm for this kind of thing, some brass band was blaring Christmas tunes, and millions of people and their millions of children were pretty much everywhere in the square in front of the city hall and the park to the left and right of the square, just as if they had been waiting for this all year.

As I tried to make my way through the masses of people in the park, I stared at the Christmas decoration they had hung in the trees to get peopke into Christmas mood. One I found particularly interesting: there were about fifty Santa Clauses hanging from the branches of one tree. Obviously they had all committed suicide because they just couldn't stand all of this any longer.
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Part three of an ongoing series...

The 5 cent coin

5 cent coinThe 5 cent coin has a diameter of 21.25 mm and weighs 3.92 grams. Even though its thickness is the same as that of the 1 and 2 cent coins (1.67 mm), it is noticeably larger than both and easily discernible (even though, again, it helps if you're living in Austria, Greece or Italy, where there's a different motif on the back of the coin). It is also the first coin with which you can actually buy something - small things, agreed, like one single Haribo Happy Cola bottle, but hey, it's a start.

The 1, 2 and 5 cent coins are made of copper-covered steel, which tends to oxidise and scratch quickly. As a result, these coins look pretty ugly once they've been in circulation for a while, and people collecting euro coins have a tough time finding some which are in good condition. Still, while the 5 cent coin is remotely useful, part of the reason why they're not too popular is that they always seem to look as if they've already travelled through thousands of dirty hands (which they probably have).

National sides of 5 cent coin
The national sides of the 5 cent coin, left to right:
Belgium (King Albert II*), Germany (oak twig*), Greece (modern tanker vessel), Spain (Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela*), France (Marianne*), Ireland (harp*), Italy (Coliseum in Rome), Luxembourg (Grand Duke Henri*), Netherlands (Queen Beatrix*), Austria (primula), Portugal (old royal seal*), Finland (heraldic lion*).
* indicates that the motif is the same as on the 2 cent coin.

A summary of all eight parts of this series can be found on this page.
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There's a bug in Apple Mail that eats all your sent mails and drafts if you change the name of an account.
Yes, I learned this the hard way. :-(
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Continuing where he left off yesterday, Adam Curry today has a link to a website that covers the history of Michael Jackson's face. Makes you wonder what strange psychological condition possesses this man. I mean, if he was ugly to start with, I'd understand, but on the contrary, he started out pretty good-looking and it's gone downhill since then.
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Friday, November 15, 2002

Mickey Mouse frescoAustria is back in the international news for this wacky bit of art history: A 700-year-old fresco has been found during restoration work on a church in the Austrian province of Carinthia that shows a figure with round ears and pointed nose that one art historian today said bore a striking resemblance to Mickey Mouse.

"Now it's all clear", one local hotel owner said jokingly, "it wasn't Walt Disney who invented Mickey Mouse, but one of our ancestors 700 years ago." The local tourist bureau speculated the village could become a pilgrimage site for Mickey fans around the world.

Link to story on Austrian TV website (in German) | Link to story in English
[thanks to Greengrl]
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The Guardian has a story about a survey to determine the greatest number 2 hits in pop music, and by whom they were beaten. Turns out many songs now considered classics were kept from the top spot by decidedly less timeless tunes. The Beatles' final single, Let It Be, won the survey, being named the greatest chart-topper that never was. [Guardian Unlimited]
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Adam Curry has a link to a picture of Michael Jackson that is so scary I won't post it on my weblog. Click the link at your own risk.
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John Robb: "Bill Clinton. Flawed man that he is. Has a great message (real media). Zoom to about 18 minutes in to get to Bill's speech. This is a relatively intellectual speech given his academic audience. The concepts are complex, but entirely correct. This isn't the BS we are currently getting, nor is it normal political pablum. I, frankly, don't know how he pulled it off. Brilliant." [John Robb's Radio Weblog]

Watch this speech (RealPlayer required). It's longish (about 40 minutes speech plus 40 minutes Q&A), but worth every minute. I never thought I'd say this, but I can subscribe to pretty much everything he says. Brilliant indeed.
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My series explaining all the different Euro coins for the benefit of Meg Hourihan continues:

The 2 cent coin

2 cent coinWith a diameter of 18.75 mm, the 2 cent coin is only marginally larger than the 1 cent coin, its thickness (1.67 mm) is identical, and the weight difference (3.06 grams) is barely noticeable. That should pretty much summarize the problems that people have with this coin: if you don't take a close look, it's virtually indistinguishable from the 1 cent coin - unless you're living in Austria, Greece or Italy, where there's at least a different motif on the reverse side of the coin.

Also, in all countries except Germany people weren't really used to the concept of a 2-value coin of such small denomination, so most people thought it just adds to the clutter in your wallet (even though it actually reduces it). Again, like the 1 cent coin, the 2 cent coin is not in circulation in Finland, and only rarely used in the touristy areas of Greece and Italy.

National sides of 2 cent coin
The national sides of the 2 cent coin, left to right:
Belgium (King Albert II*), Germany (oak twig*), Greece (caravelle), Spain (Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela*), France (Marianne*), Ireland (harp*), Italy (Mole Antonelliana), Luxembourg (Grand Duke Henri*), Netherlands (Queen Beatrix*), Austria (edelweiss), Portugal (old royal seal*), Finland (heraldic lion*).
* indicates that the motif is the same as on the 1 cent coin.


A summary of all eight parts of this series can be found on this page.
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Sheesh, these people really need some help: It's been Austrian Book Week since Tuesday, and it's been so badly publicised that even I didn't notice. Well, not all is lost, I guess, there's still three days to go. Possible highlights in Vienna include Hans Henning Scharsach on the European rightwing movements and Adolf Holl on women's role in the Catholic church today, Christian Ude and René Freund tomorrow, and Karl Ferdinand Kratzl on Sunday. The full schedule can be found at http://www.buchwoche.at/
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Thursday, November 14, 2002

PowerMac G4 vs. Draken

In the picture above on the left, you can see the current model of the Apple PowerMac G4, like the one that I bought recently. In the picture above on the right you can see the Austrian army's Draken fighter jets - yes, the kind that recently intercepted an American stealth bomber that had violated Austrian airspace.

Anyway, here's the question: which of the two makes less noise? Common sense would dictate that the Draken jet is louder, but I assure you that once you've spent a couple of hours together with a new PowerMac G4 in an otherwise fairly quiet room, you're not so sure about that any longer. A few weeks ago I had laughed off a friend's remark that, if the G4's fourth fan kicked in, it sounded "like a Draken jet during take-off." Fact is, I'm not laughing anymore.

