The Aardvark Speaks - December 2002 Archive



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Tuesday, December 24, 2002

As I announced previously, I will take a well-deserved blog break over Christmas and do other things (like playing with my model railway... no, just kidding ;-) ). At any rate, there will be no updates until January 3rd, or maybe a bit later if I feel like taking more time off. But hey, I'll be back.

In the meantime, I wish you all a very happy Christmas. Spend it with someone you love; after all, that's what Christmas is all about - God showing his/her love for man/woman. Also, a happy New Year 2003, and peace to all of you. Hopefully.
posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

Jesus is born

But let's not forget that it's Christmas today, and I'll leave you with The Brick Testament, a website on which the Bible is re-enacted with Legos.

Above, as would befit today, you can see a picture from the birth of Jesus; the site contains much more though, such as renderings of the books Genesis and Exodus, the Gospels, the Acts and the Epistles of Paul, and it's still being expanded.

It also has some truly hilarious moments: the section where Mary conceives Jesus through the Holy Spirit had me rolling on the floor laughing (it's here, you need to click on "next" twice for the full story - it is child safe, by the way, but still extremely funny). [via Boing Boing Blog]
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Top Ten Web-Design Mistakes of 2002. Mistake #1: no prices on e-commerce sites. Yes, seriously. No wonder the Internet bubble burst. [via techno\culture]
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Telepolis has an article by Harald Neuber (in German) on how the U.S. has been securing oil reserves in the Middle East by enforcing its political and military presence since 1990. The "war against terrorism", Neuber says, is just a pretext to expand its sphere of influence into Central Asia. [via Der Schockwellenreiter]
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The Guardian reports that Rumsfeld gets tough on North Korea.
The BBC reports that the UN prepares for Iraq war.
Toby Sackton fears there could be a nuclear war.
Oh, and Merry Christmas.
posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

Users of the latest PowerMac G4 model (nicknamed "wind tunnel" or "fighter jet") have now started a web site called G4noise.com to protest against the noise generated by their computers and the fact that you can't even replace the noisy fans without voiding your warranty. And I feel ready to join this protest movement. [via Der Schockwellenreiter]
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This year died Elfward, Bishop of London, on the eighth day before the calends of August. He was formerly Abbot of Evesham, and well furthered that monastery the while that he was there. He went then to Ramsey, and there resigned his life: and Mannie was chosen abbot, being consecrated on the fourth day before the ides of August. This year Gunnilda, a woman of rank, a relative of King Knute, was driven out, and resided afterwards at Bruges a long while, and then went to Denmark. King Edward during the year collected a large fleet at Sandwich, through the threatening of Magnus of Norway; but his contests with Sweyne in Denmark prevented him from coming hither. [The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle]
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Yesterday my weblog experienced the second-best day in terms of visitors (the best was when warblogger Steven Den Beste linked to me a while ago): someone dumped a link to my blog on a Belgian site called Linkdump, which brought an additional 116 visitors to my site. Hey, thanks.

Plus, somebody with a sense of humour read my rant about people always searching the same thing on my site lately, played a bit with Yahoo and Google and brought me at least an additional 66 search requests for you-know-what. Gee, thanks - I think.

By the way, did I mention that Google ranks me as number 7 for this particular search request? It's true. Just my luck.

Update: Yahoo! ranks me as number 5. I said it: just my luck. On the other hand, this could finally help me beat "Ursula Lotzes Ferienhäuser in Frankreich" (a defunct weblog advertising holiday cottages in France) in the UserLand Community Rankings. So just keep searching.
posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

Sheesh... and I always thought Irn-Bru was just another soft drink. Their website would suggest otherwise (and requires Flash). At least they didn't forget about Christmas.

Did I mention that I was seriously addicted to Irn-Bru back when I lived in Scotland? The only thing that cured me was the fact that I returned back to Vienna and the stuff just isn't available here. [thx to the Presurfer for bringing back old memories]
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Monday, December 23, 2002

Jackson and the Beatles
[from The Doc Searls Weblog]
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So I bought this great new ergonomic mouse today, only to notice that I find it, well, unergonomic. I've always worked with straightforward normal no-frills mice, looking with envy at all those people with cool-looking hi-tech seemingly tailor-made mice, and now I find that the old plain boring model actually fits my hand better than the so-called "ergonomic" one. What a serious bummer. I suppose I could go back to my dealer and get another, plainer mouse, or I could wait and see if my hand adapts.

By the way, the Presurfer recommends the use of this mouse. I know a few people who could use it.
posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

And what did I have with my purple rice, you ask? Well, aubergines in black bean sauce, of course.

You need:
  • 1 aubergine (eggplant)
  • 80ml oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 piece ginger (about 4cm), chopped
  • 2 medium-sized onions, chopped
  • 2-3 green chillies, chopped
  • 80ml chicken stock
  • 2 teaspoons black pean paste
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 4 spring onions, cut in thin stripes
Slice the aubergine. Carefully heat some of the oil in a frying pan and slowly fry the aubergine slices over very low heat until brown. When all the slices have been fried, put them aside

Heat the remaining oil in the pan, add onions, garlic, chillies and ginger and cook for a few minutes until the onions are transparent. Then add the chicken stock, black bean paste, soy sauce, oyster sauce and fish sauce. Bring to boil and let simmer for 2 minutes. Then add the aubergine slices and let simmer for another 2 minutes. Finally, add the spring onions and serve.

I suppose it looks better if you serve it with white rather than purple rice.
posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

A while ago a friend gave me a packet of "Thai Festive Rice" as a present. I still don't know whether it was intended as some kind of prank, but the experience was so strange that I decided to document it for posterity. Here's what the rice looks like when it's raw:

Thai Festive Rice (raw)

You see that, apart from a few blackish grains of rice, it looks pretty much like your ordinary average rice. However, when it emerges from the rice cooker about 30 minutes later, it looks like this:

Thai Festive Rice (raw)

No, I did not add anything to it. And yes, it's purple.

My first reaction was "Can you eat something with a colour like that?" until I remembered that red cabbage and beetroot also have a similar colour. Actually, upon eating it, my mind played some kind of trick on me and I had the impression that it actually tasted like red cabbage (a similar trick like the one that sometimes makes me believe that tarama tastes like strawberries).

Next time I'll try if I can make it turn red by adding tumeric powder to it. As far as I remember, in colour processing you get red if you add magenta and yellow.
posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

Reuters: Bush wants Internet surveillance system. - The White House wants Internet service providers to help create a system to monitor Internet use, the New York Times has reported.

InfoWorld: U.S. government denies plans for Net monitoring system. - A representative for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security denied a report that the U.S. government was planning to release a proposal requiring ISPs (Internet service providers) to help build a centralized system designed to monitor Internet use. The denial came after the New York Times reported in its online edition Friday that a final version of "The National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace" report, due out early next year, called for the creation of a centralized Net monitoring system. [via Privacy Digest]

A copy of the non-existant report is available on EPIC's website, here. An eralier draft is available on the White House website. [Boing Boing Blog]
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The New York City Council approved a bill to ban cell phone use at public performances in the City, not including sporting events. It includes places like movies, galleries, and lectures (but allows for emergency use). [megnut]
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This year died King Knute at Shaftesbury, on the second day before the ides of November; and he is buried at Winchester in the old minster. He was king over all England very near twenty winters. Soon after his decease, there was a council of all the nobles at Oxford; wherein Earl Leofric, and almost all the thanes north of the Thames, and the naval men in London, chose Harold to be governor of all England, for himself and his brother Hardacnute, who was in Denmark. Earl Godwin, and all the eldest men in Wessex, withstood it as long as they could; but they could do nothing against it. It was then resolved that Elfgiva, the mother of Hardacnute, should remain at Winchester with the household of the king her son. They held all Wessex in hand, and Earl Godwin was their chief man. Some men said of Harold, that he was the son of King Knute and of Elfgive the daughter of Alderman Elfelm; but it was thought very incredible by many men. He was, nevertheless, full king over all England. Harold himself said that he was the son of Knute and of Elfgive the Hampshire lady; though it was not true; but he sent and ordered to be taken from her all the best treasure that she could not hold, which King Knute possessed; and she nevertheless abode there continually within the city as long as she could. [The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle]
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Thanks to a link by Joe Jenett, I visited the Belief-O-Matic to find out "what religion (if any) [I] practice... or ought to consider practicing".

The result was rather astonishing - somewhere on the way, my Catholic education must have failed miserably. According to the test, I am (or should be) a "mainline to liberal Christian Protestant", which wouldn't be too bad, except for the fact that "Roman Catholic", which I am, ranks down at number 27, at the last position of the list - see for yourself.

According to the test, I'm even more likely to be a Moslem, Sikh or Orthodox Quaker than a Catholic. Maybe it's time to think about what I believe in.
posted by Horst URL | Comments? []



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Sunday, December 22, 2002

I've had some extensive e-mail correspondence with a company in London recently - something wrong with my credit card, which they couldn't charge for some weird reason. The whole thing has now been sorted out, but one thing still puzzles me:

Every single mail I received from them addressed me as "Dear Hrost".

No, I'm not complaining about them using my first name (although "Dear Dr Prillinger" would admittedly have sounded nicer ;-) ). I'm simply puzzled by the fact that in five mails they didn't get my first name right. Now I understand that "Horst" must certainly be a rather exotic name in the ears of an average English-speaking person, but is, linguistically speaking, "Hrost" more convincing or a more likely spelling than "Horst"? Or were the two people I communicated with merely legasthenic and/or victims of some keyboard defect?

Yes, that's the things I muse about on dark, rainy, quiet winter evenings when the TV program is so bad that I'm bored out of my wits. I'll now be returning to my Swedish course.

Hej! Jag heter Hrost. Jag är bibliotekarie. Jag bor i Wien...
posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

Okay, so I'll be with you for two more days, and then I'll go on a well-deserved Christmas vacation. I think I need a break anyway, as I feel my weblog has been a bit too much show and tell lately, something I have been trying to avoid, but just couldn't - being more original just takes a lot more time than have.

