The Aardvark Speaks - January 2003 Archive



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Friday, January 31, 2003

Lately, I have been feeling this strange compulsion to write about my sexual perversions in this weblog. I don't think it's a good idea, though: despite the fact that they're pretty harmless and perfectly legal, this weblog is, after all, public, and they are private. Second, I resolved at some point never to write about sex (even though that would be a feasible way to beat Ursula Lotze once and for all); and third, there's several people whom I wouldn't want to know about these things, but who -- as Murphy's laws for weblogs go -- would be the first to find out about them. Also, it's really none of most people's business, like it's none of your business. So I won't do it. ;-)

What worries me is that I already feel like an exhibitionist, even though I haven't written anything even remotely explicit. Okay, so I have been kidding about penis enlargement spams, but that was clearly a joke -- right? I guess the act of simply writing a weblog (regardless of what it's about) is an act of exhibitionism. And many weblogs are perfect examples of their authors' perversity, even if they have no sexual content whatsoever. So maybe I have been writing about these things all along. A scary thought.
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Okay, so Mena and Ben are cool (Mena also looks mighty cute, I might add) and Movable Type (the software they wrote) rocks, but still it's such an oddly American thing to do to visit Disneyland while they're in Tokyo. Have a look at the pictures to see Tokyo like you've never seen it before. [via Boing Boing Blog]
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Steven Frank reports that staggered by the realization that more and more teenagers, especially girls, are adopting a vegetarian diet, an alarmed National Cattlemen's Beef Association launches a web site called "Cool 2B Real". It currently features a poll "What type of beef do you most like to eat with your friends?", a chat room, and a selection of handy snack recipes, each featuring delicious, juicy beef! [~stevenf]

My suggestion is that you read Ruth L. Ozeki's hilarious novel My Year of Meat first, then decide. Not that I think that someone who has decided to go vegetarian is an easy convert to beef, the meatiest of meats.

But then it might already be too late: The NY Times reports that the farm bill that was passed last May directs the Agriculture Department to buy irradiated beef for the federal school lunch program. Yuk.
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Don't walk in Austria if you can avoid it. Recent statistics show that in Austria, more pedestrians are killed in traffic accidents than in most other EU countries. Actually, in Austria you're three times more likely to be killed as a pedestrian than in the Netherlands. [Der Standard]
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We had a bomb scare at the library today. We suspect either a disgruntled reader who didn't get his books (like the one who started shouting at me like mad because I wouldn't let him have a book without booking it to his library card) or one of the various psychopathic personalities who are frequenting the library at regular intervals.

Luckily, no bomb was found. It turned out to be an extended lunch break.
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Davezilla: "Forget everything Bush has to say with Ortho Media, the memory loss patch." Yes, please, I want one of those, please. Especially if it also works with Austrian politicians.

Did I mention that we still have no government, despite the fact that the elections took place three months ago? (A small side-effect of this is that I still haven't been paid for my teaching job at the Stae College of Education, because there's apparently no budget for this sort of thing yet. I am not amused.)

Speaking of politicians: Der Standard reports that the Austrian Chamber of Commerce is getting telephone calls from foreign business partners who are inquiring about the recent success in the Graz communal elections, the Communist Party's Ernest Kaltenegger. "The callers are pretty much the same as back when the right-wing Freedom Party joined the government," says a spokesperson. "Back then they were worried about the rise of Fascism in Austria, now they're worried about Communism."

Fear not: Despite the fact that Kaltenegger won 21% for his party in the Graz communal elections, the Communist Party received less than 0.6% of the votes in the last national elections. Besides, while Jörg Haider is known for fuelling anti-foreigner sentiments, has repeatedly praised Hitler and the Nazis and politically done little other than talk a lot, Kaltenegger is known as someone for whom solidarity is a key issue, who is taking a very critical distance to the USSR and who has become known because his politics are about doing things and actively helping people rather than talking.

Besides, at the moment it looks as if the Conservative Party may well have the absolute majority in the next national elections. Austria is very far from communism, I assure you.
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As usual, Mark Fiore is spot on on the state of the Union. However, when clicking through his recent cartoons, which I hadn't looked at for a while, I found this, which hit home even harder. At least for someone who lives in "Old Europe."
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Wednesday, January 29, 2003

I wonder: if anyone does this (or this) to their weblog, what does it say about them? In this case, it happened because of a controversy that got out of proportion -- but seriously, unless you're stalked by some moron, would you be able to kill your weblog and stop writing just like that? Aren't most people who write weblogs just obsessive compulsives who'd just keep on writing, perhaps under a different moniker, simply because they're physically unable to stop writing? Can you imagine that someone like Glenn Reynolds or Andrew Sullivan would ever shut up? What if this (yes, this) page simply displayed "no more" tomorrow? Would you believe it?
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Kurt Vonnegut talks about the state of the nation:
What has allowed so many [psychopathic personalities] to rise so high in corporations, and now in government, is that they are so decisive. Unlike normal people, they are never filled with doubts, for the simple reason that they cannot care what happens next. Simply can't. Do this! Do that! Mobilize the reserves! Privatize the public schools! Attack Iraq! Cut health care! Tap everybody's telephone! Cut taxes on the rich! Build a trillion-dollar missile shield! Fuck habeas corpus and the Sierra Club and In These Times, and kiss my ass!
Here's more. [via Craig's BookNotes]

The bad news is that these people are everywhere nowadays, not just in the US government.
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Finnish recording industry demands royalties for kindergarten singing. The Finnish recording industry is demanding that kindergartens pay 20 Euros per month in royalties for songs sung by the children. [Boing Boing Blog]
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At last there's somebody who hits the nail on the head: William Pfaff writes in the International Herald Tribune: why some European nations are so reluctant to go to war with Iraq: Europe and America - Some know more about war.
West Europeans, generally speaking, do not share America's ambitions of vast global reform or visions of history coming to an end. They had enough of that kind of thinking, and its consequences, with Marxism and Nazism.

They are interested in a slow development of civilized and tolerant international relations, compromising on problems while avoiding catastrophes along the way. They have themselves only recently recovered from the catastrophes of the first and second world wars, when tens of millions of people were destroyed. They don't want more.
[...]
Considering [the small death toll of Americans compared to that of Europeans in World Wars I and II], Washington does not really possess the authority to explain, in condescending terms, that Europe's reluctance to go to war is caused by a pusillanimous reluctance to confront the realities of a Hobbesian universe.
Here's more. [via The Doc Searls Weblog]
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After having relocated my teaching to the Vienna State College of Education in recent years, it now seems as if I'm back teaching at Vienna University next semester. As part of an introduction to methods course, I'll be teaching a class on presentation techniques tentatively titled "PowerPoint, Websites, Weblogs -- And Then What?"

Part of my aim is to actively discourage students from using PowerPoint -- an issue recently brought up by John Naughton in his Observer column (see also his weblog), where he says,
Under the guise of empowering people to tackle the difficult act of public speaking, PowerPoint reduces it to the rhetorical equivalent of painting by numbers - not to mention reading out words and phrases which their audiences can perfectly well read for themselves.
After all, "presentation skills" is not about knowing how to operate a piece of software. It's about compiling and arranging information, and then communicating it in such a way that people not only listen, but understand and remember.

And yes, I will be talking about weblogs, too. After all, the title says so.
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Tuesday, January 28, 2003

I had heard other people complaining (or firing rows of sarcasm) about Salon.com totally cancelling its free content. Everything is now accessible to paying subscribers only, or you have to watch a 15-second Mercedes-Benz ad to get access to articles. So far I ignored the Premium articles and merely read the summaries instead of the full articles. Now I see that they even cut access to This Modern World, the only thing I really read regularly on Salon.

I see no reason to subscribe. And as for the Mercedes-Benz ad, it's totally pointless. I don't intend to buy a car any time soon, and even if I did, there's no way I could ever afford a Mercedes. The only purpose that this serves is me getting angry at Mercedes-Benz for having to watch their stupid ads.

But even if I wasn't getting angry, even if I were completely and utterly happy because they are allowing me access to Salon content -- would I  go out and buy a car, just to show how grateful I am? Would you? Would anybody?

Maybe it's time to spread a new meme:
"I will not buy a Mercedes Benz, no matter how many ads I have to watch to read Salon.com."

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Italy's highest court refuses to allow Silvio Berlusconi to move a sleaze trial away from Milan, where he says the judges are biased. [BBC News | World | UK Edition]
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Students at Washington State University Discuss the Internet and the Library:
In an age where people consider the Internet to be replacing libraries as a functional means of research, some students are not willing to rule out fact-finding that many would consider more tedious. "As slow as it may seem, the library gives you a very broad array of information to choose from," said Jacob Schwecke, a sophomore wildlife ecology major. "And it is easy to use as long as you learn how to refine your search." [The ResourceShelf]
Not to forget that a great number of online research databases can only be found at libraries, since this is specialist scientific content that is way too expensive for a single user. Want an example? Go to http://www.ub.univie.ac.at/datenbanken/auswahl.html . Where it says "100", select "alle", then click on "Datenbanken anzeigen". You'll see a list of online resources. Those with the green symbol can be used by everybody on the Internet. However, those with the yellow symbol, even though less in number, contain significantly more relevant information for anyone who does serious research. These, however, can only be accessed with a user licence. Typically, that would be at a library.

As for Jenny Levine's enthusiasm on Blogging and Libraries, I've been thinking about this -- adding a blog to our library's website -- and I'm still not sure whether it is time to get blogging.
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Hey, I might not win a Bloggie award, but something much better has happened. I am now officially a "sample blog."

That's right -- this very weblog, The Aardvark Speaks, shows up in the University of Kansas's course in Communication Studies 620 - Communication and New Technology as the "sample blog," by means of which "Group 1" will be illustrating "The Internet and Broad Social Change" (click here and scroll down to the January 27, 29 & 31 schedule for details). Wow.

Now I'm not sure whether my very very 'umble weblog really represents "broad social change", but I recall the idea of the democratisation of media from back when I was studying Communications and journalism myself -- and in that sense I probably am part of an ongoing change. I also don't know who chose my blog as the one blog to represent them all, but I am honoured. I guess. Unless they're using it to illustrate that the whole blogosphere is nothing but a lot of hot air. Some of it really is, you know.
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My cold is slowly getting better, but I still wasn't in a blogging mood yesterday. Instead of sitting in front of the computer, I hung around in bed, read a book and later went to the cinema to watch Bend it like Beckham, which was a truly charming, inspiring and uplifting film with a great, talented cast. When I came home, I was greeted by the smell of British-smelling food in the hallway, but it was not Aloo Gobi (which featured in the movie), but more like steak and kidney pie. This, and the smell of burnt toast, which sometimes emerges from somewhere in our house in the morning, is raising my suspicion that some British or at least anglophile person must be living here somewhere.
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Monday, January 27, 2003

Memewatch has an interesting variation on the Nigerian scam mails.

Ivy is living in Aberdeen, Scotland for six months. Hey, I was there for six months too, exactly 12 years ago.

Yukiko's diary (in German) contains insights and experiences of a Japanese journalist who's living in Germany. [via Schockwellenreiter]

Quarsan's girlfriend Zoe now has a blog, too.

Davezilla is carrying "bath bomb" soap across the US/Canadian border. Strangely, he is getting away with it.
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Sunday, January 26, 2003

Love Cubes Interactive (requires Flash) is an online version of Love Cubes, a board game made by Martin Parr in 1972. It is posing the endlessly fascinating question of how we choose our partners. [Found via weblog wannabe -- considering how much I admire Martin Parr's work, it is, however, a true shame that I didn't find this myself.]