What on earth possessed Apple to install fans that generate this much noise? Even with the fourth fan off, it's much louder than any computer I've ever heard. Surely there must be companies that manufacture fans that make less noise (there are, actually. Seems Apple just used cheapo fans to save money). I'm positive that at some point I'll probably follow these instructions to replace the fans in my computer (and void my warranty in the process - ack!) just to get some peace and quiet. This is so ridiculous.
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I guess after my previous coverage of alternative Barbie dolls [1] [2], I have no other choice than to forward this news item:

In the Barbie "I Can Be" series, which was created by Mattel to "encourage young girls to explore a wide variety of career possibilities," Mattel is now taking a poll on what new career they should give their Barbie doll after she's become an art teacher and a doctor. The options are librarian, architect and policewoman.

Librarian is clearly ahead in the poll. I just hope they give her a decent haircut.

You can vote at http://www.barbie.com/parents/products/products_icanbe2.asp [from the HaSafran mailing list, forwarded by Monika].
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With parliamentary elections only 10 days away, Austrian television is currently broadcasting so-called "political duels" about twice a week, in which the main candidates of the various parties discuss verious issues. Today we will be witnessing the most pointless of these debates. It is the debate between the leaders of the two strongest parties, the Social Democrats' Alfred Gusenbauer and the Conservatives' Wolfgang Schüssel.

Why do I call it pointless, you ask, if it's obviously the most interesting debate between the two strongest parties? Well, it may have a certain entertainment value, but please, if there are still people who don't know for which of the two they should cast their vote, they're having a serious problem.

Political compass of the Austrian parties - click to enlargeUnlike a couple of years ago, the views of the two parties on practically everything are now diametrically opposed. For the fun of it, I fed the Austrian parties' stance on various issues into the Political Compass, and you can see the results on the right (click to enlarge - you may have to read the analysis first to understand the concept). As it happens, choosing between the two parties is a bit like choosing between becoming a monk or an atheist: it should be pretty obvious which of the two suits you better.

So what'll happen today is that hundreds of thousands of Austrians will be watching this debate, and not so few of them will cast their vote according to which of the two sweated less or didn't stutter. I wonder how many actually care in which direction they might be taking us. Those who do are probably not watching, because they don't have to.

I've also written a commentary in German on this issue, which you can find on this page.
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PigeonThe third (and so far final) part of Bettina's story about the pigeons in her backyard is now translated and online. Things take a sudden turn when a strange black creature comes out from its hiding place behind the mint bush. Will it be able to solve Bettina's pigeon problem? Read more...
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A power cut that lasted over two hours took down my computer and prevented me from doing basically anything - it's amazing how dependent we've become on electricity. Half the street was in darkness, some of the shops closed, and the coffeeshop across the street lit candles everywhere. Funny though, that, apparently at random, some houses in our street had electicity. There seemed to be no real pattern to it, I think not even the men from the power company knew exactly what to do; they were hunched over diagrams and seems pretty clueless. After scratching their heads for thirty minutes, they drove off. Twenty minutes later the power came back.
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Meg Hourihan recently moved to Paris (ah, Paris!) and recently wrote in her weblog about her inability to handle the Euro currency:
I am in a blind panic. My wallet is filled with ten pounds of strange change I cannot distinguish.
No need to panic. Starting today, I will explain all the coins of the Euro currency to the readers of my weblog so that they will be spared this kind of panic if they find themselves in a similar situation. So here we go:

The 1 cent coin

1 cent coinWith a diameter 16.25 mm, a thickness of 1.67 mm and a weight of 2.30 grams, this coin is minuscule and thus easily recognisable - it's simply the smallest coin you'll find in your wallet.

It is of minimal value and seems to be reproducing in your wallet (usually, you have lots of them) and is therefore universally hated by consumers all over Europe. In Austria, it replaces the equally despised 10 Groschen coin, which was worth even less (1 cent = 14 Groschen). The Finns are luckier: in Finland, the 1 cent coin is not in circulation, and several southern countries, most notably Greece and parts of Italy, also don't tend to use it much. In Austria and Germany it's highly appreciated by shopkeepers, because it allows them to end their prices in .x9, which is supposedly good for business as it makes goods look cheaper than they actually are.

National sides of 1 cent coin
The national sides of the 1 cent coin, left to right:
Belgium (King Albert II), Germany (oak twig), Greece (Athenian trireme), Spain (Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela), France (Marianne), Ireland (harp), Italy (Castel del Monte), Luxembourg (Grand Duke Henri), Netherlands (Queen Beatrix), Austria (gentian), Portugal (old royal seal), Finland (heraldic lion).


A summary of all eight parts of this series can be found on this page.
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Today, I found a pretty banal reason to stop writing a weblog [via Wis[s]e Words]. I don't get some of these people: their weblog reads as if they're driven by an irresistible urge and irrepressible idealism to change the world and then they give up because their pop-up ads stop working? So money is stronger than idealism after all, huh? Personally, I can only frown at people who think they're so important that they need to get paid for their two cents' worth of opinion (find my own stance about this here).

Update: No need to worry about Bill Quick after all. He resumed his weblog after only 7 hours.
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Wednesday, November 13, 2002

I completely stopped using Sherlock since I upgraded to Mac OS X 10.2 over a month ago. Thing is, it's basically useless. The Internet search channel includes neither Google nor AllTheWeb and also cannot be extended to accommodate these search engines, because Sherlock 3 no longer supports third-party plugins. All the other channels are basically useless outside the USA, because none of them has been successfully localized for any European country, and I think I can safely assume that even if there's a German localisation some day, they'll never be localized for Austria.

So basically, with the latest OS update, Sherlock has turned from a useful tool that I used all the time to mere ballast on my hard drive. There may be some slight hope now that Apple has released the Sherlock Channel Developer Kit; but I guess if I want Austrian channels I'll have to develop them myself. Sigh.
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Optical illusion - click on the picture for the full effect
Eeeeek! And there's more where this came from. [via Der Schockwellenreiter]
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Today, both Wired and CNN have stories about the Internet filtering debate at public libraries: In the USA, those for and against a law requiring public libraries to screen out pornography from their Internet terminals are gearing up for a new battle before the Supreme Court.