Anyway, I'll be relaxing, taking time off pretty much everything, probably doing some photography again, and, oh yes, then there's this project that I've been wanting to do for some time, and I've decided to finally get going now (click for details):

Sprachlehrgang Schwedisch
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I don't know what exactly is going on: either I'm increasingly taken over by the alleged wave of anti-Americanism that is supposedly swooping over Europe, or U.S. politics suck big time these days. Anyway, the BBC reports:
The United States has blocked an international agreement to allow poor countries to buy cheap drugs.
This means millions of poor people will still not have access to medicines for diseases such as HIV/Aids, malaria and tuberculosis.
US negotiators say the deal would allow too many drugs patents to be ignored.
Here's more. Quarsan is also talking about it and has a link to an article in The Guardian. [BBC Health News via Antipixel]
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netbib weblog has tested online book listings and compares the Online Books Page with ipl and the Digital Book Index. The test report is in German, but feel free to check out the reviewed sites yourself.
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Life in the U.S. after 9/11? Here's the frightening story of a man who, with his pregnant wife, lost his temper with a Portland airport security screener who'd groped his wife's breasts and made her lift her shirt in view of 100+ passengers. He was cuffed, arrested, charged, banned. When he tried to defend himself, he ran into a wall of omerta and revisionism, as the authorities manufactured sins to compound his crime with and refused to let him see the videotape of the incident, which, he claims, would exonerate him. Read it. [via Boing Boing Blog]
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This year went King Knute to Denmark with a fleet to the holm by the holy river; where against him came Ulf and Eglaf, with a very large force both by land and sea, from Sweden. There were very many men lost on the side of King Knute, both of Danish and English; and the Swedes had possession of the field of battle. [The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle]
posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

For three days now, practically all search requests that have sent users to my weblog were for "lingerie Barbie". Aren't people searching anything else these days? It's not like I'm not offering anything else. I shudder to think that this may have something to do with Christmas.
posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

A recent study has found out that women in swimsuits are worse at math than their fully-clad counterparts. And speaking of swimsuits, or rather the lack thereof, a recent study by Austrian scientists has discovered that, if the trend they noticed in 577 Playboy centerfolds from 1953 to 2001 is to continue, the traditional hourglass figure of the model is slowly starting to resemble... well, a flagpole. [via Der Schockwellenreiter and Adam Curry's Weblog]

In the meantime, U.S. soldiers close to the Iraqi border start "the biggest exercise since the Gulf War" after 50,000 troops were being sent to the region. [BBC News | World]
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Saturday, December 21, 2002

One of the rare good analyses of current Austrian politics can be found in today's Der Standard (in German): "Right from the start [when he took over leadership of the Conservative party], Schüssel had decided that he was going to risk literally everything to break the hegemony of the Social Democrats in Austria" (my translation). The current re-organisation of the Austrian police, in which the replacement of the 56 highest-ranking police officers was announced today would indicate that he is on the right way. [Der Standard]
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At a United Nations conference in Bangkok, the U.S. shocks more than 30 Asian countries with a condemnation of premarital sex, contraception and abortion [Salon.com]. Hey, if Bush were a Catholic, he'd probably have great chances becoming the next Pope.
posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

I would like to think that the Christmas decoration in the streets is really there to counteract the winter depression brought about by the lack of light during this time of the year. However, it seems that the decoration itself is making more people depressed than making them cheerful.
posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

This year King Knute took to the whole government of England, and divided it into four parts: Wessex for himself, East-Anglia for Thurkyll, Mercia for Edric, Northumbria for Eric. This year also was Alderman Edric slain at London, and Norman, son of Alderman Leofwin, and Ethelward, son of Ethelmar the Great, and Britric, son of Elfege of Devonshire. King Knute also banished Edwy etheling, whom he afterwards ordered to be slain, and Edwy, king of the churls; and before the calends of August the king gave an order to fetch him the widow of the other king, Ethelred, the daughter of Richard, to wife. [The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle]
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A revised version of Marylaine Block's article on disappearing data [see previous coverage] (how the current U.S. government is cleaning out its web-based information) has now been published in the SearchDay newsletter: Vanishing Act: The U.S. Government's Disappearing Data. If you haven't read it already, now is the time to do it. [via netbib weblog]
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Here's a very good point about weblogs from the Washington Post:
[S]ince many bloggers have no background in publishing, they often come to the medium unaware of the rules that apply, and complaints are becoming more common. Many people publish as if they were untouchable, assuming that because what they write appears in a virtual world, it won't come back to burn them in the "real" world. Many overlook the fact that their rants can potentially reach millions of people when posted on the Internet.

The same law that relates to publishing in the offline world, generally speaking, applies to material posted publicly on a Web log, legal and human resources experts said. Posting information or opinions on the Internet is not much different from publishing in a newspaper, and if the information is defamatory, compromises trade secrets, or violates copyright or trademark regulations, the publisher could face legal claims and monetary damages.
Here's more... [via Scripting News]
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If you don't get any Christmas presents this year, then this might be the reason. [shutterclog]
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Charles Taylor goes lingerie shopping and has tips for other men who want to buy this kind of Christmas present for their women. [Salon.com]
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I know I shouldn't have read Steven Den Beste's recent article on elitist Europeans, but then it's entirely PapaScott's fault for linking to it.

Basically Den Beste writes that the problems between the U.S. and Europe stem from the fact that Europe is so d**m elitist and acts with such an air of superiority, and the U.S. just can't have that.

So I wrote this article in which I point out that
  • Steven Den Beste's Europe must be a different continent than the one I live in
  • the U.S. could be seen as much more elitist than Europe
  • most of the things that he feels about Europe's superiority complex could be said the same way by Europeans about the U.S.
Where does that lead us? I have no idea. Basically, there's the realisation that the U.S. and Europe may think they understand each other, but over the past decades they've grown so far apart that this is a profound illusion. If you're interested, my article can be found here.

And if you're wondering about the title of this post (and of the article), it's the one Steven Den Beste and PapaScott used. And I don't get it either.

Update: Niek is right: a total waste of time. My bullshit detector should really have gone to the "ignore" level on this one. I leave what I wrote online merely so that you can have a good laugh at me in case you ever need one.
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Friday, December 20, 2002

You just gotta love this: Invisible actors guessing game. FilmWise hosts competitions where readers attempt to name the actors and films associated with stills where all human flesh has been peeled away with the magic photoshop flensing blade. Some of the pics are a real hoot. [via Boing Boing Blog]
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From time to time I notice certain trends on web pages that irritate me. One of them is a cluttered layout with minuscule (often grey) text. I'll rant about that some other time.

Today's topic is links. A couple of years ago, links were blue and underlined. Period. That was predictable, but boring. Thanks to style sheets, people quickly changed link colours, and after a while also discovered how to remove the underline. That was no longer boring; indeed it often became quite a challenge to figure out what was a link and what wasn't.

Then, thanks to the a:hover element in style sheets (not supported by Netscape 4), a new fashion trend started (and I plead guilty on following that one): a link would be a different colour than the rest of the text, but not underlined; however, as soon as you moved the mouse over it, the underline would appear and thus confirm that this was indeed a link. Not perfectly unambiguous, I agree, but I think it's acceptable as long as all of your links have at least the same colour.

Now there's this new fashion trend, and I find it somewhat odd: A link appears in the text underlined, but as soon as you move the mouse over it, the underline disappears. To me, it's as if the link suddenly decided to tell you that it's not a link after all, and I find it rather disorienting. Could anybody who has an opinion on this (either in support or against that practice) please leave a comment and confirm or dispel my strange feelings? Just click on "Speak back" below. Thank you.
posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

Dorothea Salo writes about "the delisting fuss now fussing at a blog near you:" Delisting, delinking, delovely?. Seems people are increasingly removing links to other weblogs from their own weblogs. Seems also people are increasingly making a lot of fuss about it. I say: what's the fuss all about?

I have been delinked myself. I have delinked others myself. Here are my reasons for doing it, and I think I only have these two:
  • I found that I had not clicked on the link and read the site in question for a long time, and wasn't even interested in doing so any longer.
  • I found that the author's fundamental personal/political beliefs were so opposed to my own that I just couldn't read the site any longer without getting angry most of the time.
Basically, I delink people if I find that my interest in them and/or their stuff is waning. And I think that's okay - it says less about them than about me and how my interests are changing. After all, the links are mostly there for my own perusal.

However, I have never delinked somebody over a stupid post or a personal argument. Everybody is entitled to write hogwash once in a while (I am known to do so myself), and I don't think I've ever had a serious argument with anybody, at least not the kind of argument that would leave me really angry at that person.

And I have certainly never publicly announced that I delinked someone, why I did it, and what a horrible person s/he is for deserving such a terrible punishment. After all, I left kindergarten about thirty years ago.
posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

Here's an interesting webiste for library usability experts: Library Terms that users understand.
The purpose of this site is to help library web developers decide how to label key resources and services in such a way that most users can understand them well enough to make productive choices. It serves as a clearinghouse of usability test data evaluating terminology used on library web sites, listing terms that tests show are effective or ineffective labels. It presents alternatives by documenting terms that are actually used by libraries. It also suggests "best practices" for reducing cognitive barriers caused by terminology.
One of the surveys published on this site shows that in Arizona the following terms were not understood by library users:
  • Catalog
  • Index
  • Resources
  • Databases
  • Reference
Uhmm... I think I see the problem. I just hope they understand the term "library". [via etcetera]
posted by Horst URL | Comments? []

In this year was the tribute paid to the hostile army; that was, 30,000 pounds. In this year also was Edric appointed alderman over all the kingdom of the Mercians. This year went Bishop Elfeah to Rome after his pall. [The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle]
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To express your protest against globalisation, here's a reason to boycott Nestlé products (which may be tough as they're producing virtually every kind of food stuff): The Guardian reports that Nestlé claims £3.7m from famine-hit Ethiopia.
The multinational coffee corporation, Nestle, is demanding a $6m (£3.7m) payment from the government of the world's poorest state, Ethiopia, as the country struggles to combat its worst famine for nearly 20 years.

The money is compensation for an Ethiopian business which the previous military government nationalised in 1975. It could feed a million people for a month, according to Oxfam.

The cash-strapped Ethiopian government has offered to pay $1.5m to settle the claim, but yesterday Nestle, which bought the firm's German parent company in 1986, was standing by its demand, insisting it was a "matter of principle". [Guardian Unlimited]
And they're surprised at the vehemence of anti-globalisation demonstrations? [via techno\culture]

Update: Following thousands of e-mail protests and an emergency meeting last night, Nestlé now seems to rethink its policy. It seems they still want the money, but Nestlé is at least "considering donating some of the money it is demanding to help feed the 11 million Ethiopians who face starvation in coming months." Does that qualify as "generous"?
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Wired News has another article on the subtle changes on U.S. government webites:
A government fact sheet that long promoted condoms as "highly effective" in preventing HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases now offers a more neutral summary of the pros and cons of condom use.

Congressional Democrats charge that politics are trumping science. They also point to a fact sheet produced by the National Cancer Institute concerning the link between abortion and breast cancer. Until this summer, it said that women who had abortions face no increased risk of breast cancer. Now, it says the evidence is not clear.

"We are extremely concerned about these alterations and deletions of important scientific information," Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and 13 other Democrats said in a letter Wednesday to Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson. "They appear to be part of an Orwellian trend at HHS. Simply put, information that used to be based on science is being systematically removed from the public when it conflicts with the administration's political agenda."
[Wired News via Privacy Digest]
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Thursday, December 19, 2002

I am seriously irritated by some dork who keeps throwing used chewing gum into the urinal in the men's room at the office. First of all, I find the combined smell of urine and detergent nauseating enough, and I don't really need some minty aroma added to that. And second, for some (probably subconscious) reason I really hate urinating on discarded chewing gum. Not that I would have some distinct association when I do it, but for some reason I find it completely and utterly disgusting to pee on something that somebody else had in his mouth. Yes, it's worse than when some people put their gums or used teabags into ashtrays. I hate that, too. But going to the men's room and finding chewing gum where it's just not supposed to be is definitely worse.