Martin Parr is arguably the most influential and innovative figure in British social documentary photography. A retrospective of his work was recently shown at the NMPFT in Bradford (catalogue here). He also curated an exhibition on the John Hinde Butlins photographs shown recently at the Photographers' Gallery in London -- a weird glimpse at British holidays in the 1960s and 70s (truly excellent catalogue here).
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Baa
Chenelle: "I worry we are too passive as a society, that we let our need to purchase control us, we are sheep bleating in the face of Consumerism. When will we put our credit cards down and pick up our dignity again? We hand out our numbers, our addresses, our social security information at the blink of a cross walk. In mythology vampires can't come in to your home unless you invite them... isn't that what we do essentially?" [via The Doc Searls Weblog]

From The Observer: "Britons are becoming less worried about debt than ever before. Those who do run up debts on homes, cars and shopping have started to blame the lenders rather than themselves. [...] 'General dissatisfaction has led us to become very indulgent and impatient in our personal lives,' said Lucy Purdy of Publicis, who carried out the research. 'We want to improve our lot now. As a result we're getting into debt. Most important, debt appears to have lost any adverse moral implications. We are finding an increasingly naive belief among borrowers that everything will turn out to be OK.'" [The Observer]

Meanwhile, an article in Die Zeit (in German) points out the latest development in shopping habits in Germany: people do their basic shopping at discount stores, going for the cheapest stuff only, while at the same time dining at luxury restaurants, buying overpriced convenience food and making impulse purchases at petrol stations and railway stations, where the prices are up to twice what they are at supermarkets. Schizophrenic? No. It's the new lifestyle, baby. [via Andrea's Weblog]
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Today, the citizens of Graz, Austria's second largest city and the culture capital of Europe 2003, elected their new city council.

Following the national trend that started with the national election last year, the Conservative Party won with 36% of the votes, moving from third into first position, overtaking the Social Democrats, who fell into second position (25.7%), and the right-wing Freedom Party, who lost most of their voters and ended up in fifth position (8%). The Green Party made slight gains and ended up in fourth position (8.2%).

If you followed my description closely, you may now ask: okay, so who is the third-strongest party now?. Why, at over 20% of the votes, and with only 5000 votes less than the Social Democrats, it's the -- drum roll -- Communist Party.

Stunned? Surprised? Well, I was.

This is a pretty new development. The Communist Party has been a totally negligible factor in Austrian politics since the 1950s, when they all but disappeared from the political scene after having been (falsely) accused of preparing a coup d'état following the October strike of 1950. In the national elections last year, the Communist Party got 0.6 percent of the votes (the winner being the Conservative Party with a 42 percent landslide victory).

The huge success is mostly due to the party's leading candidate, Ernest Kaltenegger, who has been responsible for the city's housing department for the past five years, and whose "let's not talk about it, let's do something about it" policy has made him hugely popular. It is also noteworthy that he has always fiercely opposed any anti-foreigner sentiment.

Today's results had of course been totally not predicted by opinion polls. Rarely have I seen as many puzzled politicians and journalists as I saw on TV today.

Here's a diagram with the results.
Here's more (in German).

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Saturday, January 25, 2003

From Slashdot: "Since about midnight EST almost every host on the internet has been receiving a 376 byte UDP payload on port ms-sql-m (1434) from a random infected server. Reports of some hosts receiving 10 per minute or more. internetpulse.net is reporting UUNet and Internap are being hit very hard. This is the cause of major connectivity problems being experienced worldwide. It is believed this worm leverages a vulnerability published in June 2002. Several core routers have taken to blocking port 1434 outright. If you run Microsoft SQL Server, make sure the public internet can't access it. If you manage a gateway, consider dropping UDP packets sent to port 1434. [...] This has effectively disabled 5 of the 13 root nameservers." [via Privacy Digest]

So am I getting this right -- the fact that Microsoft doesn't seem to be able to write secure software and that most admins are too dumb to install a year-old security patch is affecting, and in some areas bringing down the entire Internet? "Trustworthy computing" -- yeah, right.
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...of the day, as perceived through the haze of a blocked nose. Don't expect too much.

I listened to the Beatles' White album again after a while yesterday, and I still believe that it's the best rock album ever recorded. I have been upholding this belief ever since I bought it in 1979 at the tender age of 12. Back then I merely thought it was the Beatles' best album, but since then I have not been able to find another album by any other artist that even came close.

How to eat Weisswurst [via Ferner liefen]. Where I grew up, on the Austrian-Bavarian border, we preferred the rip & peel method.

There are few things on the Internet as irritating as when your ISP's proxy server has a shorter timeout than their DNS.

"Worst president ever," says veteran White House journalist. [via Radio Free Blogistan]

What Women Want: Whizzy. [via What Kind of Sick Weirdo Are You?]

Fluffy Porn. Work safe. [Blog Anon]

a "jello-wrestling pit popularity contest?" [via jenett.radio]. Bittersweet comment on this year's Bloggies awards, who are set to be equally absurd as last year's, mostly due to the fact that the jury members responsible for the shortlists are completely, utterly clueless (plus, some of them obviously didn't even bother to have a look at the submitted blogs) - and if any of them reads this, here's a clue: Barcelona is in Europe, not Latin America.
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The American Libraries Association (ALA) has published the list of The Most Challenged Books of 2002. The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom received a total of 515 reports of challenges last year, a 15 percent increase since 2001. The books, in order of most frequently challenged are:
  • Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling, for its focus on wizardry and magic.
  • Alice series, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, for being sexually explicit, using offensive language and being unsuited to age group.
  • "The Chocolate War" by Robert Cormier (the "Most Challenged" book of 1998), for using offensive language and being unsuited to age group.
  • "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" by Maya Angelou, for sexual content, racism, offensive language, violence and being unsuited to age group.
  • "Taming the Star Runner" by S.E. Hinton, for offensive language.
  • "Captain Underpants" by Dav Pilkey, for insensitivity and being unsuited to age group, as well as encouraging children to disobey authority.
  • "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain, for racism, insensitivity and offensive language.
  • "Bridge to Terabithia" by Katherine Paterson, for offensive language, sexual content and Occult/Satanism.
  • "Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry" by Mildred D. Taylor, for insensitivity, racism and offensive language.
  • "Julie of the Wolves" by Julie Craighead George, for sexual content, offensive language, violence and being unsuited to age group.
[Source: ALA, via The ResourceShelf, via The Shifted Librarian]

Here in Austria nobody sees the Harry Potter books as a danger - on the contrary, it's more like everybody's snap happy about them, because finally children are voluntarily reading something. The only book that I know of that has been banned in Austria last year after a lenthy case in court is
  • "Unsere Klestils" by Ernst Hofbauer, for spreading lies and false rumours about the private life of the Austrian Federal President,
which, I guess, would not be a reason for banning a book in the US (frankly, I must say that I don't think it was really necessary in this case either). But then valuing the dignity of the head of state more than the dangers of wizardry and magic is one of the things that make us "Old Europe", I suppose.
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Friday, January 24, 2003

The good news is that my sore throat is better. The bad news is that I have now a full-blown cold. I can barely breathe and barely think, and I am making very funny noises when attempting to do either one of them. Expect very light blogging over the next few days. And have a good weekend.
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Bush is pro life

...unless it's about punishing evil-doers. Or women. [from Salon.com]
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Dave Winer: "Let's have a weblog that covers identity theft from the point of view of an honest person wanting to be as safe as possible. ... We also need a weblog about how to get good health care in the US." [Scripting News]

Well, following the Austrian example might help: our bureaucracy is so sophisticated that it's virtually impossible to get official documents or even a bank account without a birth certificate stating the maiden name of your great-grandmother (okay, that's a slight exaggeration, but not too far from the truth); as for our health system, well, paying 41% income tax, like I do for my measly librarian's income, is one of the foundations it's built upon -- but somehow I have the suspicion that the average US citizen is neither prepared to accept this level of bureaucracy or tax rates, so they'll just have to live with identity theft and no decent health system, I guess. These things do come at a price.

In related news: FTC says incidence of ID theft jumped in 2002, Identity theft complaints high and rising and Identity Theft Complaints Double in '02
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Brian Eno talks about America. Donald Rumsfeld talks about "old Europe". Julian Borger talks about The great divide.
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A guide to unfair debate tactics. [from Boing Boing Blog]
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The Schockwellenreiter's RSS feed is back up, but it's not really readable yet...

Plus, his Nigeria Connection website (a more or less complete listing of Nigerian scam emails) got an honourable mention in the Austrian newspaper Der Standard today, which enabled him to beat safersex.org in yesterday's Userland statistics (on which he still appears, even though he's not using Radio UserLand any longer).

In the meantime, Ursula Lotze is getting more hits than ever, and I'm getting depressed. My sore throat also still isn't getting any better. Maybe xian is right - watching referrer statistics for too long really is bad for the soul. And for the throat too, I guess.
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Thursday, January 23, 2003

"Like many other librarians, Steven J. Bell has watched students go to online databases, enter a few search terms, and get hundreds of articles in return. Swamped with information, and doubtless on a deadline, these students print out the first several articles -- making no effort to evaluate their quality -- and then run off to write their papers. Now Mr. Bell, library director at Philadelphia University, asks a question that might seem heretical for someone in his field: Is more information always better?" Read more... [The Chronicle via WEB4LIB mailing list via The Shifted Librarian]
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A group who call themselves "Operation Save America" (they used to be called "Operation Rescue") is trying to force a bookseller to either get rid of its sexuality section or move it farther away from the children's section. [via Library Stuff]

I must say that saving America by removing information about procreation sounds like an, um, interesting concept.
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The Baronesse has tried one of 101 Experiments in the Philosophy of Everyday Life: drinking something while you're peeing. She describes the experience as "absurd, funny, liberating". [baronesse de pix]
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Salon.com is in a veritable anti-Bush mode today and fires a salvo of no less than six articles of worst-case scenarios of what might very well happen if the Bush administration continues its present course. Articles include outlooks on the Middle East, the fiscal crisis, Iraq, the economy, the environment, reproductive rights. Sadly, all of this is premium content (paid subscribers only).

In the meantime, Senior Pentagon officials are quietly urging President George W. Bush to slow down his headlong rush to war with Iraq, complaining the administration's course of action represents too much of a shift of America[base ']s longstanding "no first strike" policy and that the move could well result in conflicts with other Arab nations:
"We have a dangerous role reversal here," one Pentagon source tells Capitol Hill Blue. "The civilians are urging war and the uniformed officers are urging caution."
...
An angry Rumsfeld, who backs Bush without question, is said to have told the Joint Chiefs to get in line or find other jobs. Bush is also said to be "extremely angry" at what he perceives as growing Pentagon opposition to his role as Commander in Chief.

The President considers this nation to be at war," a White House source says, "and, as such, considers any opposition to his policies to be no less than an act of treason."
At the same time, a survey indicates that a majority of American citizens thinks that the US should not rush to war and that the President is not handling economic matters all too well.

Even Derek wonders what the Iraq war is supposed to be about.

And finally, Toby Sackton is talking about The Mad Executioner today. Not uplifting, but recommended reading.
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I'm relaying this mostly because I find the concept of a dynamic, self-updating and semi-self-replicating poll new and interesting. It's all about Loyd's Curiosity.
Yes - you can vote from your aggregator. [jenett.radio]
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My, I am in a joking mood today. That is despite the fact that I slept 10 hours last night and still feel totally rotten, my throat is even sorer than yesterday, and my body temperature has fallen to 35.2°C. Anyway, here we go:
Half of U.S. adults don't know how long it takes the Earth to orbit the Sun, according to a National Science Foundation survey. The National Institute of Standards and Technology last week asked scientists and technologists communicate scientific concepts better. [via Exploding Cigar]
I wonder what's so difficult about understanding the concept of spring, summer, autumn and winter.
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Want to hear a great joke I found on the BBC website in an otherwise pretty grim article? Here it is:
"If we are the occupying power, Iraq's oil fields will be held for the benefit of the Iraqi people," US Secretary of State Colin Powell said.
Hilarious, isn't it?
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Wednesday, January 22, 2003

If you lived as a child in the 70's or the 80's (or the 60s, thank you very much), looking back, it's hard to believe that we have lived as long as we have... [via Wortlog]
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Seems like the anti-smoking lobby is urging the record company EMI to digitally remove the cigarette that Paul McCartney holds in his hand on the classic Beatles Abbey Road album cover. The cigarette has already disappeared from Abbey Road posters and merchandise; with the next re-issue the album cover itself could be affected. [via BlogAnon]
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Okay, so quite unsurprisingly I'm not a finalist in this year's Bloggies awards. Which now leaves me with the problem of whom to give my insignificant vote to.