As a European, I somehow fail to see the point behind this debate. It seems that European notions of free speech, decency and sexuality are very different from American ones. Here, each library is taking its own measures to assure that computers are not used for non-library-related matters, and no-one feels the need for a law to regulate what a library must or must not do. Maybe we're also being less paranoid about what our computers are used for. Spot checks have confirmed that the amount of pornography accessed via our computers is minimal.
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I've had it with all those pointless studies that prove that drinking one glass of something or eating one piece of something else per day willextend/shorten your life. This is just so ridiculous. For years we've been told that one glass of wine per day can prevent coronary diseases. Now a new study tells us that while that may be true, it also increases a woman's chances of developing breast cancer by around 6%. [Guardian Unlimited]

Can we please stop this nonsense once and for all? For example, there is also some proof that driving a car for one additional hour per day severely increases my risk of getting involved in a car accident. It's so bleeding obvious that just about everything we eat or drink has some positive as well as some negative potential. After all, there simply is no kind of food that nature designed specifically to extend human life expectancy. Heck, for all I know nature couldn't care less if the human race became extinct tomorrow. It might actually be an improvement.

So all you people out there, I have some grim news for you: You're all going to die someday. Obsessing over how to expand your life for a few days or months only takes the fun out of living. Instead I suggest that you concentrate on how to live the little time that you have to the fullest. I had a close spell with death once, and when I left hospital I asked one of the doctors what I should do now. He said, "Relax. Take things easy. Avoid stress. Have fun. Don't think about not getting sick, think about living. That's the best thing to keep you healthy."
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The Wall Street Journal has a story on the economics of junk email: A self-described "spam queen" talks about not just the millions of emails she spews, but what it costs per mailing ($250 for 500k emails), what the response rates are (1-2 one-thousandths percent) and what she actually makes. (40% of each sale of one product: anti-spam software). [Slashdot]
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Map of Bregenz and Brest-Litowsk relative to one anotherIn the editorial of this week's edition of the weekly magazine Falter, Klaus Nüchtern calls finance minister Karl Heinz Grasser (see yesterday's story) the "most handsome finance minister between Bregenz and Brest-Litowsk" (actually, he uses the word "adrett," which translates somewhat poorly). For all of my readers who are not too familiar with the geography of Central and Eastern Europe, I've posted a map of said area with the cities of Bregenz and Brest-Litowsk highlighted.

To coincide with my brief article on Grasser yesterday, Falter today published a considerably longer article (in German) about Grasser's amazing popularity and his failure as finance minister.
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My bad computer karma apparently isn't gone yet: for some reason or other, one partition on a hard drive which I use for archiving went dead yesterday. It worked fine when I disconnected it in the morning, and when I reconnected it later, it wouldn't mount and none of my disk repair programs (not even DiskWarrior, which usually fixes everything) could repair it. I remember thinking "I really should make a backup of this drive real soon" when I disconnected it. Well, turns out I should have made it right there and then. (I do have an older backup of about 75% of the disk's contents, but the most recent files seem to be lost.)

The issue seems connected with the SCSI card on my new G4, because basically all of my SCSI hard drives report problems when connected to it under Mac OS Classic. As these error messages seemed to occur constantly while the disks were apparently working okay, I hadn't taken them seriously. Obviously I should have. This is disquieting, as a minor catastrophe involving all my SCSI drives seems looming somewhere. I have disconnected all SCSI drives from my G4 for the time being.
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you have an ominosity quotient of

six.

you are really ominous.

find out your ominosity quotient.
Just another reason why we need the Internet. [via The Presurfer]
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Tuesday, November 12, 2002

PigeonI have now finished translating Bettina's second letter about the pigeons in her backyard and her futile attempts to get the pigeon menace under control. Now it seems she's getting help from a mentally disturbed woman who's living upstairs. Read more...
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Karl Heinz GrasserThis man, Karl Heinz Grasser, current minister of finances and member of Jörg Haider's right-wing Freedom Party, is at the moment Austria's most popular politician. Why he would be so popular remains a mystery. When he took office three years ago, he proclaimed that his aim was to reduce the state's budget deficit to zero. Which he achieved in 2001 by selling most of the profitable state-owned companies and raising tax levels to an unprecedented record level. He was also the driving force behind the highly unpopular decision to buy Eurofighter jets for the Austrian army, even though Swedish or American jets would have been available at a lower price. His plans to keep the budget deficit at zero for 2002 failed, because the high taxes, reduced public spending and global economic problems brought the Austrian economy to a standstill; there were no more companies to sell, and he did not dare to raise taxes further. The deficit is now estimated above the figures before he took office.

Still, he is Austria's most popular politician. He has been called "every mother's favourite son-in-law". He is, in fact, so popular that Austrian Conservative Party leader Wolfgang Schüssel asked Grasser to step in as finance minister even if there was no more conservative/right-wing coalition government after the upcoming elections. Today, it became known that Grasser accepted Schüssel's offer; apparently he is ready to put his Freedom Party membership on hold. Current Freedom Party leader Haupt said he "regretted" Grasser's decision.

Please witness the sheer absurdity of what is going on: during the election campaign, the leader of one party asks one of the most popular members of another party, with which he is directly competing for votes, to join his team, and the other one accepts! If you needed any proof for chancellor Schüssel's remarkable, truly Macchiavellian gift for power or the complete disarray of the Freedom Party, this is it, I guess. You can't go much further.
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Apparently Trinity College Dublin is considering taking legal action against LucasFilm for allegedly basing the Jedi Archive in Return of the Clones on TCD's famous Long Room in the Old Library, a much-photographed 17th century library in one of the oldest buildings on campus. TCD owns the copyright on commercial uses of the image -- what that means in terms of re-imagining it in another futuristic century remains to be seen...

Jedi Archive - resembles Trinity library vs The Long Room
[techno\culture]
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Jake Savin of UserLand wrote this morning to say that all the things that I'd told Dave Winer that broke HTML 4 compliance in Radio UserLand-generated weblogs (ampersands in URLs, missing ALT attributes, the BRODER issue) have now been fixed. This is very good news. Update Radio.root to get the fixes. Existing users may have to manually enter ALT attributes in the Customized images prefs page, but new users will have these filled in by default.
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Library comic
Read on... [via librarian.net]
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It's my dad's birthday. He's 65 today. Congrats Dad, you're the greatest.
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John: "On many occasions, I've heard someone say, 'If you don't love the United States of America, then get the hell out.' I did."
Pretty good Switch spoof about a guy who switched to Canada (7.8 MB Quicktime). I wonder how serious he is about this. His home page would indicate he is. [via Boing Boing Blog]
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Monday, November 11, 2002

Today for the first time I consciously refused to buy a CD that I would have bought if it hadn't been copy-protected: Björk, Greatest Hits.

Also noticed today that in a wave of recent Rolling Stones CD reissues the UK edition of 'Aftermath', which is ever so much better than the American edition, is finally available again on CD after being out of print for what must have been seven years or so. This is a must-buy if you don't have it already.