You know, some men can't urinate when they're under stress (it's called parauresis). I almost expect this to happen the next time I encounter a discarded piece of chewing gum in the urinal.
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Jessa Crispin: "English majors joke about finding a job reading books all day; I had found it. The books were all about sex, but that just made it better.". Read all about life as a librarian at a sexual education center. [The Morning News via librarian.net]
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One thousand posts since August 3rd, when I started this weblog. That's 7.2 postings per day. Yes, I admit it's The Aardvark Speaks and The Evil Empire combined, but it's still quite a lot. I didn't realize I was this talkative.
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Interview with Noam Chomsky on Iraq War [via Captain NEMO's Radio Weblog]:
Iraq has the second largest oil reserves in the world. It has always been likely that sooner or later, the US would try to restore this enormous prize to Western control, meaning now US control, denying privileged access to others. But those considerations have held for years. 9-11 offered new opportunities to pursue these goals under the pretext of a "war on terror" -- thin pretexts, but probably sufficient for propaganda purposes. More...
Plus, with support for a war against Iraq constantly falling, the Pentagon now debates a propaganda push in allied nations, as the New York Times reports:
The Defense Department is considering issuing a secret directive to the American military to conduct covert operations aimed at influencing public opinion and policy makers in friendly and neutral countries, senior Pentagon and administration officials say. More...
A German summary of this and other sources was recently published on Telepolis. [via Der Schockwellenreiter]
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Ken Hirsch dislikes the fact that all blogs are in reverse chronological order.: " Either I read from top to bottom and get a Memento-like experience, seeing references to things I am supposed to have already experienced; Or, on the other hand, I can try reading from the bottom, two paragraphs down, three up, one down, four up - no wait, that's part of the 'next' message - and so on." [via Scripting News]

I, too, find that very irritating whenever I read through a backlog of somebody's weblog. As soon as you read more than one day's worth of postings, the reverse chronological order becomes a major pain you-know-where. However, I know only one weblog which is in chronological rather than reverse chronological order.
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A cool idea: The Letter Project (requires Flash). I typed in the name of my weblog and just looked at it for hours (well, okay, minutes). Has a certain hypnotic effect. Still, a great idea. [via netbib weblog]
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Christmas consumerism is a game based on Lemmings, only here it's not dumb but cute rodents you must rescue from dark caves; instead you are dealing with consumers who have been intoxicated by "an atmosphere filled with advertising, products, and temptation" and must be rescued from the shopping mall. Rings quite a bell - the streets are full of people like those in the game - and certainly wins this year's Christmas cuteness award. Beware though: contains some nastiness (when you use the gun), which makes this not entirely suitable for children. [via Der Schockwellenreiter]
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Wednesday, December 18, 2002

They are at it again - after taking a break for several days, the mystery people who are trying to contact me via my referer log are back. The messages are as cryptic as ever: "gives well big mac aardvark bites" and "aardvark punishment with pigeons". I still have no idea what they are trying to tell me, but somehow the second message sounds slightly menacing.

In related news: other things that people were looking for on search engines before being directed to me today were "Saddam Hussein nude pictures" and "Sting circumcised". I tell you, before I started this weblog, I had no idea what other people were capable of looking for.
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Apparently Haldur Gislufsson wrote a letter to Niek Hockx concerning a party that took place over at Niek's. It seems that the drunk moose problem reported from Norway recently may be more immediate than it seemed at first. Still, while I can confirm Haldur's alibi (we really were in Wolkersdorf checking out local wines that day), I have absolutely no idea why he keeps mentioning that red briefcase...
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Adopt-A-BatGreengrl wants a bat as a Christmas present. No problem thanks to the Bat Conservation Society's Adopt-A-Bat programme. Adoptive parents receive an 8 x 10 colour photo (suitable for framing), an official adoption certificate, an endearing letter from their bat, and a couple of other goodies. [via What kind of sick weirdo are you?]

I'm not particularly partial to bats myself. I'm not even sure if I've ever actually seen one in real life. I remember once at night almost colliding with some flying animal which appeared to make no sound at all, and somebody telling me that this was a bat, but it was so fast that I didn't really see it. Still, I'm told that they have an important impact on the ecosystem, and the Adopt-A-Bat scheme is certainly cute. So if you're still looking for a Christmas present for a bat freak friend of yours, I guess this is it.
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etcetera recently mentioned one of my favourite websites: Notes & Queries: "Welcome to the electronic version of Notes & Queries, where Guardian Unlimited readers waste their time answering questions that only fools and geniuses would dream of. Questions so bizarre, so perverse, so seemingly trivial - and yet so relentlessly persistent - that they refuse to go away." [etcetera]
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Two more links about the weird numbers radio stations I mentioned a few days ago: You can now download The Conet Project's 4-disc set of "numbers station" transmissions in MP3 format, and there's also an old Salon article about it. [via Boing Boing Blog]

Update: The Conet website seems to be currently down due to bandwidth overload.
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You are TURKEY. The dorky meat.
What Lunch Meat Are You?
[thx Pascale]
It had to happen, I guess (and it's not in any way related to this disgusting story, which has made the rounds through the papers hereabouts lately).
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BILL MOYERS: I have with me some of the documents revealed in those hearings. They confirm everything you've been saying for years now, how the system really works: give us the money and we'll give you the legislation. Do you think your colleagues will begin to listen to you now?

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: Well, I don't know if they will or not. You know, this is a very addictive system. It's so much easier to raise money in hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars than in one thousand-dollar or two thousand-dollar contributions. But I think they're tired of it. There was recent comments by Senator Zell Miller of Georgia where he said after a period of fund raising he felt like a prostitute after a busy day.

BILL MOYERS: Can a government run by prostitutes and addicts claim to be legitimate?

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: I don't think so, and I think what happens is that the public interest is not served; the special interests are. More...
[Craig's BookNotes]
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Just been through the Google 2002 Year-End Zeitgeist wrap-up of the year's most popular searches [thx Radio Free Blogistan]. While some of the things, like the spread of Las Ketchup across the world, are really interesting, others just baffle me: Why would the most popular searches in the UK be the BBC and in France the national railways SNCF? Is it beyond people's intelligence to type in "www.bbc.com" or "www.scnf.com"? Similar no-brainers include Ikea (www.ikea.com), Ryanair (www.ryanair.com) or BMW (www.bmw.com). The concept of how URIs work seems to be foreign to 90% of all Internet users, it would seem.

One mystery remains: How did these people get to Google in the first place? Surely they did not type in "www.google.com", did they?
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Tuesday, December 17, 2002

Angered by the PATRIOT Act and the culture of fear that is pervading the U.S. lately, as well as the complicity and lies that librarians are expected to add to it, Jessamyn West has created Five Technically Legal Signs for Your Library. Use them in good health. [librarian.net]
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I have received an invitation to speak at BlogTalk, a European weblog conference set for May 2003, here in Vienna. So I'll now spend the next few days thinking if I have any interesting things to say; if I come up with anything I'll submit a paper. This could, after all, finally be a gateway to fame.
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Be careful which CD you insert into your computer's CD drive:
A company by the name of Bandlink is providing technology to record companies that allows a CD played in a personal computer to contact their server and relate statistics such as what track you're listening to and when you're listening to them. This information is then compiled into customizable reports that allow the record company to develop 'User Profiles'. ... The only indication that the cd you're purchasing is Bandlink "enabled/disabled" is a small logo on the packaging. There is no mention of a opt in/opt out agreement when the cd is inserted on the website and none was displayed in a personal demonstration. [Slashdot via The Shifted Librarian]
And then there's this interesting bit: The Register reports that the record industry's allegedly falling CD sales numbers are doctored:
Research by George Zieman gives the true reason for falling CD sales: the major labels have slashed production by 25 per cent in the past two years, he argues. ... [T]he Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) says the industry released around 27,000 titles in 2001, down from a peak of 38,900 in 1999. Since year-on-year unit sales have dropped a mere 10.3 per cent, it's clear that demand has held up extremely well: despite higher prices, consumers retain the CD buying habit.
Semms they're just as helpless with CD sales numbers as they are with counting CD burners. MacWizards Music has charts illustrating all of this and is examining it in more depth. [The Shifted Librarian]

And finally, here's a web page that explains you how you can have the record industry pay you up to $20 - everyone who bought a CD between 1995 and 2000 in the US is eligible for a piece of the settlement back from when the music industry was convicted of price-fixing. [Boing Boing Blog]
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Ever been told that "there's more fish in the sea"? Well, there aren't. Cod, for example, is virtually extinct in the North Sea. According to current prognoses, the British will have to find a replacement for fish & chips pretty soon.
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Monday, December 16, 2002

Jeremy Hedley: "Does anyone else find this somewhat surreal?" [Antipixel]
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Dave and Natalie reveal that they "actively hate that most wretched of holiday drinks: eggnog." In response, they have created the No-Nog Weblog, chronicling its path of destruction throughout history. [davezilla.com].

Now I have never encountered eggnog (it seems to be pretty much an American thing), but if it's anything like advocaat, which is probably the vilest substance drunk hereabouts around Christmas and New Year's, I can fully understand their reaction, and they have my unconditional support.
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Did I mention that it snowed last night? Yep, Vienna is all covered in snow today, and unfortunately I really mean "all covered".

You see, until a few years ago, you'd notice in the morning that it had snowed during the night because you were woken up by a strange scraping sound that echoed through the streets - the sound of janitors removing the snow from the pavements with huge shovels. However, since the Conservative government abolished the law regulating janitors three years ago in an attempt to encourage business opportunities for cleaning companies (and break the Social Democrat power structures in council housing blocks, where janitor posts were often assigned to loyal Social Democrat party members), there is no more scraping in the morning. The handful of cleaning companies in Vienna are simply unable to remove the snow from all of Vienna's pavements within a few hours.

This means that most of the pavements are covered with snow, slush or ice (depending on the temperature) and walking is a slippery affair. So if you live in or visit Vienna at this time of the year, be sure to wear good shoes to minimize the risk of slipping on the snow and breaking your legs.
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Austrian retailers are complaining that Christmas business is slow this year and will most likely be well below last year's figures. Okay, so what did they expect? Taxes and unemployment are at record levels, and according to recent statistics, of the 3 million Austrian households, 350,000 - three times as many as ten years ago - are already in debt. Do they seriously think that people are in a spending mood? Let's all say it together: please!
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Many, many years ago, I got a shortwave radio receiver from my aunt. While I was scanning through the frequencies, I often came across weird broadcasts (outside designated radio bands) of robotic female voices reading nothing but numbers for extended periods of time. It was both spooky and mysterious. I assumed that these were spy stations, but the robotic voice sounded so sinister (especially the way they pronounced "fünf" (5) as "fünnef" and "neun" (9) as "neuen") that it could just as well have been instructions for an alien invasion.

Imagine my delight when I found out that Memepool posted a huge assortment of links [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] devoted to the so-called "number stations" in its December 14 post [all of these links via Memepool].