Weblogs I will not vote for:
  • Weblogs with even partly unreadable typography
  • Political weblogs promoting politics that I do not support
  • Weblogs that now have "vote for me, vote for me" notices on them
  • Weblogs with too many superfluous layout gimmicks
  • Weblogs so boring that I stopped reading after 3 entries
That does not leave me a lot of options. Actually, in some categories I am quite unable to pick someone to vote for.

Still, even if you're not counting these points, I'm mostly underwhelmed by the choice of the finalists. These are supposed to be the finest examples of weblogs? Now you can say I'm only saying this because I'm bitter that I didn't get nominated myself -- which is nonsense, as (1) a weblog with a mere 100 readers per day simply has no chance in such a contest, and (2) my design efforts are way too unsophisticated to impress anyone -- but I'm still asking: how the heck did some of these weblogs get onto the shortlist? Or rather: why the heck did so many people nominate them that they made it onto the shortlist? Now while my own weblog may or may not be any better than some of the nominees, I know a couple of weblogs which are much, much better.

And did people even bother to check the categories? I respect Dave Winer and what he is doing -- I'd give him the lifetime achievement award any time. However, his Scripting News is simply not a weblog "completely about Web design and development." And FARK is a weblog about politics? Let's say it together: please.

No doubt: some of the nominees are great weblogs. However, some of them got on the shortlist for some reason that will forever remain a mystery. And given the huge number of great weblogs that are not there, that's quite a pity.
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According to this, development for Chimera, an alternative web browser for Mac OS X based on the Gecko engine, might come to an end soon. According to this, development for Phoenix, an alternative web browser for Windows and Linux based on the Gecko engine, might also come to an end soon. According to this, development for Chimera might after all not be as dead as it first seemed. According to this, reports of Phoenix's death are also greatly exaggerated. So what was all that fuss about? Probably just about finding out how many people actually care about those two browsers and whether it's worth the time and effort to continue working on them. Not too great a prospect, if you ask me.
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The woman who sat about 7 metres away from me on the tram two days ago and kept sneezing about three times per minute seems to have succeeded: I, who had so far managed to get through this winter without any cold, flu, or anything the like, today feel quite, quite rotten. I have a rather sore throat (which is a good sign that I will have a full-blown cold in about 4 days) and alternating fits of feeling very hot and very cold. Measuring my body temperature yielded an unexpected result, because at 35.5°C it was more the opposite of what I had expected. At any rate, I am not thrilled.
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Greg Palast, an American journalist exiled to Britain, has a lot of interesting things to say about President Bush. But I'm not sure if publishing them in Hustler magazine adds to his credibility - even though they set up a whole political website, claiming that they have "always been involved in political and social issues". [via jenett.radio]
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Salon.com has this frightening story by a father about his anorexic daughter. I know a few women who went through something similar, and a couple of things he writes rang very true, especially this one:
[A]norexia is not usually about being thin; it's about control. Contrary to a commonly held belief [...], young people who fall into the grip of anorexia (15 percent of anorexics die of the ailment) are not, for the most part, trying to look like some magazine icon; they're trying to assert some control over a life that they feel is not really theirs. [Salon.com]
Now I have no idea about what goes on in an anorexic person's mind, but I can say this much: all the women I know who suffered from it are control freaks. All of them at some point in their childhood started to define themselves not by who they were, but by what others thought of them and how others assessed them; i.e. almost exclusively by their performance and achievements as students. I admit I'm a sloppy person, but the time they spent studying for exams used to border on the pathological, as did their fear of exams.

At some point something snapped -- and I think, as the author's daughter says, it is about stress and no longer being able to uphold their own standards -- and things went downhill, pretty much as described in the article.

No, I have no further explanations. I also don't have a clue how to tell young people (or my own daughter, should I ever have one) that life is not all about performance and achievements. It really isn't. But everyone else in this world seems to think that it is, and they're all becoming mad over it someway or another.
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Tuesday, January 21, 2003

Remember this before you sell your old computer or give it away to charity: BBC News has a story about MIT grads buying old hard discs from eBay and elsewhere, and finding credit card numbers, ATM transactions, porn and emails all accessible on them; some of the drives contained everything that's needed for a quick and easy identity theft. And don't forget that merely initializing the disk is not enough. The data can be easily restored. On SCSI drives be sure to do a low-level format; on IDE/ATA drives you should zero the data several times. There is special software that can do this for you if you have sensitive data.
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A simple, yet delicious no-frills Thai-style recipe. Serves two to three, as usual.
  • 300 grams shrimps without shells, cooked
  • 300 grams string beans, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 medium-sized onions, finely chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 pieces lemongrass, the white part very thinly sliced
  • 3 fresh red chilies, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 pinch of salt
Heat the oil in a large frying pan or wok, then fry the onions until transparent. Add the lemongrass and chilies and squeeze in the 5 garlic cloves with a garlic press. Fry until the onion turns yellowish.

Add the string beans and fry for about five minutes (they should become very green in the process). Then add the rice vinegar, fish sauce, sugar and salt (if needed). Add the shrimps and let cook for one or two more minutes. Finally, add the chopped garlic cloves, stir briefly and serve immediately.
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The Guardian reports that the UK government's campaign to get people to eat more fruit and veg to protect themselves from cancer and other serious diseases has failed miserably. What's truly interesting are the statistics that compare income and eating habits: funny enough, even though fruit and vegetables are cheaper than meat or convenience food, the lower a family's income is, the less likely are they to eat the cheaper, healthier food.
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Jenny Levine: "I will never buy SimCity 4 because I can tell how addictive it is just from the web site." [The Shifted Librarian]

Jenny's post reminded me that I had bought SimCity 3000 two or three years ago, yet barely ever played it - I sort of faintly remember playing it only once or twice, then never returning to it. Given how seriously addicted I was to the original SimCity and SimCity 2000, I made an attempt to find out just why I had dissed SimCity 3000, so I re-installed it on my new G4 yesterday.

I remembered instantly what was wrong with it when I tried to launch it in Mac OS X Classic mode: It hads been horribly slow on my old G3/400 and taken ages to launch. Well, this time, in Mac OS X Classic, it refused to launch entirely. It sort of worked when I rebooted with Mac OS 9.2, but I instantly found out my second reason for not playing it: screen resolution is fixed at 640x480 pixels (at 60 Hz of course), and there is no way whatsoever to play it at a higher resolution. Positioning yourself on the map is a major pain you-know-where. Whereas it hads taken ages to scroll anywhere on the old G3, scrolling on the Dual-G4 is so fast that youdon't get there either.

I removed SimCity 3000 from the hard disk again after about half an hour of getting more and more annoyed with it. I guess I also won't buy SimCity 4, albeit for different reasons than Jenny.

Update: Seems I can't buy SimCity 4 anyway. There is no Mac version.
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Monday, January 20, 2003

I have become quite convinced that They (whoever "They" are) are pursuing a sinister plan to transform Vienna University into The Unseen University (keen Terry Pratchett readers know what I am talking about).

No, it's not about professors turning into wizards (rather on the contrary), it's some weird camouflage project that is taking place. Apparently, somebody wants the building to be not seen, for over the past few years, more and more parts of the main university building have been disappearing behind scaffolding. The strange thing is that the scaffolding seems to be permanent: no part of it is ever removed; on the contrary, it's expanding. Whenever I expect some part of the scaffolding to be dismantled simply because it's been there for so long, some new scaffolding is added somewhere else - at the moment they're just beginning to cover up the right-hand side part of the front facade. And it's not just on the outside of the building that's being covered up; no, major parts on the inside are affected as well.

If this project (whatever its purpose may be - surely it can't be renovation, for that would not take such a long time) continues at the present pace, it will be impossible to see any part of the walls of the buildings from the in- or outside in a year or so. And I will probably have turned into an orang-utan by then.
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In restaurants, avoid sitting next to doctors (or, even worse, medical students, as I did today). Actually, I remember an Al Jaffee cartoon from an old issue of MAD that contained several dieting tips; and one of them actually was "For lunch, go to hospital canteens and sit next to doctors who have just performed an operation."

I assure you, the conversation of these people is not likely to stimulate your appetite.
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"1 in 12 people have some sort of color deficiency. When you're designing for the web, this means that 1 in 12 people might not be able to see your site. This tool helps you simulate the appearance of our site's colors for people with different color visions." I found that by mere chance I seem to have chosen a color scheme for my website that is visible for most people, with almost no colour shift at all. [found via Oblivio]
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It was a good idea while it lasted, but it was only waiting to be taken over by spammers: My neighbourhood in GeoURL has been flooded by some spammer who filled it up with pointless weather reports from what appear to be airfields or meteorological stations - pointless because I (and I guess most other people) have no idea what "OK2UAF-5" and similar codes stand for. So instead of other people's websites, more than half of the links on GeoURL now give me mostly identical weather reports of unidentified locations. Yay! Like I always wanted that.

Not that most people with real websites cared to enter their exact coordinates anyway (apparently most of them don't know about Maporama, which is so precise that you can get the exact coordinates of your house). Notable exceptions are the Baronesse (who seems to live only a few streets away), ho and smi, who all have all blogs that make good reading - even though all of them are oddly anonymous (and in German only).
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Mark Pilgrim talks about what feels wrong about weblogging:
One day Zen Master Bo Wol asked Zen Master Jun Kang, "A long time ago, Zen Master Ma Jo said to the assembly, 'I have a circle. If you enter this circle, I will hit you. If you do not enter this circle, I will also hit you. What can you do?' So I ask you, Jun Kang, if you had been there, how would you have answered?"

Jun Kang replied, "I don't like nonsense. How do I not get hit by Ma Jo's stick?"

Bo Wol answered, "Why are you holding Ma Jo's stick?"
Or, in other words: "I don't think the personal web has become boring. I think I have become boring. I've spent too much time tracking statistics, living up to the meaningless ideals of others, and pontificating on matters of no importance." Food for thought. [dive into mark]
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Completely forgot about writing something yesterday. I suppose that's a good sign: I have a life.
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Saturday, January 18, 2003

This might explain why quite a lot of spam (junk e-mail) has bypassed the otherwise excellent spam filter in my Mail inbox lately: Spam's getting more sophisticated: "John Graham-Cumming, author of open-source spam filtering software POPFile, [...] outlined several ways spam authors try to evade blocking software, ranging from the simple to the sophisticated. Some messages just alter words to foil basic efforts to spot red-flag words [...]. Other efforts involving HTML-coded messages instead of plain text are far more clever." [from Computerworld Security News]

I'm waiting for the day when somebody shoves several cans of spam (the real stuff, and including the metal parts) up those people's a**es and causes them permanent constipation.

Disclaimer: The author wishes it to be known that he is merely expressing his anger and is speaking figuratively. He is not encouraging anybody to commit a crime, and is not condoning any acts of violence involving canned meat or any other possibly hazardous objects or substances. He is, however, supporting any legal action that will shut down commercial bulk emailers as swiftly as possible.
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Yay! The last of the 1966 Avengers DVDs finally arrived in the mail yesterday, after quite a long wait (the publishing date had been delayed for several months because some copyright issues had to be sorted out). So my Emma Peel collection is now finally complete. Next, I'd like the Cathy Gale episodes please, most of which I've never seen before. However, the official Contender Group website hasn't listed them yet; seems like they're publishing the Tara King episodes (which I don't particularly care for) first. Bummer. Someone has to avenge Cathy one of these days.
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Friday, January 17, 2003

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that the publishing giant Elsevier Science quietly purges articles from its database, which has university librarians fuming.