In related news, Adam Curry reports that security guards at Rolling Stones concerts are ordering people to hang up their cellphones and stop "violating copyright" by letting long-distance pals listen in on the show. If you ever needed proof that this copyright thing is really all about greed and paranoia, this is it, I guess.
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After ranting about my problems with Radio UserLand in my previous post, I decided to write a mail to Dave Winer that contained pretty much what I had written here. Just got his reply.

The good news: The BRODER issue is now fixed. Dave: "It was trivial to fix. I will knock some heads about this." Good.

The bad news: Dave thinks that Post-to-the-future and expiring archives are not a good idea. I wrote back to him, arguing my case for both features, and hope to convince him.

The medium news, which explains something about why some things get done and some not: Dave: "One thing I want to mention, is that UserLand does not pay me a salary, so the work I do here is strictly on a voluntary basis. So I am allowed to pick projects that excite or interest me, and I also try to do projects that help the team and help the users." So I guess if anyone is to blame about priorities (which has been an issue among Radio users lately), it's not Dave.

The very good other news: Thanks to recent fixes, my weblog finally mostly validates as HTML 4. That is, except for some of all the links to the Radio comments server, which contain ampersands (&), which is verboten according to HTML specs. I told Dave and hope that'll be fixed, too. Still, I call that a step forward.
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Today, Niek Hockx gives the new Mail-From-Aggregator feature in Radio UserLand (the software I use for managing this weblog) a profound bashing. I quote (serious irony/sarcasm alert):
There it was! Finally! The first Mail-From-Aggregator in my inbox! Whoa! I was so excited now, words can't describe my joy! It's such a delight to be able to read your own news feeds in the News Aggregator and in your email at the same time! It's like having two aggregators for the price of one and they both show the same stuff! Man! I can't imagine how I ever survived without that feature! [shutterclog]
Niek is right. Indeed the point of this new feature is something of a mystery. Obviously you need to have Radio running and connected to the Internet for this to work. But if Radio is running anyway, why have your news item sent to you via e-mail and not just check it in your news aggregator? Even if you're travelling or not at home for another reason, it's still possible to connect to Radio remotely via HTTP. It would only make sense if you have an e-mail client, but no browser installed. I'd call that unlikely.

The only actual use I can think of is to mail the contents of your news aggregator to people other than yourself. But how much demand is there for this? The whole thing looks rather nifty at first, but is actually pretty pointless if you take a closer look. Real nifty things we'd really need in Radio would be, for example,
  • automatically (macro-)generated code should validate as HTML 4; preferably there should be an option to generate it as XHTML-compliant code instead.
  • posting to the future (write and save now, publish later at a scheduled time)
  • an option to have old daily archive pages automatically deleted at a given date to save disk space; weekly or monthly archives should (optionally) remain unaffected.
I'd call feature number 1 an absolute necessity, and I know I would certainly use features number 2 and 3. Somebody please teach the folks at UserLand what "nifty" really means, and let's not let them turn Radio into bloatware à la Microsoft Word, loaded with features that nobody needs.

At least the latest update finally eliminated a feature that had annoyed me ever since I first installes Radio months ago: A NAME tags are now placed properly, so that they no longer mess up your news aggregator, but the old BRODER issue and the missing ALT attributes still remain. Fixing them would be a lot niftier than the Mail-From-Aggregator thing.
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Today, the Guardian has a special report on those pesky little mischief-makers that keep interrupting conversations, always make noise in quiet places and cause people to constantly raise their voices in public: mobile phones.

James Meek looks at How the mobile phone has changed our world (favourite quote: "It used to be that you had to make an effort to overhear other people's conversations. ... Now you have to make an effort not to."), Laura Barton eavesdropped shamelessly round London to find out what we are saying, and Jess Cartner-Morley talks about how your phone became more important than your trainers. And there's more. [Guardian Unlimited]
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Toby Sackton on The New McCarthyism: "What is scary today is how much radical improvements in technology and the embrace of totalitarian secrecy by the Bush administration has changed the balance of power - giving the government secret tools that are devastating to liberty and the rights of free speech and association. The new Homeland security bill will create a vast government department whose primary mission will be to closely monitor the actions of all individuals in the U.S. for signs that may point to terrorism. The powers are sweeping enough to allow even local governments the power to secretly read emails, to arrest people based on their unpopular thoughts as expressed in emails or telephone conversations." [Toby's Political Diary]

Dan Gillmor on a better life for the rich: "Americans have just voted for a cartel economy, whether they realize it or not. They've reinforced the power of a corporate and political elite that serves itself first, and cares little for average people. ... The people in charge today are so arrogant, so self-righteous, so indifferent to the little guy, that they will eventually frighten the vast middle of our political spectrum. Will they have changed America so much when they're done that we can't recover? That's the scary part." [Dan Gillmor's eJournal]
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Sunday, November 10, 2002

After Lingerie Barbie now there's S&M Barbie. Next! [via Boing Boing Blog]
Update: Picture here. [Attu Sees All]
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Squirrels Gone Wild!I always thought squirrels were cute, harmless creatures, mostly chasing after nuts. Not any longer. Davezilla has a number of very disturbing stories today, which lead him to the following conclusion: "There's a war going on. I'm not referring to the impending war against Iraq. Nor am I referring to the battle between Dan and myself. It's the squirrels. They want us dead. I have proof." More... [davezilla.com]
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Interesting news from the copy protection front: BoingBoing reports that Columbia Tristar has taken to shipping high-res "Superbit" DVDs in Europe without Macrovision, the expensive and ineffectual technology used to keep home users from making VHS recordings from their own DVDs. The Macrovision company charges the film companies big bucks for licenses to their technology, which is trivial to circumvent and makes home-theater setups unnecessarily complex. So Columbia-Tristar is forgoing paying for Macrovision licenses for its new Superbit titles and releasing without the copy-prevention technology. More... [Boing Boing Blog]
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According to reports of the Permanent Delegation of Ukraine to UNESCO, hundreds of thousands of books, magazines and newspapers have been heavily damaged by water when pipes of the heating system of the Vernadsky National Library in Kiev broke in the night from 22 to 23 October. Significant parts of the historical collections may be lost if no immediate action is been taken, says the Director of the National Library in a call for help addressed to UNESCO. The library is in urgent need of international help in order to acquire preservation equipment, he says. More... [Relayed upon request of netbib weblog]

Hey, another library aardvark: Asian resources for librarians. The name seems arbitrary, but the content is useful. [netbib weblog]

Jessamyn: "Huh, a marketing campaign to try to erase the negative librarian stereotype. The $102,000 they are spending on it could really raise the salaries of a lot of librarians, maybe that would make them scowl less." [librarian.net]

Hmmm, Harry Potter Symposium for adult fans at Disney World in July 2003. Meanwhile, J. K. Rowling is angry over Tanya Grotter books. [Library Notes/Library Stuff]

Between the Stacks (BTS) - an online community for all information professionals, from librarians to knowledge managers. [Library News]
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PigeonA while ago, in response to my story about pigeons, Bettina, a friend and former colleague of mine, sent me a story describing her own experience with the pigeons in her backyard. Here are all the gory details of how a horde of pigeons first took over Bettina's backyard, and then her life. Read more...
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Friday, November 8, 2002

Tree Book: Tree book from the Wooden Library of AlnarpBooks are not necessarily made of paper: The Wooden Library in Alnarp

The wooden library, or xylothek (from the Greek words for tree, xylon, and storing place, theke) consists of 217 volumes describing 213 different species or varieties of trees and shrubs.