In related news: because the Austrian government has stopped all funding, the Austrian national shortwave radio program Radio Austria International (ROI) will cease its broadcasts some time early next year after being on the air for 73 years. Check out the live stream or listen to it on your radio receiver and, if you like the program, write a letter or e-mail of protest against its closure. ROI is currently still broadcasting in German, English, French, Spanish, Arabic, and Esperanto.
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The Sunday Herald has an interesting article on how Iraq got its weapons of mass destruction (WMD): We sold them.
Reports by the US Senate's committee on banking, housing and urban affairs - which oversees American exports policy - reveal that the US, under the successive administrations of Ronald Reagan and George Bush Snr, sold materials including anthrax, VX nerve gas, West Nile fever germs and botulism to Iraq right up until March 1992, as well as germs similar to tuberculosis and pneumonia. Other bacteria sold included brucella melitensis, which damages major organs, and clostridium perfringens, which causes gas gangrene. More...
[via Craig's BookNotes]
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30 years ago today, Gene Cernan and Jack Schmitt were the last astronauts to leave the moon (their pictures can be found here). Marina Benjamin writes in The Guardian on how the world fell out of love with the moon. [Guardian Unlimited]
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Sunday, December 15, 2002

"For the sake of the public's safety and to preserve decency, not to mention a library conducive to reading and research, the library has outlawed bathing, washing clothes, children running amuck and people abandoning backpacks and/or leaving other bags or cases unattended." [from MyWestTexas.com via Library Stuff]

And they're sure they're talking about a library?
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Steven Levy writes on how Google is changing the zeigeist and the rising prominence of Google in both meatspace and cyberspace:
In the singles world, for instance, "Google dating" - running prospective beaus through the search engine - is now standard practice. If the facts about a suitor stack up, then you can not only go on the date with confidence, but you know what to talk about. [via Boing Boing Blog]
Yep, I too have been Googled, and I fear that my web pages grossly misrepresent me. Maybe I should change my name or something. Or change the name on this weblog. I've said it before already: this isn't me, it's something I do for fun. I'm a very different person. You may be surprised or disappointed if you meet me in person. I've had both happen.

Update: Levy's article seems to have spawned quite a debate: There is now an article about Googling your date in The New York Times, and the whole thing has also been slashdotted. From the article:
While Googling is innocuous, it is not entirely reliable. For starters, people share names. You can't be sure if you're reading about one guy who has had a varied career (or who can't hold a job) or several people. And you can't be sure which one will be buying you a cocktail. (The surgeon? The sock collector?) Googling myself -- which sounds more perverse than it is -- turned up an architecture prof at McGill University, a video editor, a broker of sports tickets and a table-tennis champ; I'm now jealous of all of them.
I must say that I have the unfair disadvantage of having a fairly unique name. [thx to Privacy Digest]

Another update: Niek Hockx is writing about it, too and has some good points. I quote merely his conclusion:
[I]t takes only a slightly intelligent person to understand why not even a zillion Google searches can ever represent another human being. But sadly, as machines get smarter and humans get more dependent on technology, we tend to leave our own intelligence and perhaps even more important, our own common sense at home. It's one thing to use Google as an information retrieval tool. But when the spider bots start directing our lifes and our loves, we might as well stop thinking and feeling altogether.
...
Maybe my bot can have a date with your bot some day. Just remember it isn't really me. But then again it isn't really you either... ;-) [shutterclog]
Indeed - all this googling business makes me think that if some people had access to Poindexter's Total Information Awareness thing, they'd use it for their dates, too.
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I talked about librarian Barbie before - now here we go again: Jenny Levine reports that librarian Barbie and architect Barbie are having a bit of a fight. Sounds a bit bitchy to me:
Barbie's maker, Mattel Inc., is asking young girls and their parents for their opinion on what Barbie should be next: a librarian, a policewoman or an architect. ... [Now] architects around the country, presumably older than barbie.com's target audience of girls three to 11 years old [are] voting with a vengeance in both the kids and parents polls, as, apparently are the librarians. The police, which have badly trailed consistently for a week, presumably have other things to distract them from voting.
...
As to why librarians have, until now, been leading in the poll (and may again--feel free to vote!), Jensen speculates that possibly little girls go to reading groups and the person doing the reading may be considered the librarian. But Jury has another explanation: 'Librarians are online all day--they can vote.... And, guys have this thing with librarians: 'I really like frumpy librarians with glasses who, after a couple of tequila shots, take their hair out of the bun and get crazy.'
Hum. Some stereotype there, but kinda nice. Still, lacking a bun, I never take the hair out of the bun before I get crazy. And I don't need a couple of tequila shots to get crazy - I AM crazy! [via The Shifted Librarian]
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Cute piece of humour at the expense of the Finns: This is Finland. Tells us non-Finns what happens in Finland at various temperatures. One example: "-5°C / 23°F: People in California almost freeze to death. The Finns have their final barbecue before winter." [via vowe dot net]
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Puzzled by your Christmas gifts? Sick of explaining the mechanics of luxury toys to small children? Simply show them this site! 'How Stuff Works' lives up to its name - from DVD players to light sabers, this site is a techno-phobe's dream come true! [etcetera]
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Sean O'Hagan stpped drinking 2 years, 6 months ago. [The Observer]
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Great Britain's railway system is in total shambles: The Observer reports the British government has told train operating companies that they will receive 20% less subsidy from taxpayers' money. As a consequence, the train companies have announced that next year, 3500 trains per day (or one in five services) will be slashed, and ticket prices will be increased by up to a third in order to deter passengers, so that the remaining trains aren't dangerously overcrowded. [Guardian Unlimited]

Does anybody else feel that something is going seriously wrong here? If they want to cut costs that badly, why don't they just shut down the entire railway network and make people find other ways to get from one place to another? Obviously if nobody wants to pay for railways any longer, the whole concept is dead anyway.

In related news, the railway line linking Vienna to its airport was re-opened today after being closed for two years and undergoing a €240 million upgrade. However, as the city of Vienna and the Austrian Railways did not achieve an agreement about operating costs, trains will only be running at 30-minute intervals, even though original plans had been for 15-minute intervals. Well, considering the poor state of railways throughout Europe, I guess we're lucky that the line was opened at all.
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Friday, December 13, 2002

An article in the New York Times points out a new study which shows that Internet filters block many useful sites: Teenagers who look to the Internet for health information as part of their "wired generation" birthright are blocked from many useful sites by antipornography filters that federal law requires in school and library computers. The filtering programs tend to block references to sex and sex-related terms, like "safe sex," "condoms," "abortion," "gay" and "lesbian." Although the software can be adjusted to allow access to most health-related Web sites, many schools and libraries ratchet up the software's barriers to highest settings, the report said. [New York Times: Technology]
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Brian Eno's Music for Airports is one of those special albums that you can't help but appreciate. I bought it a long time ago, didn't know what to do with it at first, but have over time grown to like it a lot. I was therefore delighted to find this site, which attempts to simulate this album's second track by using a series of looped QuickTime files to reproduce Eno's use of multiple tape loops in the original recording. [via Boing Boing Blog]
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Frank Schmidt, a member of the German association autofrei leben ("living without automobiles"), is filing a lawsuit against the Federal Republic of Germany, claiming that the rights granted to cars and car drivers in Germany violate the basic civil rights granted by the German constitution: "Current German traffic laws are in direct violation of article 2 of the constitution, which grants every citizen protection from bodily harm. ... It is the aim of this lawsuit to give pedestrians, cyclists and public transport priority over cars." (my translation). Sounds like an interesting concept. [via FG-DISK]
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It's time for another one of these revelations... so I watched this movie yesterday, a 1980s John Hughes teen flick entitled Some kind of wonderful. I'm not sure what came over me exactly, maybe a bout of longing for the past or whatever. Anyway, even while I was watching it (and, though predictable, it isn't all that bad), a couple of questions cropped up that still remain to be answered:

(1) What exactly happened to dress sense in the 1980s? I mean, I was probably part of it myself, but these days I wonder whether in the 1980s you could truly dress like a court jester and still be taken seriously (by the way, anybody remember Hayzee Fantayzee?). Come to think of it, I didn't dress like that and was not taken seriously, so it probably was a requirement after all.

(2) Was Eric Stoltz really the kind of guy that teenage moviegoers (males and females) could identify with? Was this type of guy really and seriously considered attractive?

(3) Are/were American high schools really like anything in John Hughes movies? I mean, he's been so influential (even Kevin Smith cited Hughes as a major influence) that some of it must ring true, right? Still, it all looks so unbelievable and stereotypical. I guess that's a consequence of watching teenage movies that show a culture that is so totally different from what you experienced yourself. Sometimes in the past I wished I had first-hand experience of American high-school life, but then all you get from movies doesn't make it look all that desirable (actually it looks really horrible in comparison), but that may just be another one of those Hollywood-induced clichés.

(4) I always thought 1970s haircuts were abominable. This movie (and recent re-runs of Dynasty) would confirm that the eighties were worse.

(5) I spent most of my teenage years in the 1980s. Why didn't I notice at the time just how awful people's clothes and hairdos were?
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Interesting article by Allan Karl on how McDonald's is bearing the brunt of an anti-American backlash globally. [via John Robb's Radio Weblog]
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Here's finally a plan against unwanted commercial e-mail (a.k.a. spam) that could actually work: In "Selling interrupt rights: A way to control unwanted e-mail and telephone calls," a paper (requires Acrobat Reader) published last week in IBM's Systems Journal, Scott Fahlman argues that spammers should be charged each time they trespass your inbox. His plan calls for new phones and e-mail software that would require fees to accept incoming messages. The fee would be waived for welcome e-mail and calls, but collected for unsolicited spam and intrusive telemarketing calls. [Wired News]
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Famous writer and dramatist Harold Pinter speaks his mind about the Bush administration in the Daily Telegraph:
Earlier this year, I had a major operation for cancer. The operation and its after effects were something of a nightmare. I felt I was a man unable to swim bobbing about under water in a deep dark endless ocean. But I did not drown and I am very glad to be alive.

However, I found that to emerge from a personal nightmare was to enter an infinitely more pervasive public nightmare - the nightmare of American hysteria, ignorance, arrogance, stupidity and belligerence; the most powerful nation the world has ever known effectively waging war against the rest of the world. More...
[via Craig's BookNotes]
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Robyn Pollman talks about credit card companies in an article that reminded me of the experiences with my bank that I posted recently. Here's a good quote: "[S]ometimes given the choice of ramen, or a burger, you want to take the burger. It's just figuring out how to pay for it 3 years later that gets to be the real problem...." [Ain't too proud to blog]
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Thursday, December 12, 2002

Surpise, surprise: Looks like Austria and Switzerland will be staging the 2008 European Soccer Championships. I guess this is good news. Apart from the publicity effect, cash flow, economic aspects and blah blah blah, this also means that as the hosts, the Austrian team will finally be able to participate in European championships. As far as I remember back, the Austrian team never managed to qualify, even though at times they fared pretty well at the World Championships; actually, I always saw the bid as a cunning plan to get our team in through the back door. Well, they're in now.
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As a Catholic who played quite a lot with Lego as a child, I must say I find the Holy Trinity 3-pak Lego Set absolutely hilarious. I never understood the thing with the white dove anyway. [found via The Cartoonist]
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Just in time before Christmas, the Vienna city council has started a new ad campaign featuring the green garbage monster. On the posters, you can see a happy child and a few wrapped parcels under a Christmas tree, behind which the garbage monster is hiding with an evil grin on his face. The slogan reads: "Mist - er tarnt sich als Geschenk" ("garbage - it disguises itself as a present").