For example an engineering article by Nikitas Assimakopoulos was published in April 2000 in ISA Transactions, an Elsevier Science quarterly journal; however, a search in the company's ScienceDirect database for that piece brings up only the message, "For legal reasons this article has been removed by the publisher." Here's more. [thx netbib weblog]
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Yesterday's title to the post on the Permanently Closed Door ("More from the door") reminded me of a song by one of my favourite bands, fIREHOSE. I'm not sure what it's all about (seems to be mostly about doors and drawers), and I have no idea what Michael Stipe has to do with this, but I thought I'd share the lyrics with you simply because I don't know any other song that has every line end with an "or" sound. Plus, its slight absurdity goes well with my door signs. So here we go:
For the singer of R.E.M.

Here's a version of tradition you can put in your drawer
in the desk where next to your chair's the handle to your door
dismantle the door handle, put the parts into your desk drawer
say some words then make a sign, now open up the drawer:
the drawer can't tell you more
than to deal with the door

Now you object to objects actually meaning more
than some pathetic, lame aesthetic stolling rone is famous for
push the drawer closed, grab a firehose, point it at the door
get it all wet, remember, forget what rock & roll is for
the drawer can't tell you more
than to deal with the door

Now you're fishing for a mission way beyond the door
first you dream, next you're scheming, searching through your drawer
for an oar for your trip bound for yet uncharted shores
over-reaching, find me spieling, cataloging doors
the door's a symbol for
these objects in your drawer
I hope nobody minds me posting these lyrics on my web page, but I talked to Ed Crawford and Mike Watt after a fIREHOSE concert about ten years ago, and they seemed very nice people, not the sort who'd make a lot of fuss about it.
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Mickey Mouse still in copyright jail - click to see more

Not funny: Eric Eldred and Larry Lessig lost the Eldred v. Ashcroft case. Therefore, Mickey Mouse remains in copyright jail, and you're still not allowed to sing "Happy Birthday" in public (in the US) without having to pay royalties. There's also an article at Wired.com about it. [cartoon by Andy Baio via Boing Boing Blog]

Update: Reason Online has an interview with Mickey Mouse, in which he openly talks about being a prisoner in Disney's copyright jail. [thx jenett.radio]
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After the War On Terrorism and the War On Drugs now comes President Bush's War On Women, says Meg Hourihan, quoting a recent article from The NY Times:
What is important is the actual impact of the presidential assault: women's constitutional liberty has been threatened, essential reproductive health care has been denied or delayed, and some women will needlessly die. [more]
And I had thought the major backlash had been a thing of the early 90s. Turns out that if you have the right puritan politician in power, things can always get worse.
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No charge: public libraries provide full-text access to databases: "A persistent myth says that you can find "everything" on the web. Not even close! Fortunately, many public libraries offer free access to a wealth of online databases that are often much higher quality than what you can (or can't) find on the web..." Here's more. [via The Shifted Librarian]
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Street sensation is an interesting concept: it shows entire streetscapes of London's favourite streets - over 2,500 shops, bars and restaurants in the liveliest areas of London. Covers Oxford Street and Regent Street; Portobello Road and Notting Hill; the King's Road in Chelsea; Carnaby Street; Covent Garden, Bond Street; Knightsbridge; Soho; Islington and Camden. Now someone needs to do this for other cities as well. [found via Boing Boing Blog]
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Thursday, January 16, 2003

Joe Jenett seems to think that the sign I passed under the Permanently Closed Door in my office yesterday might actually encourage, rather than discourage, people to knock.

I had thought about that. I had actually discarded this first design:






DIESE TÜR IST VERSPERRT.

WIRKLICH.






This translates as: "This door is locked shut. Really."

However, I realized that in contrast to all rules of semantics (though perhaps in compliance with the rules of pragmatics), this would make just about everyone who passes by try the door handle (it's one of the really strange things about human nature). So I came up with the second design (shown yesterday) in an attempt at devising a text that, while bordering on the absurd, would still do its best to actively discourage people from trying the door.

I'm still not sure whether the sign has been mounted on the door. It's no longer lying on the floor, that much is sure. And there were footsteps approaching the door this morning, pausing briefly, and then walking away again, which might be a good sign.

At any rate, I have prepared a new sheet design which I will pass under the door the next time somebody knocks and/or tries the door handle:






ICH BIN NICHT IM BÜRO.

VERSUCHEN SIE ES SPÄTER NOCH EINMAL.






This translates as: "I am not in my office. Please try again later."

It's just too bad I won't be able to see their faces when they get this.
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Just to show you that I am a dirty old young man, I'm relaying this link to covers of "Svensk snuskprosa" from 1925 to 1984 (and yes, we are talking about erotic novels here). I won't tell you which covers I like, but the Schockwellenreiter has foolishly revealed his preferences on his weblog.  ;-) [link via Der Schockwellenreiter]
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Sounds good: Archiving Company Creates Online-Submission Process for Dissertations and Theses: "ProQuest Information and Learning ... has set up an electronic-submission process to save graduate students hassles at the end of their big ordeal. The new service ... provides a Web site with customized Web pages for participating graduate schools. The service will become widely available later in the year." [via Library Stuff]
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Looking at the state of the railways in the UK, you wouldn't believe it was the country that invented them. In order to get the train operating companies' abysmal punctuality record under control, the Strategic rail Authority has now rolled out a plan to cut 104 trains per day (of about 17,000). As you might expect, the unions are furious. Andrew Clark has a comment and more details.

Oh, and just to add to your misery, in about 10 years from now bananas will be extinct, too. [via Guardian Unlimited]
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Why am I not surprised? The minute I heard that Microsoft was now developing software for cell phones I expected this to happen. It took a bit longer than I thought, but here we are now: Security flaw may threaten cell phones. Will Microsoft ever be able to write software that is not full of security holes? [found via Privacy Digest]
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Scott Rosenberg found this CNN report from defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld's press conference yesterday and draws the following conclusion:
Iraqis! If we find evidence of your WMD program, we will invade you! If we do not find evidence, that is evidence that you have not cooperated -- so we will invade you!

What's really going on here, I suppose, is that Rumsfeld never wanted inspections to resume in the first place, always wanted to invade first and ask questions later, and is now trying to exploit the situation by closing a Catch-22 pincer upon the Iraqi dictator. [Scott Rosenberg's Links & Comment]
The only question that remains is why the US troops aren't attcking right away - even though by now it should be pretty obvious to everyone with two one eyes and some brains in their head that no matter what happens in Iraq, the U.S. will attack. However, it looks like they're still searching for some pretext that may make them look slightly less like the crooks that they are. This is just so pathetic.

And while I'm at it, here's some food for thought from Toby Sackton:
Iraq is under threat of invasion precisely because it is not a threat to U.S. national security, but rather a weak target of opportunity by those who want to reestablish U.S. military control over Arabia. [Toby's Political Diary]
After all, as Konstantin Klein has found out via an article in the Washington Post, some of the hawks who are now in the Bush administration apparently planned the war against Iraq long before Bush ran for president. [WorldWideKlein]
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Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Next to my office, in the corridor, there's this door that's locked shut. All the time. I'm not sure what's on the other side - some university department or administrative offices, I guess.

On this side of the door we all know there's no way to pass through. However, on the other side, there are people who don't. From time to time (but at least once a day) you'll hear footsteps approaching, then a gentle, slightly insecure knock, after which the door handle will tentatively be pressed down - only to find that the door is locked. Defeated, the footsteps will slowly move away, fading in the distance.

Today, in a sudden fit of pity, I wanted to help the people on the other side. Using my word processor and a sheet of paper, I created this sign:






HINTER DIESER TÜR IST NIEMAND.

KLOPFEN SIE NICHT - ES IST ZWECKLOS.






This translates as: "There is nobody behind this door. Don't knock - it's futile."

I attached four pieces of Scotch tape to the corners of the sign (in an attempt to fool people into believing that this sign had been on the door and had simply fallen down) and slid it under the door to the other side. The gap between the door and the floor is just wide enough so that, if you lie flat on the floor, you can see through. When I checked a few hours later, the sign was still lying on the floor.

I hope someone will pick it up and stick it on the door rather than throw it away. I like the slightly fatalistic touch about the message, and I think it fits perfectly on this door which is just at the end of our respective corridors, never to be opened on either side.
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1. Another victim of a bug in Radio UserLand or Mac OS X or both - Jörg Kantel, a.k.a Der Schockwellenreiter, one of the most popular Radio Weblogs (1500+ hits per day) and one of the best German weblogs, is no longer blogging with Radio UserLand, after some as yet unidentified bug wrecked his weblog. So since I started blogging in August, I've seen five weblogs I read regularly drop Radio UserLand because of similarly nasty experiences and use some other weblog software instead.

2. Everybody likes Safari and everybody suggests tabbed browsing as a feature to be implemented soon. But am I really the only one who wants to be able to synchronize browser bookmarks using iSync and .Mac? I have four computers I work with, and it'd be really great if I could have the same browser bookmarks on each of them. PLEASE, Apple.

3. Why do some RSS feed keep broadcasting the same news over and over again with every update, even if you've read them all before? Nothing is more tiresome than deleting the same news items over and over again several times a day. Some sites manage to get their feeds under control and don't do it, while others are totally hopeless, even sending week-old news again and again.
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Gallup has some nice statistics which show that President Bush's approval ratings have dropped below 60% for first time since 9/11. The statistics are mighty interesting, though not for showing the recent lack of approval, but rather how 9/11 influenced people in totally irrational ways. I can pretend to understand that the the general job approval rating and the foreign policy approval rating would surge after 9/11; after all, both are in some ways related to how the crisis was handled. However the following graph is a total mystery to me:

George W. Bush's Job of Handling the Economy
Bush poll 3:

Somebody please tell me in what ways President Bush was handling the economy better after 9/11 than before. If I remember correctly, what happened was that the economy went on a downward spiral, the sleaziness of corporate management was brutally exposed, and the Bush administration did next to nothing in response - an improvement? Seriously?

And while I'm at it, here's an excerpt from an article by famous writer (and former British spy) John Le Carré from the London Times:
How Bush and his junta succeeded in deflecting America's anger from bin Laden to Saddam Hussein is one of the great public relations conjuring tricks of history. But they swung it. A recent poll tells us that one in two Americans now believe Saddam was responsible for the attack on the World Trade Centre. But the American public is not merely being misled. It is being browbeaten and kept in a state of ignorance and fear. The carefully orchestrated neurosis should carry Bush and his fellow conspirators nicely into the next election.
Here's more. [Found via Craig's BookNotes]

Need some comic relief after this? Okay, here you go (6.9MB Quicktime movie). [via jenett.radio: dailywebthing]
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Library Stuff reports about a library with no rules: "[W]hen Frances O'Brien started a lending library in 1928 by leaving a pile of books on the front porch of her home here, it didn't have any rules. No due dates. No overdue fines. No cards, no forms to fill out, no restrictions. Not even hours. [...] O'Brien's library stayed open 24 hours a day. The door was never locked. This was its only rule: You want a book, you borrow it. When you're done, you bring it back." [Library Stuff]

And Jenny Levine has a link to Free Promo Photos for Libraries: "These photos are from the Beyond Words: Celebrating America's Libraries Photo Contest, which helped mark National Library Week 1999 and the Bicentennial of the Library of Congress. Amateur and professional photographers alike were encouraged to capture the spirit of our nation's libraries and the many ways they touch our lives everyday. Libraries nationwide held local photo contests and submitted their first-place winners to ALA for national judging." [The Shifted Librarian]
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As Christian Crumlish reports, there is conclusive evidence that Camper Van Beethoven have reunited. Not only is there a new (albeit apparently hectically assembled) CVB website, there is also a list of tour dates - the only problem being that they won't be coming to Vienna (Munich seems to be as close as they're going). Some of their old albums are apparently being re-issued, but there's no word if there'll be a new album. Let's see what this is leading up to. [via Radio Free Blogistan]
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I have this webmail address at excite.com, which I specifically created as a spam repository, you know for all those situations where you have to provide a valid e-mail for something where you just know that you end up getting spammed at some point. I also use it for my UseNet postings and whenever I leave a comment on somebody's weblog.