A xylothek is generally speaking a collection of simple pieces of wood specimens placed together in some kind of cupboard. In a refined form it is in the shape of "books" where you can find details from the tree inside, everything arranged as a "library". This latter form flourished in Germany around 1790-1810. Four different manufacturers existed and three of them offered their products for sale. The Alnarp collection is an example of that.

Each "book" describes a certain tree species and is made out of the actual wood (the "covers"). The spine is covered by the bark, where mosses and lichens from the same tree are arranged. "Books" of shrubs are covered with mosses with split branches on both covers and spines. [Craig's BookNotes]
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This Modern World: Profiles in Democratic courage.
Craig W. Jensen: A jingoistic plutocratic oligarchy now controls the US government.
Doc Searls: For every election, there is an equal and opposite erection.
The Guardian: Bush signals a hard swing to the right.
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According to an article in the New Scientist, copy protection on CDs is 'worthless': The technology built into some CDs to stop people copying them is futile, according to a computer scientist who has put today's antipiracy systems under the microscope. He believes the continual software and hardware upgrades issued by the makers of computer CD drives and audio CD players render copy protection systems pointless in the long run [via Slashdot]. So why is the record insdustry still bugging us with this 'worthless' technology? Pure sadism, if you ask me.

On a related note, probably thanks to some copy protection mechanism gone awry, the new Tori Amos CD, which I bought recently, refused to play in my audio CD player, but played just fine in iTunes on my new PowerMac G4. So I extracted the tracks and burned a copy on CD-R, which plays okay on my stereo. I call that perverse.
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John Robb: "Up until this last year, the Republicans didn't have a sufficiently broad-based platform to allow them to consistently win elections.  9/11 changed that.  National Security is now an issue with broad appeal that allows the Republicans to attract the incremental votes needed to win elections consistently. The Republican platform can be summed with the following: Militarism Money Morals." Read more... [John Robb's Radio Weblog]

Axel Boldt: "I grew up in Germany, lived there for 26 years, then moved to the United States in 1992. First I was a graduate student and now I work as a college teacher. There are many stereotypes in Germany about life in the United States. Here I will try to compare these stereotypes to the reality in the US as I perceive it. In this comparison, I will also portray the situation in Germany so that Americans might learn something about my country and Germans have something to criticize." Read more... [Monoklon]
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And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority. [The King James Bible]
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Yesterday, the Reverse Cowgirl wrote an article about me (thanks to Niek for telling me). Well, actually it was more about herself, and she neither mentioned my name nor linked to my website, merely referred to "some fellow's blog wherein he was conducting an interview with himself via a moose puppet" (but that is me - you'll remember the Haldur Gislufsson interview).

Anyway, I feel I've been misunderstood. So I think I need to set a few things straight:

First, I did not say that I'm usure whether the Reverse Cowgirl is a female. I said "for all I know, she might not even be a woman." That's a difference, and I would say that about every person I met on the Internet whom I haven't met in real life yet. I have spent enough time on IRC and in web forums to know that four out of five people who claim to be women are actually biological males. My statement was thus not about the Reverse Cowgirl, but about my non-existent knowledge of her as a person.

Second, I did not say that the Reverse Cowgirl never actually revealed her true self within her blog. Again, I said that it was impossible to tell. I was talking generally about people assuming a certain persona when they are writing weblogs, and how we can't be sure that we really know a person just by reading their weblog. If you've been reading this weblog for a while now, you may think you know me, but can you really be sure? Do you even know my favourite food? Where I was born and grew up? How many brothers and sisters I have? Whether struggles with my siblings have left me with some deep, dark, psychological trauma? Whether I'm straight or gay? How many of the things that I write about actually happened, and which ones I merely invented?

So here comes today's revelation number 12: Yes, I am sometimes making up things in my weblog. Sometimes the truth is just too boring. Heck, even this revelation could be a lie.
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This or That?
  1. Art or science museum?
    Art. Science museums are boring.
  2. Play or watch sports?
    Usually neither. In exceptional cases, play.
  3. Zoo or circus?
    Zoo.
  4. Theater: film or live on stage?
    In theory both, but in practice it's film, because there's ever so much more variation (at least where I live).
  5. Rock concert or the symphony?
    Used to be rock, but that has become so boring lately that I'm slowly getting more partial to the symphony. And what about jazz?
  6. Movies: see them in a theater or wait for DVD/VHS?
    Theater, by all means.
  7. Board games or computer/video games?
    Board games.
  8. Hobbies: crafts or collecting?
    Collecting, I'm afraid.
  9. Watch TV or read a book?
    Depends. At the moment neither.
  10. Eating out: fancy, white-tablecloth restaurant or casual dining?
    As long as the food is up to my standards (which are pretty high), I don't care much about the rest.
[Questions via The Presurfer]
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I'm not particularly partial to women with big breasts. Actually, I'm easily intimidated by big breasts. I also think that artificially enlarged breasts are significantly uglier than small breasts. Plus, they look fake. At any rate, I spotted all the fake ones in this test.

So I'm not going to support the woman that Gerard quoted in item number 3053 on his weblog (sorry, there's no permalink, and the site he linked to now seems to be gone). One day, some woman needs to explain to me what it is that makes women believe that it's desirable to be a thin stick with no hips and huge breasts. I, as a man, don't get it. But then I also don't get some many most men's obsession with penis length. So I guess I'm either naive, ignorant, or just innocent. Whatever.
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Thursday, November 7, 2002

From CNET: "Feeling lethargic? Blame the PC. Japanese researchers publish a study showing that prolonged daily computer use can make you sore and deplete your strength, energy and motivation." [CNET News.com] Now that might explain something.
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Which Founding Father Are You?