I just love this, especially at a time of the year when ads on TV and on flyers are trying to sell you nothing but garbage. It's one of those campaigns where you can't help but wonder just how much of the message was intentional - are they just referring to the packages and wrappers, or to the contents as well? Is this actually an anti-consumerist ad?

N.B.: The Vienna city council website also has a page with 48 tips on how to avoid garbage (in German).
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Davezilla overheard two interesting cell phone conversations. I, on the other hand, found a way to shut up pesky cell phoners: listen.

I mean, act as if you're listening. Not that you wouldn't hear everything they say anyway, given the way they're shouting into their phone. Heck, you'd have to be outright deaf not to hear everything about what illnesses their children have contracted, what they will be having for dinner tonight, and how they're lying to their spouses about where they are at the moment.

But seriously. Look at them and act as if you're really interested in what they're saying. Surprisingly enough, after half a minute or so, they'll suddenly become aware that somebody can hear what they're saying (as if that hadn't been the case before), and they'll become embarrassed. You'll notice how their voice volume goes down and, if you keep on looking and pretending to listen, they'll become so distracted that all they want to do is finish their telephone conversation, which they'll do very quickly.

I managed to shut up three people that way today. What, you say I have no respect for these people's privacy? I ask you: what is private about whatever somebody shouts into their mobile phone at the top of their voice? In fact, by shutting them up, I am helping them to keep their private lives private. Come to think of it, they should actually thank me for being an egoist bastard who just wants his peace and quiet.
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The latest installment in the ongoing British project to prove that rail privatisation was a fatal error: The Guardian reports that the UK government just injected £58 million into a notoriously unreliable train operating company:
Connex South Eastern, which consistently comes close to the bottom of the country's rail league for reliability, will receive the money from the strategic rail authority in return for a cut in the length of its franchise.

The deal, which is likely to infuriate frustrated commuters, follows fears that Connex's French parent company would abandon the franchise due to mounting losses. A government source said: "It would cost a hell of a lot more than £58m to take the keys off them and put it out to tender."

Connex is among the least successful train operators to emerge from rail privatisation. The firm was stripped of its South Central franchise last year after an avalanche of complaints about delays and cancellations. [Guardian Unlimited]
The awful thing is that despite that fact that the UK has been showing all other European countries for years now what a privatised railway network looks like, all these countries seem to be eager to copy the exact same mistakes.

Results? Less reliable services, longer journey times, fewer trains, higher prices. For example: as of Sunday, the direct trains Vienna-Paris and Vienna-Amsterdam will be axed. For Paris, you have to change trains in Munich, and if you're on the former night train to Amsterdam, you now have to take a bus(!) from Cologne to Amsterdam. To compensate for the decrease in services, the Austrian Railways will raise ticket prices by as much as 9.4% as of January 1st.

How we are to eliminate greenhouse gases and decrease air and road traffic that way remains a mystery.
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I am now pretty certain that somebody is trying to contact me via my referrer log. After I mentioned it yesterday, I got more of these cryptic messages (again, they are still in my referrer log and should be there for the rest of today). Today's messages read "the aardvark speaks, the rolling stones listen", "does aardvark christmas present" and "aardvark is healthy eat french fries".

The first one seems to be a more eloquent version of something that appeared already yesterday, and I personally doubt what it says. I have been listening to Rolling Stones CDs myself lately, and I don't think that Mick Jagger or Keith Richards are interested in this weblog.

The third one obviously connects to yesterday's "fat" message. However, I feel slightly ill today - I'm really tired, have a headache and am totally uninspired to do anything; I even cancelled the classes I was supposed to be teaching this afternoon because all I want to do is go to bed as quickly as possible, And I haven't eaten French fries since cooking the Carbonade on November 24th. Or, of course, they (whoever they are) are trying to tell me that I should eat French fries in order to feel better. I don't think so, though. I'm not hungry at all. I haven't eaten anything since noon yesterday. Feels like I really am getting sick.

The remaining message remains a total mystery - "does aardvark christmas present". I don't even know if "present" is used as a noun or a verb. Something strange is going on here.
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Wednesday, December 11, 2002

I just found out that, despite the fact that Emily Dickinson died 116 years ago, her poems, some of which I posted on my weblog yesterday, are still protected by copyright in some countries. Basically this means that if you live in one of these countries, you are not allowed to read the portions of this weblog which contain the poems. So if you read the poems by accident, please forget immediately that you read them and delete them completely from your memory. You are not allowed to know these poems unless you bought a copy of a book which contains them. Moreover, just to be on the safe side, please also forget the name "Emily Dickinson". For all I know, even the information that Emily Dickinson ever lived might also be copyrighted.
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I had had my doubts, but now I'm sure: As much as Richard Fish has a wattle fetish, Niek Hockx definitely seems to have some kind of weakness for women wearing glasses. They seem to be getting more numerous every week.
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I think somebody is trying to contact me via my referrer log (i.e. the page that tracks where visitors to my site are coming from). I am used to getting referred to by all kinds of weird Google searches, but lately some of these seem to contain some kind of cryptic message; somehow I can't believe that these are just ordinary searches.

In the beginning it was pretty harmless, even though "small aardvark penis" may be an odd thing to look for. Then things like "Barbie plays with aardvark" and "Rolling Stones listen aardvark" started to appear, which, if they are genuine searches, must be the product of a very surrealist mind. And today - you can still see it if you visit the referrer page before tomorrow 9 am CET - somebody was searching for "christmas is coming; the aardvark is getting fat". No, I am not making this up.

I think somebody is trying to send me some kind of message, but it seems to be too cryptic to decode. It could be a hint to be more serious about my diet. I have no idea what Barbie and the Rolling Stones have to do with it, though.
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Cool - a Lorem Ipsum generator. I've always wanted one of those. Also contains an explanation of Lorem Ipsum for all those who don't know. [via The Cartoonist]
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Chris Gulker has been looking at weblog statistics, trying to find out what makes a successful weblog is figuring out what makes a weblog popular. The results in a nutshell: "If you want more readers, you should become famous and, lacking that, write frequent, long posts about stuff that you know well. Encourage inbound links, but don't worry about outbound." [via Scripting News]
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Tuesday, December 10, 2002

930
Aardvark on Popdex

How the heck did I become the #48 most popular website on Popdex today? I'm so flattered. :-)
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929
How far is it to Heaven?
As far as Death this way -
Of River or of Ridge beyond
Was no discovery.

How far is it to Hell?
As far as Death this way -
How far left hand the Sepulchre
Defies Topography.

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928
According to the NY Times, "throughout Europe, employees of national archives and libraries dress in lab coats, which lends them a slightly menacing air." [librarian.net]

Now while I'm doing my best to look as menacing as possible on the job (yeah, I'm kidding), I have certainly never worn a lab coat. In fact, I know only one single employee here at VU library (of over 120) who does.

In the ongoing debate of whether the Internet means that more or fewer people come to libraries, Library Stuff has an article of the "more" variety:
"The Internet, which some feared would mean the end of libraries, has turned out to be more friend than foe, said the executive director of the American Library Association. People search the Internet then head to the library saying, 'I have 5,000 hits, now what do I do?' ... People want to come in and meet with a person." [Library Stuff]
I have said this before, and I'll say it again: from a European perspective I'm still skeptical that the same thing applies here as well.

And finally, here's what John Robb has to say on information freedom:
We spent the 5+ years between 95 and 00 in a manic state of unbounded optimism. Our belief in technology and its ability to transform society knew no bounds. We talked ourselves into a stock bubble on the grounds that the companies we were rewarding with huge valuations were beyond the limitations of economics and sound business practice.

Just as quickly as that period wound down, we are plunged into a depressive state of dark fear and loathing. Our belief in our vulnerability knows no bounds. In response, we are in the process of allowing legislation that will strip away most privacy rights, [and] we have allowed the CIA to kill Americans abroad on the suspicion of terrorist activity ... . [John Robb's Radio Weblog]
He calls it a state of "manic depression" and says that some regulative is needed to rein in the excesses. I agree.
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927
I have been cooking again, and this time I thought I'd let you participate. So here's the recipe for something I improvised on the spot and to my total surprise I found that it tasted absolutely delicious:
White cabbage with ginger and red chillies
(suitable as a side dish for 4, or as a main dish for 2)
  • 1 white cabbage
  • 1 2-inch piece of ginger root, peeled and chopped
  • 3-5 dried red chillies, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, cut into thin slices
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar
  • 1-2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 spring onion, chopped
  • 1 piece of lemongrass
  • salt
Remove the hard outer leaves and the trunk from the cabbage; then cut in quarters and remove the hard bits at the core. Cut into biggish stripes.

Remove the dry outer leaves of the lemongrass and then cut the white part into very thin slices. In a wok or large frying pan, heat the oil and fry the lemongrass, chilies, ginger, and garlic slices for a minute or two over medium heat. Add the spring onion and fry for a few minutes more until the onion becomes transparent, but not brown.

Add the cabbage, stir well for a few minutes, then add the soy sauce, rice vinegar and salt. Stir well, then cover with a lid.

After a short while, the cabbage should lose some water and boil in its own juice. With the lid on, let it simmer for about 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then taste and add more soy sauce or salt as required. Serve with rice.
I served this as a side dish together with fried tofu and mushrooms, but found that it also works well as a main dish of its own. The amount of chillies can be varied according to taste, but a minimum of three is recommended. If you like a stronger garlic taste, put aside 2 of the cloves, squeeze them with a garlic press, and add the garlic paste to the cabbage together with the rice vinegar. Rice vinegar, by the way, is sweeter and not as sour as normal vinegar, so if you use normal vinegar, you may need to add some sugar and some water.
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924
Love - is that later Thing than Death -
More previous - than Life -
Confirms it at its entrance - And
Usurps it - of itself -

Tastes Death - the first - to hand the sting
The Second - to its friend -
Disarms the little interval -
Deposits Him with God -

Then hovers - an inferior Guard -
Lest this Beloved Charge
Need - once in an Eternity -
A smaller than the Large -

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923
Hints and Things is a website full of "free hints, tips, information and advice to make everyday life easier." Contains everything from recipes and bird watching tips to information on removing head lice. [via etcetera]
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921
If it had no pencil
Would it try mine -
Worn - now - and dull - sweet,
Writing much to thee.
If it had no word,
Would it make the Daisy,
Most as big as I was,
When it plucked me?

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920
The usual political post; I promise to keep it short today, but I just found this so completely and utterly predictable:

The BBC reports that the USA has taken control of the only complete copy of the Iraqi weapons dossier and has also assumed responsibility for its circulation to the other members of the UN Security Council, after apparently seizing the initiative from the UN itself. This has led to fierce criticism from some Security Council member states. [BBC News | World]

Possibly this satire (Flash required) summarizes it best: "Obviously we're having some technical problems. Until we've solved them, please don't watch. It's just embarrassing." [Der Schockwellenreiter]

In the meantime, Tom Tomorrow explains how idiotic ideas enter the political mainstream: Language is still a virus. [Salon.com]

N.B. Post #919 is over at The Evil Empire.
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918
It's one of these things where you notice that there's a fundamental cultural difference between the USA and Europe. Until I found this article via Adam Curry's Weblog, I hadn't been aware that circumcision is apparently the norm for male Americans and that you're a bit of an oddball if you aren't circumcised.