As you would expect, my inbox at excite.com is full of spam.

As you would not expect, the spam is almost entirely in Korean, Japanese or Chinese (most of it seems to be in Korean, but as I can read neither of these languages, I'm not entirely sure about this). Maybe one in 30 spams is in English.

Now I have no idea what I did to create the impression that I am interested in Korean, Japanese or Chinese merchandise (or whatever it is they're trying to sell/tell me, for some of these mails are pretty obscure and I have no idea what they want). Or maybe it's simply that excite.com's spam filters only work with Roman language encoding. However, I also have an account on Hotmail, which is spammed even worse, but where I get zero Asian spams, so I must have triggered this somehow. I just have no idea how I did it.

It just seems so absurd. And the people in these spams don't even look like they're Korean.
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Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Giant lava lamp

So Soap Lake, an ailing health spa town in the US state of Washington is trying to attract tourists with... a 60ft giant lava lamp? Uh-huh. (More at CNN). Weird. Perhaps even weirder is that they might be successful in attracting me. One of the yet unanswered questions is whether Mathmos will be sponsoring the project or whether they will be demanding royalties. [via WorldWideKlein]
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A projection of the most likely outcome of a new war in the Gulf. The author used sophisticated temporal algorithms and historical semiotic analysis to achieve an accuracy rating of what he claims to be 99.999%. [forgot where I found this - sorry]
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Gary Turner, whose father recently passed away, writes about erasing people from mobile phone address books - what it's like and what it could be like if technology learned some sensitivity. [Momentary Lapses Of Dilution]
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Toby Sackton writes about solidarity:
Culturally, capitalism works best when every social tie is atomized, where humans are rootless, autonomous units guided by marketing efforts, where relationships with things becomes the only way to mediate relationships with people. One way to drive people in this direction is to relentlessly preach a radical individualism that holds that all social outcomes, whether poverty or wealth, sickness or health, success or failure, criminality or celebrity are totally determined by individual effort.
...
The classic antidote to this atomization of individuals has been [base "]solidarity[per thou]. [...] It is time to resurrect this concept - that solidarity among Americans means there is a limit to the income inequality that we will tolerate, a limit to the social costs corporations can impose, and an entitlement to a European quality of life, with vacation, health care, retirement, unemployment, training and an adequate welfare system. [Toby's political diary]
Sadly, the "European quality of life" is soon to be a thing of the past, as politicians and the economy in Europe are trying hard to "Americanize" social politics, and erode the welfare state and the various national health systems - if they have their way, all of it will be gone in a few years. And even in Europe, "solidarity" is such an anachronism and has been so eroded by consumerist "individualism" (which is really just another word for "economic dependency") that I daresay that even most of the European Social Democratic parties (who were originally founded on this principle) know what it is any longer.
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Mark Pilgrim has a few angry words as reaction to the fact that painstakingly adhering to XHTML 1 standards and semantic tags in writing his websites was nothing but a waste of time since many of the key elements of HTML 4 and XHTML 1 will no longer be supported in XHTML 2, which lacks backwards compatibility. [dive into mark]

In the light of recent developments, I have no idea myself why I bothered to convert some of my own pages to XHTML 1.0 a while ago. I can only recommend that everyone who considers doing it should really wait until the arrival of XHTML 2, see if they truly benefit from it, and, if not, just stick to HTML 4. There wasn't really any reason for using XHTML 1 other than jumping the bandwagon until now, and there's even less reason to do so now.
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If you're one of the people adding ICBM coordinates to your weblog in order to get onto GeoURL, or if you just need your exact coordinates for any other reason - or, if you are lost somewhere outside the USA and simply need a good map -, then Maporama is the perfect tool for you. The maps are so precise that you can usually get the precise coordinates for your house. A bit scary, actually.
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In this year died the King Stephen; and he was buried where his wife and his son were buried, at Faversham; which monastery they founded. When the king died, then was the earl beyond sea [...]. When he came to England, then was he received with great worship, and blessed to king in London on the Sunday before midwinter day. [...] The same day that Martin, Abbot of Peterborough, should have gone thither, then sickened he, and died on the fourth day before the nones of January; and the monks [...] chose [...] William de Walteville, a good clerk, and good man, and well beloved of the king, and of all good men. [...] And soon the newly chosen abbot, and the monks with him, went to Oxford to the king. And the king gave him the abbacy; and he proceeded soon afterwards to Peterborough; [...] And the king was received with great worship at Peterborough, in full procession. [...] [The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle]

And so ends the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. If you read through the entries that I selected over the past few weeks, you may have noticed that the political decisions and the ways in which wars are begun haven't changed much over the past 1000 years and that the Chronicle hasn't lost any of its relevance for us today.

I would have liked it to have ended with yesterday's entry,
Nevertheless, fought they not; but the archbishop and the wise men went between them, and made [a] settlement [...] that peace and union should be betwixt them [...]. And there was soon so good a peace as never was there before. Then was the king stronger than he ever was before. And the earl went over sea; and all people loved him; for he did good justice, and made peace.
which might be a good message to today's political leaders; but today's excerpt is also a good reminder that things are constantly in flux and change. Plus, having such an obviously happy ending is cheesy, not realistic. Time passes; but the world remains more or less the same.
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TIMEeurope.com held a poll to find out about which country the users consider as The Biggest Threat To Peace. Can you guess the result? Hint: It's not Iraq. [via Weblog Wannabe]
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Monday, January 13, 2003

I had been wondering why Apple's Mail.app refused to delete mails from my Junk Mail and Trash folders, even though I had set it to empty these folders daily. And I had had repeated fits of anger when I noticed that some of the mails from my Sent folder had mysteriously disappeared.

Then, today I read in the most recent edition of Macwelt that there is a localisation bug in the German version of Mail.app, so that some (but not all) settings for the Junk Mail folder apply to the Sent folder and vice versa. Great. So that's why my sent mails disappeared. I have now set all "delete automatically" options to "never", just to be on the safe side, and I advise all other users of the German version of Mail.app to do the same thing.

One other thing I noticed: the "keep a copy on the server" option for the Trash and Junk Mail folders is on by default in the German version. However, no copy is kept on the server. If you turn it off, Mail creates a copy on the server. Seems like some major localisation bug here as well. And the correct 24-hour time display in Mail.app works in the German version only if you disable the time suffixes in the Date and Time system preferences panel.

I don't know about the English version of Mail.app, but the German version is a dangerous bug heap. Having it work correctly seems like a game of chance to me.

P.S.: Another useful tip from Macwelt: If you are using Mozilla or Netscape 7 and want to use an e-mail application other than Mozilla/Netscape's built-in mailer, add the following line to the prefs.js file inside the Mozilla folder in your Mac OS X Library folder in your User home directory folder:
user_pref("network.protocol-handler.external.mailto",true);
This will cause Mozilla/Netscape to open the e-mail application set in the Internet system prefs panel instead of its own mailer. Works beautifully.
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I got to be #39 on the Daypop Top 40 today. Wondering how this could have happened (number 39 on the list of the world's top 40 most-referenced websites -- moi?), I checked the citations list and found out it was apparently mostly via other people's blogrolls. Six citations total; apparently that's what it takes to be famous. :-) Must be a very slow day. I guess my reaction to this is most aptly described as "amused".
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Karlin Lillington writes that the current US policy of spamming key Iraqis (see also this story from CNN) as part of a psychological war effort might be a feasible concept "as long as it doesn't tell them how to 'last all night,' 'investigate enemies' or 'embrace energy markets'." [techno\culture]
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A very simple recipe. Contains quite a lot of oil, but then it's all olive oil, which is virtually cholesterol-free and full of polyunsaturates, so this is actually healthy (IMPORTANT: This only works with olive oil, do not use any other kind of oil, as it will taste utterly awful if you do!). Serves two to three, as usual.
  • 1 large eggplant (about 300 grams), cut into small cubes
  • 1 medium-sized onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup (~125ml) olive oil
  • 250 grams pureed tomatoes or passata
  • 1 cup rice
  • 3 cups water
  • salt
  • ground black pepper
In a large pot, heat the olive oil and fry the onions until they have become transparent. Add the eggplant cubes and fry some more. Then add the pureed tomatoes, cover the pot and let cook for about 15 minutes over low heat, stirring from time to time.

Add the water, salt and pepper, stir well and bring to boil. Then, add the rice. Let simmer until the rice is ready and has soaked up almost all of the water, stirring from time to time. Serve with white or brown bread.
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Venezuela, North Korea, South Korea, Turkey, Europe, Afghanistan, Iraq -- in only two years of his presidency, George W. Bush has managed to build up conflicts with more other states than any of his predecessors. Plus, employment in the US is falling, deficits are back, a new missile defense arms race is about to begin, there is an unyielding war of attrition in Israel, and people in the U.S. are more fearful than ever. Therefore, Toby Sackton asks: "Is the Frat Boy in Over His Head?" [Toby's Political Diary]
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The EFF has a pretty nice article entitled "Unintended Consequences." Basically, it reviews the last four years of life under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), and how use of the "anti-circumvention" clauses have been used to stifle innovation, censor free speech, and threaten academic/scientific research. It ends with a conclusion most on Slashdot have been dicussing for ages: "Four years of experience with the "anti-circumvention" provisions of the DMCA demonstrate that the statute reaches too far, chilling a wide variety of legitimate activities in ways Congress did not intend."[Slashdot via Privacy Digest]
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An article from The Guardian on the sad state of the American press:
Guardian writers are inundated by emails from Americans asking plaintively why their own papers never print what is in these columns (in my experience, these go hand-in-hand with an equal number insulting us for the same reason). In the American press, day after day, the White House controls the agenda. The supposedly liberal American press has become a dog that never bites, hardly barks but really loves rolling over and having its tummy tickled.
...
[P]olitical courage is especially rare. Reporters in Washington are kept in line by the standard threat: annoy us, and your stories dry up. In normal times this matters less, because there may be enough dissidents to produce alternative information. But the Bush White House's sophisticated news management has given them control.
...
If there is a Watergate scandal lurking in this administration, it is unlikely to be Woodward or his colleagues who will tell us about it. If it emerges, it will [like the Trent Lott story] probably come out on the web. That is a devastating indictment of the state of American newspapers. [Guardian Unlimited]
By the way, don't get me started on the sad state of the Austrian press. It's much, much worse.
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In this year wished the King Stephen to take Robert, Earl of Gloucester, the son of King Henry; but he could not, for he was aware of it. After this, in the Lent, the sun and the day darkened about the noon-tide of the day, when men were eating; and they lighted candles to eat by. [...] After this waxed a very great war betwixt the king and Randolph, Earl of Chester [...]. Then was England very much divided. [...] Then went Eustace, the king's son, to France, and took to wife the sister of the King of France. [...] And the Queen of France parted from the king; and she came to the young Earl Henry; and he took her to wife, and all Poitou with her. Then went he with a large force into England [...] and the king went against him with a much larger force. Nevertheless, fought they not; but the archbishop and the wise men went between them, and made [a] settlement [...] that peace and union should be betwixt them, and in all England. [...] Then was the earl received at Winchester, and at London, with great worship; and all did him homage, and swore to keep the peace. And there was soon so good a peace as never was there before. Then was the king stronger than he ever was before. And the earl went over sea; and all people loved him; for he did good justice, and made peace. [The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle]
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I currently have no water in my flat. Everything was still fine on Saturday evening, but when I woke up yesterday morning, looked at my sleepy face in the bathroom mirror and decided to give it a good wash, only a small trickle came from the tap, and it promptly subsided.