Tough to see that the result of this online quiz seems to hit the point pretty close. [found via both2and]
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Things I wanted to do regarding this weblog that are still overdue:
  • Write a witty blog entry this week.
  • Translate Bettina's story about the pigeons in her backyard.
  • Finish work on Are You Easily Offended?
  • Write that entry about burnt toast that I mentioned two months ago.
  • Rant less.
  • And some other things.
Can't see myself doing any of these things this week. Not during the weekend either. I should have more spare time next week, so if I don't spend most of that time in bed compensating for my current lack of sleep, that could be an option.

How do other people manage to keep their weblogs going? I'm more and more convinced that some webloggers must be robots. You can't tell me that people like Glenn Reynolds can blog this much while working full-time. It's just not possible.
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What on earth made the Mozilla developers change the order of the "Yes" and "No" button in several dialog windows in version 1.2? "Yes" always used to be on the right, now it's on the left, and "No" always used to be on the left, now it's on the right. It's the only application in Mac OS X that has the "Yes" and "No" buttons in that reversed order, and I find myself constantly clicking (or wanting to click) the wrong button. This is a major annoyance, and it seems to be totally arbitrary without any deeper design behind it, merely designed to annoy.
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So librarians dress like this? And what is the 'wanting librarian' look that Adam Curry is talking about? Who wants what anyway? And what's so 'sensible' about these jumpers? And where can I find a cute female librarian like the one in the picture? (nah, just kidding ;-) ) [via Adam Curry: Adam Curry's Weblog]

From CTnow: "Yes. I have uncovered information that persuades me that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has bugged the computers at the Hartford Public Library. And it's probable that other libraries around the state have also been bugged." [Library Stuff]
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At a restaurant, if the wine the waiter recommends is not on the menu, always ask for the price.

Went to one of Vienna's better Chinese restaurants today, which just happens to be in a most uninspiring corner of one of the most uninspiring districts. The prices of the main dishes were not low, but still kind of okay (EUR 8.50 to 15.00). I ordered some red wine to go with my Mongolian-style beef (excellent!) and was surprised at how good the wine was - much, much better than usual at Chinese restaurants, and even better than at many other restaurants I've been to. Anyway, I ordered it without checking the price, which was a serious mistake. They charged no less than EUR 4.80 per glass (0.125), which is, by Austrian standards, exorbitantly high.

It feels so stupid when you pay your bill and pay about as much for three glasses of wine as you paid for the food. It just doesn't feel right. Still, my mistake. I should have asked.
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Wednesday, November 6, 2002

Emma PeelQuite a delightful surprise: I found this postcard in my mailbox today (I mean my real mailbox, not my e-mail mailbox). Even better, it was signed "Emma Peel" and seemed to contain some of her observations. Funny though, I had thought she'd retired a few (well, 35 actually) years ago, so I suspect it's actually from friends of mine who are currently spending a few days in London. Hmmm, can't seem to remember the Avengers episode where Emma is wearing this piece of clothing. Must be a publicity shot, or is there some diehard Emma Peel fan out there who can enlighten me?
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Wired has a story about the FTC's spam collection: since 1998, the Federal Trade Commission has asked people to forward any and all junk email to a special e-mail address: uce@ftc.gov. The FTC now gets around 70,000 forwarded spams a day (up from 40,000 per day last year, 4,000 per day three years ago, and less than 100 in the whole year of 1998).

The FTC has warned and prosecuted spammers in the past, and FTC attourney Brian Huseman said the agency plans to dramatically ramp up those efforts over the next year: "I can't give out any details yet, but I can tell you that stopping fraudulent spam has become a major priority here," Huseman said. The FTC can only legally pursue cases where there are clear instances of spam being used to perpetuate a scam or conduct fraudulent business activities. [Found via Privacy Digest]

Update: The BBC reports that spam is on the rise. A worrying 80% increase in global spam has left businesses and individuals wondering how the nuisance can ever be eliminated. [BBC News | TECHNOLOGY]
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After Austrian right-wing politician Jörg Haider has safely returned from his visit to Saddam Hussein in Iraq, the number one question hereabouts is of course: Did Haider meet the real Saddam Hussein this time, or did he just meet a double, as he did last time?

Der Standard has a web page titled "Traf Haider wieder nur den Doppelgänger?" where you can compare the person talking to Haider last weekend and last month with a supposedly "real" Saddam.

My opinion? Looks like three different Saddams to me. Should George Bush ever invade Iraq, he'd better take care that he gets the real Saddam. Somehow I'm reminded of Blofeld in Diamonds are forever. James Bond also killed the wrong man.
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One of the good things about living in a big city is that if your cable modem breaks down, you can just walk into your cable provider's nearest service center, talk to the technician in charge and walk out again five minutes later with a new power supply.

By the way, after having the cable modem give up on me and dropping my monitor from my desk yesterday, the next technology experience waited in my office this morning when my computer refused to start up. Fortunately no serious problem this time; it seems the graphics card had become loose in its slot. Apparently I'm having a phase of bad computer karma at the moment. I hope it doesn't get as bad as with a friend of mine, whose computers tend to break down with severe hardware failures after about a year or two. She's now made a habit of buying extended warranties with her computers as buying a new computer every 18 months has turned out to be somewhat expensive. However, she says that having to have your computer serviced annually is still a somewhat frustrating experience. I believe her.

I have this other friend, and I can understand why his computers keep breaking down (he's one of those people who were born with a screwdriver in his hand - never mind that he's totally incapable of using it), but with her it's a mystery. It must be bad karma. Karma is everything. I used to have good computer karma. I hope yesterday's and today's experiences were just minor karma glitches.
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Okay, so I had intended to post more than yesterday's number of posts, which weren't even that good overall. Thing is, when I got home, my cable modem had gone bust, and I realised I was disconnected from the Internet. At the moment I'm writing this weblog entry using my iBook's - gasp - built-in modem (I had almost forgotten that I wasn't totally disconnected, so long had it been that I had last used the modem). Anyway, as the connection is somewhat slow, that's it for now. I'll try and get a new cable modem from my ISP tomorrow, and let's see when you'll next hear from me. Chances are I'll find some cable of phone jack somewhere.

By the way, speaking of things that go wrong: in a great show of incompentence, I managed to move my desk in such a manner that my venerable old 17" CRT monitor fell off my desk. It landed on an Amazon cardboard box that was filled with old, empty CD jewel cases. It also landed screen-down (the screen is the glassy thing at the front of the monitor that breaks easily). In an unprecendented case of improbability and luck, the CRT did not implode, none of the CD jewel cases were cracked, and the monitor still seems to work. I hope there's not some hidden damage somewhere that causes nasty things to happen at some unknown point in the future.