At any rate, "Why is mine different?" attempts to explain the concept of circumcision to male American teenagers and also give them the feeling that it's perfectly normal to have a normal penis: "Luke Perry, Oscar De La Hoya, Elvis. Most boys and men born outside the US have penises like yours, Jeff: Ewan McGregor - you know, Obi Wan Kenobi in The Phantom Menace - David Bowie, Sting, Prince William."

At least here in Austria, circumcision, when not required by religious beliefs, is practiced for medical reasons only. I had naively assumed that this would be the same the world over. Seems I was wrong.
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917
Love - is anterior to Life -
Posterior - to Death -
Initial of Creation, and
The Exponent of Earth -

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916
Today is Emily Dickinson's 172nd birthday. I will be celebrating this anniversary today with an Emily Dickinson Special. First of all, all postings today will be numbered instead of titled. Second, I will throw in a few of Dickinson's poems (all correctly numbered, of course) for good measure. Hope you enjoy this.
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Monday, December 9, 2002

So Christmas is approaching fast - but what exactly is it that we are celebrating? According to a German study published last Thursday, 39% of all German children between age 6 and 12 have no idea why Christmas is celebrated. Their guesses include: "because it's winter", "so that the shops can sell more stuff" or "because that's when Santa Claus died".

6% openly admitted they had absolutely no idea what Christmas was all about. 18% had a problem with cause and effect and assumed things like "because there are holidays and Grandma is coming". Some 15% came closer; they guessed that "it must have something to do with Jesus", though they were unable to tell any details.

The only spark of hope is that 25% of all children, and more than a third of those aged between 10 and 12, complained that they found it "utterly tedious that months before Christmas it looks like it's Christmas already." [summarized and translated from an article on n-tv.de]
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It's cold outside. According to the calendar, winter isn't here yet, but according to my thermometer (-11°C this morning), it is. So I dug pretty deep in my sock drawer this morning to unearth my old army socks, which are about the only remnant from my national service, and which I wear only if temperatures fall below -10°C. One of the few good things about compulsory national service is that you get to keep a few pairs of socks that will keep your feet warm in winter.
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A major fire broke out in Edinburgh's historic Old Town on Saturday, and fire chiefs are not yet sure when it will be fully extinguished. [BBC News via The Cartoonist]

What a shame. I lived in Edinburgh as a postgrad student a few years ago and used to hang out in the affected area a lot (lots of bars and clubs there; in fact, the fire broke out in a night club. Luckily no-one was hurt). It's quite a shock to hear that it has been so severely damaged, if not destroyed, not just because of old memories, but also because it's an architecturally interesting part of the city, which has also been designated a World Heritage Site by Unesco. Many of the buildings dating from the medieval period, it is built on a crag topped by Edinburgh Castle. While the nearby Royal Mile area is mostly a tourist trap for sightseers from around the world, this part of the city still exudes a certain grim charm that few can resist. Also, my favourite Indian restaurant in Edinburgh, Suruchi's, is only around the corner.
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Interesting article on patents and copyright on BBC Technology News. Here are some quotes:
"Every time you buy software from companies such as Microsoft, IBM, Sun and Adobe you hand over much more than just money, you also give up basic freedoms and human rights," ... says Richard Stallman, president of the Free Software Foundation, and long-time campaigner against the proprietary programs produced and owned by many software companies.
...
Often, he says, patents are used to protect markets software companies dominate and shut out competition. ... "Proprietary software is not designed to serve you but it is designed to control you," he says. "It is designed to serve someone else."

And it is not just software companies that are trying to limit rights to tinker and copy. Record companies and film makers are joining in and stopping people freely copying music and movies.

"A whole generation has grown up with the idea that it is normal for them to have no freedom," says Mr Stallman. "We should destroy the record companies and put an end to institutions that are this arrogant and trying to take away our freedom," he says. [BBC News | Technology; found via Der Schockwellenreiter]
A provocative article, but he does have some good points there, and makes it clear to me where I do not want to go today.

On a related note, Lawrence Lessig points out why the Copyright Office is wrong in restricting access to data:
[Jason Schultz] confirmed the Copyright Office's numbers that about 37,000 movies were released in the period 1927-46. ... Of those, only 2,480 are currently available in any format, or 6.8%. ... Another way to put this: Jack Valenti's crowd says exclusive rights are the only way to assure content gets distributed. So we have a nice experiment: For the films between 1927-46, exclusive rights fails to make available 93.2% of the content produced. Does anyone really doubt the public domain wouldn't do better? [via netbib weblog]
Good question.
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Library-usability.org is a new weblog on how to make libraries more useable. [via librarian.net]
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I am not sure what God-Jesus is or does exactly, but I must say I find it somewhat intimidating. It's one of the things that I imagine 16th/17th century missionaries would have sent to other planets to spread the faith if they had had the technological possibilities.

This is actually from a website on Japanese Engrish, which contains humorous English mistakes that appear in Japanese advertising and product design. I'm not sure if God-Jesus is a translation mistake or a design mistake, though. Looks like a weird combination of the two to me. [found via The Cartoonist]
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This may look like good news, but I just think this is horribly bad news:
Spam doesn't kill appetite for e-mail. Spam isn't destroying enthusiasm for e-mail among U.S. workers, according to a new study on e-mail use in the workplace. ... The results surprised even the researchers, who said they expected to find evidence of a growing backlash against e-mail, as many people and businesses are increasingly overwhelmed by unsolicited messages. [CNET News.com]
I can already hear the spammers getting ready to send us even more unwanted commercial e-mail; if we're not not really bothered by it, surely we're not getting enough of it.
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Who are the people who work in a library? is a rather bland article from the Lake City Reporter, which caused me an identity crisis simply because of this quote:
Many people think a librarian is anyone who works in a library. Actually, many of the people who work in libraries are not librarians. A librarian is usually defined as someone with a master's degree in library science. [via Library Stuff]
Bummer, so it seems I'm not a librarian after all, simply because it's not possible to get a library science degree in Austria.
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Sunday, December 8, 2002

I wanted to post an "it's snowing" message on my weblog as soon as the first snowflakes fell, but it seems the weather has played a trick on me. When I woke up yesterday, it looked like it had snowed a tiny bit overnight - the parked cars outside were covered with a snow-like substance, but there was no evidence of snowfall anywhere else. During the day it also didn't snow, even though it seemed like it was getting whiter outside. If you looked very closely, you could see tiny snow crystals falling from the sky, but too few and too small to notice.

Today, it was clear, sunny and very cold, and as I went for a walk in the woods around Vienna, everywhere the ground was covered with a thin white layer of snow, even though it had never really snowed all the time. The temperature has now further fallen to -8°C, and it's going to be even colder tomorrow. This means that there'll be no snow during the next few days. But as the white snow almost immediately turns into a brownish slush on the streets of the city, I think I'm not really missing it all that much.
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Nick Denton is talking about anti-Europeanism on American warblogs:
[A]ll this warblogger whinging is getting on my nerves.

We're so misunderstood. They're so ungrateful. Don't they remember how we saved them in the Second World War? Homicidal cowboys, us?
...
So, let's get things straight. The Europeans act out of perverted national interest. Yes, they're terrible hypocrites - much like the US on free trade and democratic reform. They sneer at George Bush and the dumb ugly Americans whom one can spot at 500 meters on a Florence street. Sometimes - oh, the horror - you have to play nice to get them to do what you want. Suck it up; this is the price of being the world's pre-eminent power.
Matthew Yglesias has a follow-up:
I'm sensing a real tendency in some parties to go beyond expressing various degrees of displeasure with European conduct on the international stage to a gleeful shadenfreude at every misfortune (economic, mostly) that befalls a European country. This is nothing more than the mirror image of the disgusting anti-Americanism that led some to slide from criticizing American politics and culture into suggesting that we got what we deserved on 9/11.
Actually, I think that the comments on Matthew's page are perhaps more interesting than what he writes himself.
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This is positively bizarre: Hollywood persuades Norway to prosecute kid for viewing own DVD.
The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has persuaded authorities in the kingdom of Norway to try a teenager three years after he watched DVDs on a Linux computer using the Linux-based de-scrambling program DeCSS. ... Said Cindy Cohn, the EFF Legal Director: "Jon owned the DVDs and he's never been accused of copyright infringement or assisting in copyright infringement. He's facing criminal charges for taking the necessary steps to view his own DVDs on his own computers." [Generic | Synthetic via jenett.radio]
Just shows that the whole copyright debate is going completely out of hand. I wonder what we'll be hearing next. In the meantime I predict that in a few years we'll be having a pay-per-view or pay-per-listen model for video and audio content instead of the current "pay once, listen (or watch) as often as you like" model. I also predict that at least initially, this will cost the entertainment industry a lot of money.
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It had to happen: Telepolis reports (in German) that Dow Chemical is using the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to force an Internet Service Provider to remove a web page that criticises and satirizes the company, which produced (among other things) Napalm and Agent Orange and is the parent company of Union Carbide, which is responsible for the death of thousands of people in Bhopal, India, eighteen years ago. Read more... (in German) [Telepolis News via Der Schockwellenreiter]

Update: The spoof site has now been taken down. iMakeContent has the details and links to further resources, plus mirrors of the spoof site.
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Muji SoapThis is the coolest stuff ever: Muji glycerine soap. Not only does it look ultra-cool in every trendy bathroom, it also looks ultra-cool in every un-trendy bathroom (like mine), and the stuff just smells great. Available "with a nice touch of avocado, lemon, mandarin and heavy citrus scent" or unperfumed. I like this soap so much that when I was close to running out of it a few weeks ago, I asked two friends who were going to London to buy me some, even though I'll be going to London myself in a month or so. I just didn't want to be without this great soap for even a short period. Muji, as you may have guessed, is one of the few multinational companies who haven't opened a shop in Vienna yet. It's also one of the few companies that I actually miss.
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netbib weblog has a few links on and an interesting assessment of the current phenomenon of students plagiarizing papers from the Internet (in German), about which there's been quite a media hype lately:
Does it say something about the poor moral standards of the students? I daresay no. What else can you expect from examinees under stress? The plagiarism scandal is really a statement on the poor quality of what the education system has to offer and what the exam system is testing. Cheating on such a dimension is almost provoked by standardized curricula in which the same things are routinely taught in the same manner over and over again. (my translation)
More... (in German)
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Marylaine Block has written an article on the weird spectre of disappearing data. You know, the stuff you see up on the web one day and then it's gone. This is annoying when you see it on a friend's page, but downright troubling when it's official government information, there one day and gone the next:
The US Geological Service asked depository libraries to destroy a CD-ROM database on surface water ... . The Defense Department removed over 6,000 documents from its web site. ... [T]he Department of Energy has removed 9,000 scientific research papers that contain keywords such as "nuclear" or "chemical" and "storage" from national laboratory web sites ... . The Defense Technical Information Center has removed thousands of documents.
...
The Centers for Disease Control removed reports from its web site on the effectiveness of condoms in AIDS prevention, and on effective programs for the prevention of tobacco use, pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases among young people. The National Cancer Institute removed a report debunking the claim that abortions increase the risk of breast cancer, and the Department of Education is, it says, "reevaluating" hundreds of research reports available on its web site.
Scary? Yeah, kind of. Read more... [via librarian.net]
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Toby Sackton returned from Canada a few days ago, and felt like he was living in World War III:
Travel is no longer safe. Canadians think America is collapsing into an intolerant, paranoid, and insecure society where normal politics and criticism have been outlawed, and are almost universally against American policies. After two years of George Bush, we truly have become targets and objects of scorn in the eyes of much of the world.
What Toby notes would be in tune with the recent international survey of what people think about America, and also what people say about the USA in Europe. Read the details...