I remember when I moved in that there was a warning sign near the door always to close the door during the winter, or else the pipes would freeze up. I suppose what happened is that someone left the door open during the night, and at the cosy temperatures that we currently have in Vienna (around -10°C during the day, much less during the night), disaster ensued.

Anyway, I waited for the water to return, which was rather optimistic I guess, since the inavailability of plumbers on Sundays would guarantee that such thing is extremely unlikely to happen. How did I cook the Pork Vindaloo, you ask? Well, there was about one litre of water left in the kettle, and I still had two bottles of mineral water. Strange thing, you only notice how much water you actually use when it's suddenly gone.
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Sunday, January 12, 2003

Bettina PalmisanoBettina (you remember her pigeon story from a while back) wrote me an e-mail to cheer me up about my lost readers. She included a kind of thank-you note for making her a googleable entity:
It feels kind of special that whenever somebody does a Google search for my new married name, they no longer get sent to a web page showing an Italian housewife in her fifties (pictured to the right), but instead my strange pigeon story pops up in the first position.
Entirely my pleasure, Bettina. :-)

However, I may have to clarify this for my other readers: if you went to Google to look for a picture of Bettina-with-the-pigeons, the picture that you most probably found is not the correct Bettina. Yes, the woman on the picture to the right is also called Bettina Palmisano, but she is not the one who wrote the pigeon story. Here's the evidence:
  • This woman is eating ice cream, not shooing away pigeons.
  • This woman lives in Chicago, not in Austria.
  • And finally, this woman is at least twenty, if not thirty years older than the Bettina I know. She also looks different. Very much so.
See? It's elementary, really.
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After R. Robot now there's the Unofficial Official Simulator, initiated by the Department of Official Simulation (DoOS): "DoOS makes available for press conferences and interviews simulated officials virtually identical to the originals with regard to talking points, lucidity and veracity."

You can ask anything you want, and the simulated selves of Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld and others will answer. All quotes are authentic. [via Radio Free Blogistan]
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Mike James: "C'mon, it doesn't take much empathy to realize that if you're not prepared to have your own home/neigborhood/hometown bombed, then you cannot as a person of conscience support the bombing of others' homes/neighborhoods/hometowns. In Iraq or anywhere else." [Tread lightly on the things of earth]
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And they're not even talking about commuter bugs: The government-funded Rail Passenger Council is to launch the investigation of the adverse health effects of using the UK rail network. Researchers will measure the heart rate, blood pressure and other possible symptoms of discomfort, such as muscular tension, to asses the effects of repeatedly enduring overcrowded carriages.

The decision comes days after the Strategic Rail Authority warned that thousands of passengers are being forced into cramped carriages because firms find it cheaper to incur modest penalties than pay for longer trains. Experts said the ritual of coping with an overcrowded, unreliable service ensured commuters were stressed long before they arrived at work and long after they returned home. One even warned that this tension could prove fatal. [The Observer]
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Over the past few years, sparrows, once ubiquitous in Austrian cities, have almost completely disappeared; so far nobody has been able to come up with an explanation. Reading today's Observer I noticed that apparently exactly the same thing has been happening in the UK as well. Scientists over there are now investigating electromagnetic radiation from mobile phone masts as a possible reason for the disappearance of over 10 million British sparrows. [The Observer]
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This is my first attempt at a Pork Vindaloo. It turned out quite well and pretty close to what I wanted it to be like, but I may give it a second try later.

And yes, the Vindaloo was apparently originally a pork dish, but if you don't like pork, it should work just as well with chicken meat, even though the sour, vinegary taste goes better with pork than with chicken.

Please beware: as is the case with Vindaloo dishes, this is VERY VERY hot, so try it only if you didn't have any problems with the Green Chicken Jalfrezi from a few days ago - this one is hotter. As usual, this serves two (or three, if you're not very hungry).
  • 500-600 grams tender pork, cut into smallish cubes
  • 6 smallish potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 2 medium-sized onions, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 8-10 fresh red chilies (avoid dried chilies - they're hotter and have less aroma)
  • 1 small (1/2 inch) piece of fresh ginger, chopped
  • 300ml sieved tomatoes or passata
  • 4 tablespoons vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground tumeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons very hot red chili powder
  • 2 smallish pieces from a cinnamon bark
  • 3 cloves
  • a few whole black pepper seeds
  • 4 whole cardamom seeds
  • 1 teaspoon tandoori powder
  • salt
  • ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons oil or ghee
In a wok or big pan, fry the onions in 2 tablespoons oil until transparent, then add 2 chopped cloves garlic and the chopped ginger; fry some more until the onion becomes yellowish. Add the tumeric, cumin and 1 teaspoon coriander and fry some more for about 2 minutes.

Put the fried onions/garlic/ginger in a blender. Add the remaining cloves garlic, the red chilies, vinegar, lemon juice, some of the sieved tomatoes and some water. Whizz until you have a very smooth brownish-golden sauce.

Put the meat into the pan and fry until it has become white and the pores have closed. Add the mixture from the blender, the remaining tomatoes, the potatoes and enough water so that everything is covered. Add the chili powder, 1 teaspoon coriander powder, cinnamon, cloves, black pepper seeds, cardamom seeds, salt, ground black pepper; stir, then let cook over low heat with the lid on for about 20 minutes.

Add the tandoori powder; then add some more sieved tomatoes, coriander powder, salt, chili powder or black pepper if necessary. Let cook some more until the potatoes are well done.

Serve immediately with a lot of rice and a dry white wine (or, if you prefer, a hoppy beer).
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This year came King Henry to this land. Then came Abbot Henry, and betrayed the monks of Peterborough to the king, because he would subject that minster to Clugny; so that the king was well nigh entrapped, and sent after the monks. But through the grace of God, and through the Bishop of Salisbury, and the Bishop of Lincoln, and the other rich men that were there, the king knew that he proceeded with treachery. When he no more could do, then would he that his nephew should be Abbot of Peterborough. But Christ forbade. Not very long after this was it that the king sent after him, and made him give up the Abbey of Peterborough, and go out of the land. And the king gave the abbacy to a prior of St. Neot's, called Martin, who came on St. Peter's mass-day with great pomp into the minster. [The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle]
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awarded to
Horst Prillinger
in the category of
"Sexiest Weblogger Alive"

Did I mention that I like Firda's award-o-matic and especially the award it awarded me? It's a nice compensation for all those of us who aren't going to win one of the real 2003 bloggies awards. You still have a few hours left to nominate me over there, by the way... ;-)
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Saturday, January 11, 2003

Nasty habits on the tube
[Source: Going Underground]

I SO feel like doing this ever so often.
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eBizSearch is an experimental niche search engine that searches the web and catalogs academic articles as well as commercially produced articles and reports that address various business and technology aspects of e-Business. The search engine crawls websites of universities, commercial organizations, research institutes and government departments to retrieve academic articles, working papers, white papers, consulting reports, magazine articles, and published statistics and facts. [Infomaniac via Library Stuff]
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Even in the ultra-conservative German CSU party there is a growing sentiment against President Bush's Iraq policy, reports the Süddeutsche Zeitung (in German): "Bush's policy has become erratic," says one politician, "there are no facts whatsoever to justify a war. [...] If it is possible to prevent the bombardment of innocent people, it must be done." [via Couchblog, my translation]

In the meantime, Meg Hourihan has found an interesting transcript from a White House press briefing, in which White House spokesman Ari Fleischer answers the question why President Bush want to drop bombs on innocent Iraqis. [This Modern World via megnut]
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All this year was the King Henry in Normandy - all till after harvest. Then came he to this land, betwixt the Nativity of St. Mary and Michaelmas. With him came the queen, and his daughter, whom he had formerly given to the Emperor Henry of Lorrain to wife. And he brought with him the Earl Waleram, and Hugh, the son of Gervase. And the earl he sent to Bridgenorth in captivity: and thence he sent him afterwards to Wallingford; and Hugh to Windsor, whom he ordered to be kept in strong bonds. Then after Michaelmas came David, the king of the Scots, from Scotland to this land; and the King Henry received him with great worship; and he continued all that year in this land. In this year the king had his brother Robert taken from the Bishop Roger of Salisbury, and committed him to his son Robert, Earl of Glocester, and had him led to Bristol, and there put into the castle. That was all done through his daughter's counsel, and through David, the king of the Scots, her uncle. [The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle]
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Illinois Gov. George Ryan will make U.S. history today when he announces a blanket commutation to all prisoners on Illinois' Death Row, he told the Chicago Sun-Times late Friday. "I thought about it night and day. I finally came to the conclusion that this was the right decision and I'm going to have to live with it."

Earlier Friday, in announcing his full pardon of four Death Row inmates, Ryan detailed the many ways in which he said police and prosecutors railroaded Madison Hobley on shoddy or non-existent evidence for a fire that killed his wife and child, Hobley's sister Penny held both hands over her face, crying and rocking her head. A few minutes later, when Ryan announced he was pardoning Hobley and three other Death Row inmates who said police had tortured false confessions from them, Penny Hobley and 200 other prisoners' relatives, law students and death penalty opponents jumped to their feet in a standing ovation. Here's more. [via Craig's BookNotes] There's more at the BBC.
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I can't decide whether to leave the comments or remove them. They're more or less pointless because very few people write something and because they seem to be not working most of the time lately, but somehow when I turned them off briefly yesterday, I missed them. Even the very theoretical probability that somebody might actually be writing a comment seems to be significant and I felt more uncomfortable with the certainty that there wouldn't be any comments than with the minuscule probability that there might be some. This longing for feedback must be connected with my INFP personality, I guess.
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Thanks to everyone who read my post on Diminished readership yesterday and hit the "Reload" button on their browser several times to cheer me up. It's much appreciated. Thanks also to Volker Weber, who directed about 50 people my way by kindly mentioning me on his weblog. You all made my statistics look very pretty yesterday. :-) I still didn't beat Ursula Lotze, though... :-(
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Friday, January 10, 2003

Anyone who has ever travelled on the London Underground should feel at home on the website of Annie Mole (a.k.a. The Mole), Going Underground. Her site is organised somewhat chaotically (just like the Underground itself, you might say), but once you've found your way, you'll surely appreciate it as it deals with the wackier side of The Tube: among other things, it features the basics of Underground etiquette, ghost sightings, notes on tube food, 50 obscure facts and funny train drivers' announcements such as this one: "I apologise for the delay leaving the station ladies and gentlemen, this is due to a passenger masturbating on the train at Edgware Road. Someone has activated the alarm and he is being removed from the train." Here's more.

[I corresponded with Annie a while back over my own underground website. This is me finally keeping my promise to link to her site.]

By the way, the London Underground is celebrating its 140th birthday today, the first line of the Metropolitan Railway having been opened in 1863 between Farringdon Street and Paddington using trains hauled with steam engines. Here's more.
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Bizarrely, America seems to think that insulting and threatening behaviour is exactly what is needed to persuade a sceptical Europe that genetically modified (GM) food is safe:
This week Robert Zoellick, the US administration's top trade official, lashed out at a "luddite" and "immoral" Europe. European "antiscientific" policies were, he claimed, spreading to the developing world and convincing famine-hit countries to refuse GM food aid.