Just to tell you that today wasn't exactly boring for me, even though my blog may have been for you.
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Tuesday, November 5, 2002

To celebrate the holiday of All Souls' Day on November 2, I and a friend went on a walk through Vienna's Zentralfriedhof on Sunday. Though not as beautiful as Stockholm's skogskyrkogården, it's still a perfect site for extended walks in autumn.

Anyway, at some point we decided to look for Falco's grave (Falco, as you may remember, was an Austrian 1980s rock singer, who even had two #1 hits in the USA and was killed in a tragic car accident a few years ago). We kept searching through the rows of graves of famous Austrians and discovered a couple of graves that we didn't know even existed, but there was no trace of Falco (not even under his real name, Johann Hölzl). At some point we found the grave of Hansi Dujmic, a rock singer who had at some time performed in the same band as Falco, but that was as close as we got (Dujmic only attempted fame, had a couple of close misses, and died of a drug overdose). We had to abort our mission when it got colder and started to rain, and Falco's grave was still nowhere to be found. We plan to continue our mission at some later date.
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If you're reading this in the United States, I'd like to join the choir of all the other webloggers and urge you to go voting today, if you haven't done it already. If you're reading this in Austria, I'd like to remind you that there will be elections here on November 24, and you should currently be making up your mind which party to vote for. I don't particularly care who you vote for, but go there and cast your vote. If you think voting is stupid and useless, then go and vote for the candidate that you think is most likely to install a dictatorship and abolish elections. If you don't want that to happen, vote for a different candidate, perhaps the one that is most likely to protect the democratic right to elect your representatives. But go and vote. It's not a good idea to remain silent and let others decide what you want.
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Now that the academic season is in full bloom (so to speak), I have been quite busy lately with barely any spare time left to blog. Buying myself a new G4 PowerMac, which needed some setup in my limited spare time, also didn't help, even though it turned out to be a remarkably cool, remarkably fast machine. ;-)

Anyhow, you may have noticed some limited output over the past few days - well, I never promised to entertain you with 10 items per day, did I? Actually, I vaguely remember writing at some point (must be in the August archive somewhere) that my average posting output would be some 2-3 items per day. And you still got about 4-5 postings, and if you count the Evil Empire, a whole lot more. I guess every weblog is going through these phases of reduced productivity.

What I do find a bit disappointing is the fact that since I tried to stop the habit of posting uncommented links and write more original (if perhaps link-inspired) stuff, the number of readers has gone back. Now this could mean that my taste in other people's websites is significantly better than my writing, or it could mean that people find weblogs with 10 items per day more entertaining than weblogs with 5 items per day. Or it could, of course, mean, that other people are currently buckling under the same kind of workload as I am.

What is truly strange about this whole business is that although I stated in the famous Haldur Gislufsson interview that I'm writing this weblog just for the fun of it, I actually do feel the necessity to give some sort of justification. It's odd how quickly these things go out of control once you have a hundred or so readers, even if about a third of them are just Google spillover in search of Ellen Feiss pictures (as in Ellen Feiss without that green T-shirt and grey sweater) or people looking for information on one particular male organ (no, not the thing you make music with). And this post is more and more turning into some sort of weird ramble without direction, so I'd better stop and write something useful for a change.
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John Robb about the status quo in the United States: "This is a depressing situation. The SEC is AWOL, the DOJ has abdicated its responsibilities in favor of security, the courts are in confusion, our President is obsessed with war, our economy is teetering near the edge of oblivion, and our opposition parties are in disarray. This is not the end of the world, but it does mean that we are in a protracted low point for the US. We just need to wait this out.  Nothing else to do. Unfortunately, that may take a decade.  Hopefully less.

"In the meantime, enjoy your life (family, friends, work, and play) and vote against every person that represents the status quo. Eventually, it has got to change." [John Robb's Radio Weblog]
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Monday, November 4, 2002

I agree with Pascale, who agrees with Steve about this:
I was talking to a friend the other day, and during the course of our conversation, he admitted to me that he doesn't vote. My reply to him was that my estimation of him immediately tumbled a substantial amount. This is a smart person in a lot of ways, but for some reason has decided to take himself out of the process. I just told him that in future discussions, his opinion of any political issues didn't matter to me, as they obviously didn't matter to him enough for him to express them.
Pascale: "Don't sit on the sidelines and complain. Participate, and then complain - at least your complaints will have some standing" [both2and]. Pascale says this in anticipation of the US November 5 election; I repeat it in anticipation of the Austrian November 24 elections.

In the meantime, Salon.com has an article on Why the Republicans should be very afraid: Iraq and the "war on terror" may prevent the Democrats from seizing control of Congress, but long-term trends are all working against the GOP. [Salon.com]

I wonder about long-term trends with regard to the Austrian government, and, whatever option I look at, I'm not too thrilled. Still, I feel it's necessary to participate in he elections, if not to strengthen a party you wish to support, then at least to weaken a party you don't support by voting for somebody else.
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Those who have read my account of Chewing Gum Graveyard are probably still disgusted over the gory details laid out in this article. The situation seems to be similarly grim in the UK, where, according to a recent article in The Guardian, prime minister Tony Blair now declares war on dirty streets: a swath of new on-the-spot fines are unveiled, and spitting out a chewing gum now costs 50 pounds.
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In the wake of Austria's parliamentary elections on November 24, there has been a new, interesting, and unprecedented development: the Kronen Zeitung, Austria's most widely-read daily newspaper and for years an avid supporter of Jörg Haider's right-wing Freedom Party, has apparently pulled its support and has for the last two days sported outspokenly anti-Haider headlines on its title page. Yesterday the headline read "Haider ist nicht mehr ernst zu nehmen" ("You can't take Haider seriously any longer"), and today's headline is "FPÖ ist nicht mehr wählbar!" ("You can't vote for the Freedom Party any longer").

It must be admitted that recent developments in the Freedom Party are not bound to instill voters' trust in the party. After party leader Reichhold was replaced by FP minister Haupt for health reasons in the middle of the election campaign last week and Haupt put Jörg Haider back on the list of candidates, Haider saw it fit to break his silence, which he'd held since his announcement to resign from federal politics in September.

In an interview for the news magazine profil, details of which became public on Friday, Haider severely attacked former Freedom Party ministers Riess-Passer and Grasser and former FP parliamentary fraction leader Westenthaler, saying that they had harmed the party and just used their offices to cash in; they should seriously consider ending their party membership. Haider then went on to defend Saddam Hussein and launched a number of verbal attacks against the USA. On Saturday, he boarded an airplane and went on yet another trip - his third - to Iraq.