Elsewhere in his blog, Toby also quotes from an interesting press transcript, in which White House speaker Ari Fleischer spends a substantial time not telling reporters whether Secretaries O'Neill and Lindsey were asked to resign. A very interesting read.
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I finished my 500th SETI@home workunit on Friday. I haven't broken any speed records; in fact it took me almost exactly three years and four months to accomplish it.
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Friday, December 6, 2002

The blender of doom by Chris Bishop
I had never read Chris Bishop's "Her!" before, so it took me a while to get this joke. In fact, I had to read several of the older cartoons until it finally made "click". But then it made "click", and boy, this is nasty.

By the way, Chris Bishop also did the recent redesign of the Reverse Cowgirl's Blog, which is as weird as ever, but looks much better now.
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The Detroit Free Press reports that West Bloomfield bulk e-mailer Alan Ralsky, who just may be the world's biggest sender of Internet spam, is now getting a taste of his own medicine: Ralsky says he's been inundated with ads, catalogs and brochures delivered by the U.S. Postal Service to his brand-new $740,000 home.

It's all the result of a well-organized campaign by the anti-spam community, and Ralsky doesn't find it funny. Slashdotters have submitted his name to every direct marketer on earth. "Several tons of snail mail spam every day might just annoy him as much as his spam annoys me," wrote one of the anti-spammers. [via Der Schockwellenreiter]
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The current series of articles by Leander Kahney on Wired about Macintosh computers is getting slightly absurd as it slowly drifts into the psychoanalytical sphere. Today's installment suggests that a substantial part of the Mac's popularity with users is its "feminine" appeal:
Miller [an evolutionary psychologist at the University of New Mexico] also said Macs are more feminine than Windows PCs. As a result, women feel like their Macs are friends or confidantes. For their part, men aren't threatened by Macs because they're not sexual rivals. They're more of a female helper.

"For men, it feels like a courtship with the computer," Miller said. "They are gentlemanly, protective. The (Windows) PC is a masculine device. Why do I want a sexual rival on my desktop, rather than a feminine servant?"
The article also compares Mac users to ducks. An interesting, if slightly odd read. More... [Wired News]
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Is America the most dangerous place in the history of the world? It must be, if you believe the increasingly hysterical reports issued by our paranoid scientists, government officials, and big haired talking heads in the news media. On a typical day last month, I tabulated news reports and updates about 137 things that can kill you, and that was all before eating red meat for dinner. More... [AlterNet via jenett.radio]

Reminds me of a quote by the German writer Erich Kästner: "Seien wir ehrlich: Leben ist immer lebensgefährlich." I so agree that this obsession of the media with things that can kill us is becoming increasingly hysterical. I think I've said it before: dying is a part of life, so you'd better be more relaxed about it, because (a) it can't really be avoided, and (b) there are studies that prove that fear can kill you, too.
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Jerry Seinfeld: "It's amazing that the amount of news that happens in the world every day always just exactly fits the newspaper." [Quotes of the Day]

Niek Hockx, referring to the Seinfeld quote: "I find it even more amazing that the amount of news that happens in the world every day always just exactly fits one web page... ;-)" [shutterclog]

Now while I must admit that the aforementioned phenomena are indeed truly amazing, I must say that I'm even more impressed by this entry from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, which contains all the news from Great Britain for the year 869:
Her for se here eft to Eoforwicceastre, ond þær sæt .i. gear.
This translates as: "In this year the [Viking] army went to York again, and remained there for one year." And that's it. That's all that happened news-wise in Great Britain that year. I wonder what their weblogs would have looked like.

PS. If you'd like to read the Chronicle and are not too happy with the original Old English text, a Modern English translation is also available online.
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On October 8th, at the height of the Google crisis (remember when Dave Winer and Mark Pilgrim noticed they were no longer the number one Dave and number one Mark on Google due to changes in the search algorithm?), I checked and noticed that I was the number 52 Horst and the number 71 aardvark on Google.

I just checked again. I am now the number 7 Horst and the number 22 aardvark. That's more than I had hoped for. Not bad at all.
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Thursday, December 5, 2002

TBA
Ah, the joys of cooking! I had a couple of friends over for dinner yesterday and had a chance to try a couple of new recipes. As a starter, I cooked mussels Goa-style (basically that's mussels in a hot curry sauce), and the main course was a Japanese-style vegetable stir-fry with choisum and shrimps. Delicious.

As for the wine, I went to Wein & Co, a local wine supermarket where the staff is so arrogant and elitist that you feel like a pauper if you buy a bottle that costs less than €10 (not that they have a lot of those anyway). Even though I really dread this shop, I had no choice, because I had two very specific wines in mind which are only available there.

Anyway, I got two kinds of Grüner Veltliner that seemed like good complements for both dishes: with the mussels, we had Hardegg's Veltlinsky, a dry, spicy, aromatic, but not heavy wine, and with the stir-fry, which was less intensive in taste, we had Hirsch's Messwein, a light, tender, very subtle wine that fit perfectly.

For dessert, I uncorked one particularly fantastic sweet wine from my cellar, Maurer's Pinot Blanc TBA 1998. All in all, it was a culinary feast. Must do something similar again soon.

Update: Wine journalist/author Jancis Robinson calls the Austrian Grüner Veltliner a distinctly groovy grape. Seems it's becoming trendy in several places outside Austria. Interesting.
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HDD
News from the Destroyed Hard Disk Front. It seems that I have found a way to avoid further damage to my external hard disks: I played around with the SCSI card's settings in the PowerDomain Control application, and ever since I changed the setup to asynchronous transfers, no further problems have occurred. This is still strange though, as both affected hard disks are supposed to support synchronous Fast-SCSI, and they work just fine on a different G4 with the same SCSI card and synchronous Fast-SCSI enabled. I'll see if the new card that my dealer promised me can accomplish anything.

In the meantime, I'd be thankful if anyone knew a data recover program for the Mac OS that can help me resurrect the lost files on one of the damaged drives. Disk First Aid, Apple Disk Utility, Norton Utilities 5, Disk Warrior 2.1 and Data Rescue 10.0.4 have all failed to work.
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USA
This could make some people think. Or not.
Approval of U.S. dives in new poll: Seen as a bully around world
The United States may be big but it isn't beautiful in the eyes of foreign beholders. A major survey on international opinion released in Washington yesterday shows U.S. popularity has plunged across much of the world amid mounting perceptions that the United States is running roughshod over other nations. More...
What the World Thinks in 2002
Despite an initial outpouring of public sympathy for America following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, discontent with the United States has grown around the world over the past two years. Images of the U.S. have been tarnished in all types of nations: among longtime NATO allies, in developing countries, in Eastern Europe and, most dramatically, in Muslim societies. More...
[via Craig's BookNotes]
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ALP
An HTML version and other electronic versions of James Joyce's Finnegans Wake and Ulysses were made available via the World Wide Web, FTP and Gopher through the courtesy of Trent University. Both texts are available in HTML and WP 5.1, with most of the graphic and typographic effects included. So you can now read the stories of HCE, ALP, Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus online (please note, however, that Joyce's texts are still under copyright in most countries). [via The Cartoonist]
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EFF
John Perry Barlow, co-founder of the EFF: "Thomas Pynchon on bad acid couldn't dream up the paranoid nightmares now pouring out of Washington. Today we learn that the CIA has been given authority to kill any American citizen who is *suspected* of terrorism. Say again? You mean they *all* have a license to kill? And not just the other, but us. Summarily. Without trial. Yikes." More... [Boing Boing Blog]
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Wednesday, December 4, 2002

This may be a bit of a risky posting considering something that I wrote earlier today, but I guess I'll still post it. So here it goes:

Greengrl talks about the current drunk moose problem in Norway. Apparently, many Norwegian moose are becoming intoxicated after eating large numbers of fermenting fruit, which are plentiful after the country's exceptionally warm summer:
I know it's not funny, but it is funny all at the same time. I mean, what if you ran into a really fun drunk moose one time -- like one who just wants to beer bong with you, and sort of hangs on you saying things like, "you're my bestest friend"; and the next time you run into a moose that just wants to start a fight ("Dude, did you just push me?" -- "No, man, you just fell on me you drunk moose.")? [What kind of sick weirdo are you?]
Actually, I find that Greengrl's posting is quite a coincidence. Only a few days ago, when walking past the Vienna Virgin Megastore, I noticed this poster (click to enlarge):
Drink Moose

Okay, so it says "Reindeer Games", but this is quite obviously a moose. And it's a drunk moose (notice the wine bottle). And not only is this a drunk moose who looks like the perfect beer buddy and who is most likely to call you "his bestest friend", he also looks an awful lot like Haldur Gislufsson. In fact, as Haldur himself is such a wonderful guy to hang out and share a couple of beers with (and yes, I consider him one of my bestest friends), I think I need to ask him if this is actually him or merely one of his twin brothers.

Update: I had a look at the cover of the CD announced on this poster, and it seems that this moose is also the cover star on the CD. How impressive. The CD, by the way, is a very jazzed-out thing containing Christmas songs played by four Austrian saxophone players. Weird.
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Commemorating the 18th anniversary of the Bhopal gas leak, Hash has a lengthy, but highly interesting post with many related links on Remembering Bhopal on his weblog: "Corporate responsibility means never having to do much more than hire a PR company and say: sorry, we won't do that again; we've changed, we really have; we care. Unfair?" More... [iMakeContent]

Backstory: On the night of 2nd/3rd December 1984, a gas leak occurred at the Union Carbide pesticide factory in Bhopal, India. Over 14,000 people were killed instantly. Half a million people were affected by the gas. Some twenty thousand are dead. More than 150,000 people are still seriously ill.
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A few days ago, I mentioned an article on the man-woman divide in the weblog world, which, if I remember correctly, I dismissed as "bollocks", not because it wasn't to some extent true, but rather because I felt that this divide, if it exists at all, is mostly inconsequential.

Now it seems that the final verdict on this matter has arrived, for Christian Crumlish writes that Mr. Weblog himself, Glenn Reynolds has spoken, declaring that the Reverse Cowgirl's take on the matter is "the final word on the subject".