Pushing his own country ever closer towards a trade dispute with the EU that would dwarf all past spats, he called for the nth time for Europe's ban on new GM product approvals to be lifted and said he favoured legal action against the EU in the World Trade Organisation to force Europe to do the right thing. [Guardian Unlimited]
I suppose that's how the current class of American politicians is making friends these days - by threatening and suing others. And then they're sitting in a corner sulking and wondering why nobody wants to be their friend anymore.
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New category on this weblog: The Aardvark Cooks. Contains all the recipes I'm posting on this weblog. Not many so far, but more will follow... eventually. An RSS feed is available.
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All this year continued the King Henry in Normandy; and he was greatly perplexed by the hostility of the King of France [...]; until the two kings came together in Normandy with their forces. There was the King of France put to flight, and all his best men taken. [...] This year went William, the son of King Henry and Queen Matilda, into Normandy to his father, and there was given to him, and wedded to wife, the daughter of the Earl of Anjou. On the eve of the mass of St. Michael was much earth-heaving in some places in this land; though most of all in Glocestershire and in Worcestershire. In this same year died the Pope Gelasius [...]. And after him the Archbishop of Vienna was chosen pope, whose name was Calixtus. [...] In this year also died the Earl Baldwin of Flanders of the wounds that he received in Normandy. And after him succeeded to the earldom Charles, the son of his uncle by the father's side, who was son of Cnute, the holy King of Denmark. [The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle]
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The truth about "trustworthy computing": "So a 'Trusted Computer' is one that can break my security? - Now you've got it." Ross Anderson's Palladium/TCPA FAQ. Now also available in German. [thx to Der Schockwellenreiter]
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Die Zeit asks: where are the foreign Euro coins? According to predictions, by the end of the year 2002, the Euro coins in European citizens' wallets should have been a mixture of coins from all participating countries, in relative proportion according to the total number of coins issued by the respective national banks. However, they aren't (my own statistics confirm this). Researchers are now blaming coin collectors, but my own guess is that the coins don't like to travel as much as was expected. New projections by a German mathematician now say it could take up to 20 years until the coins are evenly distributed over all participating countries. [via Monoklon]
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Some technical stuff follows, which is probably of little or no interest to people who are not into the mechanics of weblogging. Feel free to skip this entry.

A while ago, I removed the netbib weblog RSS feed from my news aggregator, because the feed kept rendering all my other newsfeeds illegible. Now I have to keep reminding myself constantly to read it; just realised that I have about 2 weeks backlog to read. When will they finally fix their news feed?

I installed Safari and deleted Chimera, which I wasn't using anyway, from my hard drive. Then I also threw out Mozilla, because a bug in 1.2.1 and 1.3alpha, which kept displaying gray dialog windows, gray pages or no pages at all, and the inability to properly block poupup windows were driving me mad. I switched to Netscape 7.0.1 instead. Much better now.

I (temporarily) disabled the WeatherPixie, which had been slowing down loading times of my web page considerably over the past few days.

Next thing: deactivating the comments - first, because the Radio Userland comments server seems to be down most of the time lately, and second, because nobody is writing comments anyway.

Lastly, I'll probably also get rid of the blogroll provided by blogrolling.com. It's also affecting download times, and I don't change it that often anyway. The blogroll also needs a major update - it doesn't really reflect the blogs I'm reading regularly any longer.
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I've lost about 40 daily readers (that's about a third of my readership) over the Christmas holidays. I'm not sure whether this is due to the fact that I took a break and didn't update my blog for about ten days, or whether my readers themselves went on vacation and just didn't bother to return afterwards. I guess I have to become famous real fast - if you're famous it doesn't matter what you write in your weblog, or even if you write anything; like Ray Ozzie still gets his 2000+ hits per day, even though he hasn't posted anything in two months.

And just to spite me, Ursula Lotze, whom I had almost surpassed reader-wise, who hasn't updated her weblog since August 14th last year and who doesn't strike me as particularly famous, now has about three times as many readers as I have (no, I'm not linking to her, because if I do, she'll get even more hits). This is beginning to become depressing.

Update: In an attempt to become famous, I have just decided to follow the call for papers for the BlogTalk conference in Vienna later this year and submit a paper, which they'll hopefully accept - or otherwise my plan to become famous will be cut short, which would be truly nasty. I just have to beat Ursula Lotze one of these days...

Another update: You did notice, I hope, that my tongue was planted firmly in my cheek while I was writing most of the above. I have no animosity whatsoever towards Ursula Lotze. I just want more hits than her stupid holiday cottage weblog. :-)
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Thursday, January 9, 2003

After thoroughly cleansing my system yesterday with the help of all that garlic and chili inside the Green Chicken Jalfrezi, I had a terrible day food-wise eating nothing but junk food today - sadly, I don't even know why I did it.

First, I had a ham-and-cheese toast (okay, let's call it Croque Monsieur to make it sound fancier) and wondered by Austrian toast bread always has to be so awfully dry. People here keep complaining about British bread all the time, but they seem unable to produce bread that can actually be toasted or used to make cold or hot sandwiches without having little puffs of flour coming out of your ears while you eat them.

Then, a bit later, I had a Leberkäsesemmel - a bread roll filled with the most unhealthy stuff sold by butchers hereabouts (although it seems you can also get the stuff in the US and in Japan nowadays): Leberkäse. This literally translates as "liver cheese", although there's neither liver nor cheese in it - it's mostly meat (pork) that that couldn't be used otherwise, finely chopped, generously spiced so you don't taste what it's made of, and baked into a kind of meat souflée. It's kind of addictive even though it doesn't taste particularly great and is totally, completely unhealthy. But it's always these things that are addictive, aren't they?
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You'd think there'd be more important things to worry about, but then we are talking about Big Brother's own country: UK school plans retinal scans in the dinner queue. [The Register]
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The Bush Jernals - the secret diary of George W. Bush. [thx to The Presurfer]
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From the Defective Yeti: New Year's Resolutions, As Dictated By Spam Subject Lines

To Do in 2003:

Embrace energy markets Reverse the aging process
Get a huge penis Order perscription drugs online
Investigate enemies Lose ten pounds in seven days
Make a fortune on Ebay See Britney Spears naked
Know the HGH difference Attract the opposite sex
Get an MBA Register to win
Get paid to eat snacks Chat with sexy girls
Earn $50,000 Send bulk email
Do it all night and stay hard Never work again
[Defective Yeti via techno\culture]
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David Hyatt from the Apple Safari developer team has a weblog, in which he addresses issues brought up by users. An RSS feed is also available.
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In this year was the King Henry at Christmas and at Easter in Normandy; and before Pentecost he came to this land, and held his court at Westminster. There were the conditions fully settled, and the oaths sworn, for giving his daughter to the emperor. This year were very frequent storms of thunder, and very tremendous; and the Archbishop Anselm of Canterbury died on the eleventh day before the calends of April; and the first day of Easter was on "Litania major". [The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle]
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UN weapons inspectors have not found any "smoking guns" in Iraq during their search for weapons of mass destruction, Hans Blix, the chief inspector said today.

Meanwhile, in the UK, Tony Blair might soon face a confrontation with his fellow party members: up to 100 MPs might be preparing to rebel and junior ministers could resign if war starts without UN backing: "The mood has hardened over Christmas. Labour MPs don't trust George Bush and wonder why Tony is so close to him. And the weapons inspectors haven't found anything. With a new UN resolution it [war] is manageable, but if Tony wants to do anything without UN support there will be serious mega-trouble," one influential moderate said yesterday. [Guardian Unlimited]
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Wednesday, January 8, 2003

As the U.S. prepares for a war with Iraq, Rep. Charles Rangel is introducing legislation to restart the military draft. The bill, he admits, has no chance of passing, but it's meant as an effort to inject questions about race and class into the Iraq debate, and force Americans to think twice about rushing into war. If the sons and daughters of the middle and upper classes were in danger of being sent to Iraq, Rangel argues, there might be more resistance to the war. Here's more. [Salon.com].

Good point. It certainly works with those European states with compulsory national service, where just about anyone who's having bad luck might be sent to Iraq - hence those nations' hesitation to join the war.
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As nothing else has happened today and I'm pretty short of ideas, I'll just point you to this bloke, who showered with 100 women and documented it on photographs. I know it's lame, but I told you today's a slow day. [via Der Schockwellenreiter]
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In this year at Christmas held the King Henry his court in Westminster, and at Easter in Winchester. And soon thereafter were the chief men in this land in a conspiracy against the king; partly from their own great infidelity, and also through the Earl Robert of Normandy, who with hostility aspired to the invasion of this land. And the king afterwards sent ships out to sea, to thwart and impede his brother; but some of them in the time of need fell back, and turned from the king, and surrendered themselves to the Earl Robert. Then at midsummer went the king out to Pevensey with all his force against his brother, and there awaited him. But in the meantime came the Earl Robert up at Portsmouth twelve nights before Lammas; and the king with all his force came against him. But the chief men interceded between them, and settled the brothers [...] And the earl afterwards remained in this land till after Michaelmas; and his men did much harm wherever they went, the while that the earl continued in this land. This year also the Bishop Ranulf at Candlemas burst out of the Tower of London by night, where he was in confinement, and went into Normandy; through whose contrivance and instigation mostly the Earl Robert this year sought this land with hostility. [The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle]
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  • Tabbed browser windows
  • Better cookie management
  • The ability to synchronize bookmarks across different computers using iSync and .Mac
Other than that, I'm surprisingly happy with it.

By the way, I agree with most reviewers that the text rendering at 72 dpi (instead of 96 dpi as everywhere else) is a bit of a nuisance, but as I specify font sizes in pixels, my sites are not affected... plus, contrary to Mozilla and Chimera, the "text size" buttons in Safari let you override text sizes specified in style sheets, so it's quite easy to make text legible again. Yay!
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At my favourite Indian restaurants in the UK, the Chicken Jalfrezi comes in a rather green sauce. One of them also advertises it as "low fat". However, pretty much everywhere else (including restaurants here in Vienna), it always comes in a red, rather fatty sauce. Today, I made my first attempt to re-create the green Chicken Jalfrezi as served by Khan's in London. Taking my hints only from the "low fat" (=mostly cooked) notice on Khan's menu and the notices on the Curry Pages dish glossary, I was surprised at how close I came. It's not exactly the same thing, but it comes very close.

Here's the recipe. If you want to cook it, BEWARE: this is by definition a very hot dish: most of the taste and aroma comes from the green chilies; so if you use fewer chilies in an attempt to make a milder dish, most of the taste goes missing - you need all those chilies for the taste. This recipe serves two. Here we go:
  • 750 grams of chicken breast, cut into 2 inch cubes
  • 2 smallish to medium-sized onions, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 piece of ginger (slightly less than 1 inch), chopped
  • 1 green capsicum (bell pepper), deseeded and cut into biggish pieces
  • 12-15 (sic!) green chilies
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • a few (max. 1/2 teaspoon) cardamom seeds
  • salt
Chop one of the garlic cloves. In a large pan or wok, fry the onions and the chopped garlic clove in 2 tablespoons of oil until the onions become yellowish. Add the chopped ginger and fry 1 minute more.

Put the fried onions, ginger and garlic plus the green chilies, 3 garlic cloves and 1/2 cup (4 fl oz) of water in a blender and whizz until very smooth (this does not work without a blender!).

Put the chicken pieces and capsicums into the frying pan (you may want to add a little bit of oil) and fry until the meat has turned white. Add the mixture from the blender, the cardamom seeds and some salt, then add some water (or chicken stock) until the meat is covered. Bring to boil.

After a while, squeeze in the two remaining cloves garlic with a garlic press and add the coriander powder. Cook until the meat is well done and most of the water has evaporated from the sauce. Serve with lots of rice.