Elsewhere in the country, local Freedom Party organisations did not agree with Haider; they felt that Riess-Passer and Grasser, who had been very popular politicians, had neither harmed the party nor taken financial advantage. The party organisation of Ried, Upper Austria said that if anyone was to leave the party, it should be Haider himself. And even though this time Haider does not plan to meet one of Saddam Hussein's doubles, this third journey to Iraq has been widely criticised by politicians of all parties, including Haider's own Freedom Party.

It seems that even the Kronen Zeitung has now realised that recent developments in the Freedom Party are closer to political cabaret than actual politics. The fact that it is dropping its support, which has up until now been a key factor in the Freedom Party's rise to power, and that they are doing so only three weeks before the elections could turn out to be even more crucial for the party's election results than whatever the party itself has been doing over the past months.

Update: Der Standard confirms that Jörg Haider, who is currently in Iraq, has again met Saddam Hussein and conducted a 30-minute talk on "international politics, the future of Iraq and Iraqi-Austrian economic relations." Whereas current Freedom Party leader Herbert Haupt said there were "honorable goals" behind Haider's visit, most other Austrian politicians - including influential Freedom Party politician Hubert Gorbach - don't think it was a good idea.
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The results of the Microsoft antitrust verdict came in on Friday evening, and I can't say I'm surprised. There's one point that remains to be done now, though: If Microsoft can do what it did and get away with a settlement that helps, not prevents it from extending its monopoly position, the US should seriously consider abolishing its antitrust legislation altogether. I can't imagine any other company that would be in a position to build a greater monopoly than Microsoft. However, if there's no need for a tougher stance against the monopolist of monopolies, what would it take to actually apply those antitrust laws? The decision that has been taken does not so much concern Microsoft, it concerns America's antitrust and monopoly policy in general: basically, it means that monopolies are okay and that the state will not interfere with the economy, no matter what happens and no matter whether this helps or harms the population. In that sense it was an important decision. I'm just not sure whether it was a wise decision.

You can find many more links to articles about the Microsoft antitrust decision over at my other weblog - The Evil Empire: Information about Microsoft, which has been covering Microsoft's bugs, security leaks and dirty business tactics since 1999. An RSS feed of The Evil Empire is also available.
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Friday, November 1, 2002

Zentralfriedhof

To commemorate the holidays of All Saints and All Souls (November 1 & 2), on which Catholics traditionally pray for the souls of the dead in heaven and in purgatory, here's a picture from Vienna's central cemetery, one of the oldest and largest cemeteries in Europe.
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I may take the weekend off and not post anything on my blog until Monday. Then again, if the weather is bad and I get bored chances are I will post something after all. Just don't expect anything.

At any rate, a while ago, and inspired by my story about pigeons, Bettina sent in her own pigeon story, which I have finally decided to translate and publish. I hope to have it finished by Monday. And work on Are You Easily Offended, my long-delayed webart project, is progressing more slowly than expected. I should probably remove the link until I can safely predict a publication date.
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Jessamyn West has found one of those gifts for librarians, a stuffed lynx dressed as a librarian, while Steven M. Cohen discusses the word abibliophobia and links to an article on keeping up with new information technologies. In turn, Jenny Levine points to one of Steven's articles published elsewhere on why a library degree is so great. In the meantime in England, Peter Bolger has safely returned from his Halloween Ghost Walk only to make us aware of an article about a memorial for Buffy, the vampire slayer library cat.

Online exhibitions: The Library of Congress has a website devoted to its September 11 acquisitions [via lii], and the Smithsonian Library has An Odyssey in Print on six centuries of rare books, manuscripts, art, and artifacts from the Smithsonian Institution [thanks Jörg].

No more reading here: Privatized schools sell off textbooks, force students to engage in unpaid labor [Boing Boing]. Scary.
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Recently, both Minnie and Risto have been talking about baby clothes and how much more comfortable they look than adult clothing. Risto: "Why can't we just keep on using the same kind of clothes as adults?". Well, you can. Believe it or not, these things do exist in adult sizes (follow this link and scroll down to item number 2930 of 10/17). Not sure if is a good idea to wear them out on the street, though.

But I agree with Risto (and it also has been said elsewhere [and here, too]) that most men's clothing is boring - compared to women's or children's clothing there seems to be so little choice. Sometimes I think (and I'm probably wrong there, but never mind) that some transvestites only choose to wear women's clothes because they're bored out of their wits with men's clothes.

I sometimes get the feeling that women can change their whole personality (or at least, their feeling of self) with a change of clothes. Drop out of these clothes, slip into those, be a different person. As a man, you don't have much of a choice between different types of clothing. In most cases you have the choice between a suit and a suit. Heck, you can't even choose between the red suit and the green suit with pink polka dots. I'm sure I'd just go nuts if I worked someplace where there's a dress code. At least I can choose what kind of shirt and what kind of trousers I wear. And no suits, thank God. I hate suits.
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Were you wondering why I didn't post anything even slightly Halloween-related yesterday? Well, go over to Niek Hockx's site and read what he has to say. Here's an excerpt:
It's NOT Halloween! NOT HERE! Sure, in the US it is. BUT NOT IN HOLLAND! And everybody who says otherwise is speaking with commercial motifs on his mind and dollar/euro signs in his eyes! Every year international commerce shoves more and more typical American holidays down our throats ... . Halloween is a good example.
...
I wonder how long it will take before we are lured into celebrating the Fourth of July or Thanksgiving Day in Holland, completely out of place, yes, but who cares! It's all in the name of holy commerce with a capital C! [shutterclog]
Niek posts this with a ;-) smiley, which I have removed because I can't smile about this. I am so sick of the Halloween business, and I am convinced that in 10 years or so we will be celebrating the 4th of July over here in Europe without even knowing why. The Halloween craze started in Austria not even five years ago, and this year it's gone completely out of proportion. International commerce has turned the day before All Saints' and All Souls' Day, traditionally the two most somber of Catholic holidays, where you are supposed to fast, mourn and pray for the dead, into a Carnival-like pumpkin fest where kids run around in costumes and spray gooey stuff on doors and windows.

This just adds to my growing weariness with commerce appropriating more and more opportunities to draw money out of people's pockets. I still haven't got used to the fact that from November 2nd onwards you hear that stupid Christmas music in just about every shop you enter, but this is way too much for me to bear. This year I'll be celebrating Christmas by boycotting the shopping craze as much as I can. Sorry, all my friends who are reding this, there'll be no presents from me this year.
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After wondering why everybody seems to have a Googlism, only I don't (heck, even John Bobo has one, and I just invented that name a minute ago), I checked if Haldur Gislufsson has one, and thereby found out how this works (it's so cool to know something that Dave Winer doesn't know). So I think I'll use this knowledge to create a flattering resumé. Of course, it doesn't prevent other people from using it to create nasty googlisms about me.
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