Basially, the RC also says that the article is bollocks, but for different reasons than I do:
Lisa Guernsey ... appears to have visted approximately a baker's dozen worth of blogs before having decided that, in the blogosphere, male bloggers dominate and women bloggers are oppressed.

my word, isn't Gloria Steinem dead yet? good lord, in 2002, can't at least cyberspace be free of the old crybabying of feminist wanna-be victims who spend too much time and too much ink bleating and pointing at one more forum in which they've decided that bad men are keeping good women down?
She then goes on to say that quality, not gender, makes a good blog. Agreed. However, then she goes on:
if Media News was written by a hermaphrodite in diapers, i'd still read it daily.
Let's say it together: Please. Anybody who has read the Reverse Cowgirl's blog for a while knows that this is not true. Her weblog would probably the first one to write about and make fun of that poor hermaphrodite (just read what she had to say about an incontinent non-hermaphrodite journalist a while ago). She's way too much of a cynic (and perhaps also a bit too arrogant) to take such a person seriously. If you think that this is a somewhat harsh judgement, just read her next sentence:
at the same time, a blog written by a person who collects vintage linen does not give me a mental boner, regardless of what its author totes between its legs.
Now, as quirky as collecting linen seems to me, I don't see what Rebecca Blood's hobby has to do with her weblog (unless she wrote about it all the time, which she doesn't). Basically, does this say that if Media News were written by a hermaphrodite in diapers, it'd be okay, but if it were written by a person collecting linen, then it sucks? Weren't we talking about content being more important than person? If anything, this proves things are not as simple.

In fact, most of the time personality of author and content of weblog go hand in hand. Interesting people tend to write interesting weblogs. A boring hermaphrodite in diapers will most likely write a boring weblog (even though the concept might have some great potential ;-). Says the cowgirl:
the ideal outcome in terms of blogs and bloggers in the blogosphere's future would be the cultivation of more blogs that wholly transcend the very genders of their authors.
Nope. We need more interesting people writing interesting things in an interesting way. This has nothing to do with gender. I find that many male blogs are just as boring as many female blogs. Differently boring due to different content, but still boring.

For example, I find Glenn Reynolds, one of the most widely-read weblogs on the net, about as boring as your average cat urine blog -- I think it's repetitive, one-sided, not really original, highly predictable and shows nothing of the man's personality other than his political convictions. Why he has such a large readership is a complete mystery to me. But the fact that I find his weblog boring has nothing to do with his gender, or his subject matter, or his political convictions. If he transcended his gender and started to write about his cat, it'd be no more interesting. He'd have to undergo a personality change and/or completely change his writing style to achieve that.

Once again: This is not about gender. It's about people who write interesting stuff vs. people who write boring stuff. You can make people read and laugh about your stuffed moose, or you can send them to sleep with the exact same topic. The difference is merely your personality and your craft as an author.

[All this came to me after I read Radio Free Blogistan]
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I can't believe that this week's hottest topic on weblogs far and wide seems to be Toilet Paper Origami. This is so ridiculous. How much time exactly are you people spending on the toilet? I know a number of significantly more appealing places to spend my time in. Maybe you should simply eat more fiber. [link via Weblog Wannabe and other places]
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Tuesday, December 3, 2002

Seems like the Bush administration's politics are raising doubt: Karlin Lillington: "Exactly what way of life are we trying to defend any more in the US 'war against terrorism'?" From the Washington Post:
Today, at the Justice Department, some laws are more equal than others. One 36-year-old U.S. law can be broken, it seems. Attorney General John D. Ashcroft, who is sworn to enforce all laws, has told federal employees that they can bend - perhaps even break - one law, and he will even defend their actions in court. That law is known as the Freedom of Information Act.
Karlin: "Oh yeah, the US Supreme Court, heavy with Reagan and Bush Sr appointees, might throw that one out..." [techno\culture]
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It
It has taken a while for schools to react against Internet plagiarism, but now they're fighting back: "Diaz-Duque, a University of Iowa lecturer in Spanish and Portuguese, used to do Internet searches on his students papers if he questioned the authenticity of their work. Now, he's one of eight faculty members conducting a pilot test of turnitin.com, an Internet-based tool used to detect plagiarism." [via Library Stuff]
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Often when when teachers warn kids about their permanent record, they don't think of the consequences. The latest cartoon from Tom Tomorrow makes a point that now that Total Information Awareness is becoming a facet of life, they really should.
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Here is an interview with Charles A. Kupchan on The decline and fall of the American empire. Kupchan, an expert on geopolitics says forget Islamic terrorism - the real future threat to America's supremacy will come from Europe:
The end of America's dominance will to some extent be made in America. It will come from America's domestic politics, its own ambivalence about empire and its own stiff-necked unilateralism, which alienates others. In that sense, a lot of where we go as a country will come from internal factors -- demographics, politics, political culture, populism. [Salon.com]
Contains some interesting thoughts. Not sure if Europe will ever be a match for the USA though.
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Come across a website that you just can't read? I talked to a friend recently about current trends in web design and we agreed that while last year's animania (Flash animations everywhere) seems to be mostly over, the new trend seems to be terribly cluttered web pages with minuscule print (seems like 10px is currently replacing 12px as the standard text font size, which had in turn replaced 16px as the standard font size a few years ago). Not an age for people with bad eyesight.

Just the right moment for this website: Understanding web typography - an introduction. Contains some of the basic ideas. Makes you wonder how many web designers out there actually read the pages they're designing. [link via jenett.radio: dailywebthing]
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Don't give Santa Claus a chance: Pro-Christkind is an Austrian Catholic organisation with the intention to fight back Santa Claus and to revive the Austrian tradition of the Christkind (Christ child), which has over the past ten years almost completely been supplanted by the red-clad invader from the USA. Says the society's website:
Frequently, fashion trends such as Santa Claus are uncritically accepted and the core concept of Christmas - the son of God becoming son of man - is pushed into the background. We do not want to "defeat" Santa Claus; instead Pro-Christkind wants to set an initiative to consciously think about fashion trends bereft of content, and thus strengthen our cultural heritage. (my translation)
Now while I can't subscribe to everything they say on their website (some bits are pretty much Catholic hard core), I think they are fighting for a worthy cause.

Personally, I never liked Santa Claus. As a child I knew that the presents really came from the Christkind and that Santa Claus (who was just slowly beginning to appear at the time) was merely a phony old man with a bad sense of dress. I didn't even like Santa Claus's European counterpart, Saint Nicholas (whose feast is celebrated on December 6th), because he always seemed to be a know-it-all who would lecture children about the bad things they had done during the past year.

The Christkind, on the other hand, was a totally different matter. First of all, it was mysterious. What did it look like? Nobody knew. It certainly was not Baby Jesus, for he was certainly not in a position to bring presents, and it certainly was not a fully-grown Christ, because he was quite obviously not a "child". Many people imagine that it's a kind of angel, but for some reason I always thought that it was just something like a ball of radiant light that would move around the room and make the presents magically materialize out of nowhere. Mind you, that was before I had ever watched an episode of Star Trek. I even seem to remember seeing the ball of light once.

I ask you, what is a fat, bearded man in a ridiculous red suit compared to that?
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You
You may have noticed that since October 29th, I have modelled the titles of my postings according to certain schemes, with a new scheme every day (a list explaining the schemes is available here). However, some schemes occurred twice (mostly by accident), and some of them (like yesterday's plural nouns) really aren't all that innovative or original.

Thing is, I'm beginning to run out of ideas. However, much as I'd like to return to naming my postings without any scheme, I need to keep this up until the 10th of December, for which I'm planning a very special Title Special, which could act as the grand finale. I apologize if the titles of my postings until then may at times be a bit lame and/or totally unrelated to the postings. I'll try to be creative, but I can't promise anything.
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Monday, December 2, 2002

Okay, so here's one last Michael Jackson link, and I promise to spare you news about The Face for the foreseeable future. Remember when he held that baby over the balcony railings? Well, here's a game in which you can save the baby from Michael's deadly grasp (Flash required, popup window alert!). [via The Presurfer]

Hmmm... just as I was writing "deadly grasp" (which was, of course, a joke) I had another idea - wouldn't Michael Jackson make a great Batman villain - similar to The Joker or Two-Face? I searched the web if anybody had already come up with an idea for this, but, apart from this brief note on a newsgroup, I'm apparently the first to think of it. I smell money... ;-)
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You may remember my whines about my good computer karma, which has gone AWOL and is still MIA [1] [2]. During this weekend, I once again spent hours trying to recover data from a damaged hard disk; in the process I actually managed to recover about 3000 files, which then all turned out to be corrupted and useless.

Immediately afterwards, while attempting to access a different hard drive, I managed to crash my computer so hard that all I could do to reboot it was to pull the plug (the new G4s don't come with reset buttons - what a clever design choice). Anyway, upon startup I noticed, that thanks to the crash, my main hard disk was now damaged as well, and all my standard repair programs failed to repair it. Waagh! I just about managed to make an impromptu startup CD containing Disk Warrior, which then took about an hour to restore my hard drive to normal.

A quick summary of the problem: While the Adaptec SCSI card in my G4 works fine with my scanner and external CD burner, it will invariably destroy the data on every SCSI hard disk that I am connecting to it. It seems to do something to the partition map and/or directory that will either cause directory damage or the loss of all data (without hope of recoverability) on one or more partitions. So far, I have lost about 1 GB of data; I have managed to succesfully repair three damaged drives, and I will most certainly not connect anything to this hellish thing in the foreseeable future. I will now contact my dealer about this.

Update: My dealer, who is btw a real nice person, offered to get me a replacement SCSI card just in case the one I got is defective.
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The recent footage of Michael Jackson's face made it into Snopes.com [thanks Greengrl]. So I guess it's official now: it's not an urban legend, this is actually an authentic, undoctored photograph. I wonder: why is it that this face reminds me of the plastic surgery scene in Terry Gilliam's movie "Brazil"? And could it be that Jackson may one day end just like Sam Lowry's mother in said movie? I mean, his nose has already disintegrated, it might only be a matter of time until his body follows suit...
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If you're in a foul mood, it is better to show people or pretend you're happy? If you hurt your right middle toe real bad so that it's all blue and you can barely walk, is it a wise choice to go to your Tai Chi lesson? If the mousepad that you brought home from Finland is slowly dissolving, should you preserve it for posterity or just throw it away? If you're disquieted by a telephone conversation that you overheard, should you talk to the people involved or just keep it to yourself? If you're a bit worried about someone whom you don't really know all that much, but who might be sick in hospital, should you try to find out where they are and contact them right away or wait until they might call you? If you have nothing to say, should you say some banality to fill the void, or should you just shut up?
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So here's an interesting article (in German) about what computing will be like in the year 2005 if Microsoft and the media industry have their way and will go on with Palladium, TCPA and DRM as planned: Der entmannte Computer ("the castrated computer"). The only solution? Don't buy TCPA-enabled computers. [via Der Schockwellenreiter]
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The Library - a nest of pirates? Well, yes, if you believe the ongoing copyright debate. [librarian.net]
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Am I a man or a woman? This test says I'm a man. However, simply by changing my answers to questions 47 and 48 (these two questions look mighty suspicious to me), I miraculously transformed into a woman. What else do I have to worry about now? [thanks to Sabine]
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