If you want a milder taste, the correct way is not to use fewer chilies - as I said, this will affect the taste - but you can try to let it cook a bit longer, as the chilies become "milder" the longer they cook. You may have to add some more water in that case. However, there's no way of turning this into a "mild" or "medium" dish. At its mildest, it'll still be "fairly hot".
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Tuesday, January 7, 2003

You're a peace activist? Sorry pal, you're not allowed to travel on this plane. "It appears that anyone who belongs to an organization that is political and/or opposes the Administration (or its policies) is a possible candidate for the [blacklist that grounds American passengers] ... Being for peace translates to being a 'threat to aviation'." [via jenett.radio]
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Features on Apple's new browser just about everywhere: Mark Pilgrim reviews Safari, for web designers who need to support it. The Register writes that "Apple reopens the browser wars" - they wish. News.com is slightly less enthusiastic, but they still give it a thumbs-up. And Meg Hourihan can't wait to install it.
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The Guardian reports that a third of UK teachers plan to quit: "More than half (56%) of the 70,011 teachers in England who participated in the teacher 'census' say their morale is lower than when they joined the profession. A third would not go into teaching if they had their time again. By an overwhelming margin, teachers feel the government and especially the media do not give them enough respect. Black and male teachers, both in short supply nationwide, are most likely to quit." [Guardian Unlimited]
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In this year the King William with a large army went north to Carlisle, and restored the town, and reared the castle, and drove out Dolphin that before governed the land, and set his own men in the castle, and then returned hither southward. And a vast number of rustic people with wives and with cattle he sent thither, to dwell there in order to till the land. [The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle]
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Steve Jobs: "What's driving us is one simple thing, and that's innovation."

Boy, was today's Macworld expo keynote an experience. The folks at Apple must have been pretty busy over the past months - today Jobs revealed a number of exciting new products - iLife (Apple's iTunes, iPhoto, iMovie and iDVD rolled together into one integrated software suite), Safari (a slick and extremely fast web browser), Keynote (a presentation software that seriously kicks PowerPoint's butt) and the amazing 17" PowerBook, which does not only have a gorgeous big screen, but also a keyboard that starts to glow when it gets dark so that you can still type in absolute darkness (Wannahave factor: 1000). Not to forget Airport Extreme, FireWire 800 and the smaller 12" PowerBook.

A written summary of the keynote in weblog style (reverse chronological order) is available from MacCentral, a videostream is available at the Apple QuickTime site.
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Passing by Vienna's red light district on the underground (which goes above ground on that section) today, I noticed a sign at one of the night clubs: "Club Venera". Now is it just me, or is this a very ill-advised name choice? Sounds more like a place to contract VD than to have a good night out.

Come to think of it, as "Venus" is "Venere" in Italian, the term "venereal disease" is probably derived from none other than the name of the goddess of love herself (update: checked it in my dictionary. It's confirmed). Not much of a compliment, I'd say.
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Michael Koch: "Just came across a weblog that had a button on it saying 'No religion - do not worship'. Seems as if these days you have to tell each and every reader what they have to do during the five minutes they're spending reading the blog: 'Read all entries, write a comment, ignore the stupid fake mail addresses (sorry, but I just love to fill my blog with useless characters), buy me everything I need for my home from Amazon (hey, you owe me!) and don't you dare criticise me for what I'm saying (after all I'm just writing for myself!).' Oh bullshit." [Monoklon] (The original article is in German; this is my translation.)
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Monday, January 6, 2003

There is a German website located at www.spargeraete.de (no link here - the reason will become obvious in a second), which charges the not-so-subtle fee of €49 to allow you to link to them. Yes, seriously. You're not allowed to link to them unless you pay them €49. The site has in the meantime become the object of ridicule on a number of German weblogs [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]. It's either a display of profound cluelessness, or a very clever scheme to become instantly famous and attract thousands of hits (if it was, they've certainly succeeded).

Anyway, I have sent them a polite letter inquiring in which ways I can profit from linking to them - I wouldn't pay €49 otherwise, now would I? Let's see what they have to say.
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This year the king bare his crown, and held his court, in Winchester at Easter; and he so arranged, that he was by the Pentecost at Westminster, and dubbed his son Henry a knight there. Afterwards he moved about so that he came by Lammas to Sarum; [...] Thence he proceeded into the Isle of Wight; [...] he collected a very large sum from his people, wherever he could make any demand, whether with justice or otherwise. Then he went into Normandy; and Edgar Etheling, the relation of King Edward, revolted from him [...] And Christina, the sister of the etheling, went into the monastery of Rumsey, and received the holy veil. And the same year there was a very heavy season, and a swinkful and sorrowful year in England, in murrain of cattle, and corn and fruits were at a stand, and so much untowardness in the weather, as a man may not easily think; so tremendous was the thunder and lightning, that it killed many men; and it continually grew worse and worse with men. May God Almighty better it whenever it be his will. [The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle]
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In airports around the world, security personnel are now asking many travellers to take a photo to prove their camera is not a bomb. Canadian visual artist Isabelle Devos is collecting these photographs for an international art project. While there have been many changes in our sense of security, this one may be the only one that is being documented; a record being produced by travellers on their journey.

With only seconds to consider, what do people choose to take a photo of under these circumstances? Is it the security personnel, a friend, their luggage, the floor or something else? From these collected photos Devos will develop an art piece that will address the cultural and social patterns within the images, giving a record of one seemingly insignificant detail in our ever changing world. [Boing Boing Blog]
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War, it's good for the economy: It may have its drawbacks but, according to George W. Bush, nuclear war could prove an indispensable tool for maintaining a buoyant economy. This is only the latest twist in the U.S. president's struggle to come up with the top 10 reasons for invading Iraq -- or at least one reason that stands up to minimal scrutiny, writes Linda McQuaig. Here's more.

I'm the person who gets to decide: Making his first public statement since Christmas, the US president said he was determined to avoid new conflicts. "This government will continue to lead the world toward more peace," he said. "And we hope to resolve all the situations in which we find ourselves in a peaceful way. That's my commitment." ... Asked by a reporter about an "inevitable" attack on Iraq, he snapped back: "I'm the person who gets to decide, and not you." Here's more. [via Craig's BookNotes]

Meanwhile, according to Der Spiegel, experts expect 260,000 casualties in the Iraq war, most of them being civilians. Here's more (in German). [via Der Schockwellenreiter]
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The Three Wise Men

"And suddenly the star they had seen rising went forward and halted over the place where the child was. ... The sight of the star filled them with delight, and going into the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary. And falling to their knees they did him homage. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh." (Mt 2:8-11) [The Brick Testament]
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Joanna: "The other day I received a spam with the subject line, 'Happy Epiphany.' I opened it up, and it was blank. What a let down!" [eclectica]

Letdown? I don't know. Sounds almost philosophical to me.
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Sunday, January 5, 2003

Despite the fact that it's Vienna which is marketed as the music capital of the world, it is in fact London which seems to be firmly gripped by what I like to call Musical Madness - a legacy of Andrew Lloyd Webber perhaps - the desire to turn everything into a musical. A ride on any escalator on the London Underground system will expose you to a myriad of posters advertising any conceivable musical.

This year I was kind of relieved to see that the posters for the Buddy Holly musical ("Buddy!") had finally disappeared (I had first seen them in what must have been 1987) - only to notice that they had been replaced by posters advertising the musical "The Snowman" (based on the picture book by Raymond Briggs) and something called "We will rock you", which is supposedly about the rock group Queen.

Here in Vienna, we have of course all the British imports, like "Phantom of the Opera" and all that - but in terms of original production, I only faintly remember a musical on Sigmund Freud and Empress Elisabeth - and, yes, after Falco's death in 1998, there was briefly also a Falco musical, but this seems a very moderate output compared to what's being written and produced in London.

Apparently our national musical imagination is just not as, um, imaginative. Or we have fewer historical events to turn into musicals. The Mayerling incident, for instance, might make a good musical, but then I feel it would be much better as an atonal tragic opera. Like most other stuff.

Not that I'd care a lot. I hate musicals.
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How
The Maus (one of my childhood heroes) explains (in German) how the Internet works [via Der Schockwellenreiter]. I also have this lying around somewhere as a poorly captured QuickTime video file. I'll make it available if I find it.

Update: Found it. It's now online. You can download it here, but beware: It's 40MB large, the quality is quite poor, and the voice-over is in German. Due to the large size of the file and web space constraints I can only leave it online for a week. It'll be removed on Jan 12th.
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This year died Sweyne, King of Denmark; and Harold his son took to the kingdom. And the king gave the abbacy of Westminster to Abbot Vitalis, who had been Abbot of Bernay. This year also was Earl Waltheof beheaded at Winchester, on the mass- day of St. Petronilla; (99) and his body was carried to Croyland, where he lies buried. King William now went over sea, and led his army to Brittany, and beset the castle of Dol; but the Bretons defended it, until the king came from France; whereupon William departed thence, having lost there both men and horses, and many of his treasures. [The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle]
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Worried about the weather? The Observer says you should be: Europe is increasingly prone to floods but scientists cannot agree on why our weather is wetter and warmer, reports Mark Townsend. [Guardian Unlimited]
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Professor Glen T. Martin writes on roanoke.com on how without protest, Americans are giving up freedom:
Today, people of the United States have given up their rights through the "Patriot Act," the Homeland Security Act and the Pentagon's new system of "Total Information Awareness." The astonishing thing about this "land of the free" is that most Americans now have no effective rights and do not care. [via Privacy Digest]
In the meantime there's an article on Wired.com, in which the Bush administration's efforts to poke into the private lives of American citizens are compared to Sauron, the all-seeing dark wizard in The Lord of the Rings.
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I thought you'd notice anyway, so I didn't make a lot of fuss about it. Not blogging was fun while it lasted, and I think it freed my mind a bit and made me come up with a few ideas for articles. I also spent a few days in London, which was good too, despite the weather, which wasn't too great (mostly rain). Anyway, here we go again...
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Saturday, January 4, 2003

On a recent visit to London I got the impression that Starbucks Coffee managed to do something that the Germans have unsuccessfully tried during World War II: they conquered it.

Seriously. In London, you never need to walk more than two minutes to get to a Starbucks. That is if you're not in a touristy area. If you are in a touristy area, just stand where you are and look around. Chances are the nearest Starbucks is right behind you. Never before have I felt so intimidated by the sheer omnipresence of a retail chain.

In those old James Bond movies from the 1960s, the villains have to devise elaborate schemes to distribute some poison or explosive device over a large area (remember Blofeld's brainwashed girls in On Her Majesty's Secret Service?). These days, Blofeld would just have to tamper with the deliveries of Starbucks to get London (or some other city) under complete control - that is, if he doesn't own Starbucks already. In that case, maybe he's just getting ready to strike.

Did I mention before that globalisation scares me?
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According to femail.co.uk, Prince Charles has abandoned an official visit to the United States because the White House has signalled he is not welcome: "The snub by President Bush - which is causing a behind-the-scenes diplomatic furore both in London and Washington - has been prompted by the Prince's deeply held reservations about Bush's determination to wage war with Iraq.".

Does this mean that Americans soon won't go to one of their favourite Theme Parks either?

It's possible, as Iraq seems to be the chosen destination for thousands of Americans right now, even though they seem to need some encouragement from President Bush.

[Link sources: The Cartoonist, jenett.radio: dailywebthing, Guardian Unlimited]
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Davezilla has had an encounter with The Mystery Crutch.

I am seriously amazed by this man's weird sense of humour. It's spooky, strange, utterly absurd and downright funny at the same time. If you don't get it, don't despair. You probably need to be a weirdo yourself to make any sense of it.
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This year died King Edward, and Harold the earl succeeded to the kingdom, and held it forty weeks and one day. And this year came William, and won England. And in this year Canterbury was burned. And this year appeared a comet on the fourteenth before the kalends of May. [The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle]
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Nominations for the 2003 Bloggies weblog awards can be sent in now, and as everyone else also seems to be fishing for votes at the moment, here's me publicly humiliating myself by doing the same thing. The good thing is, you can nominate me even if you think my weblog sucks big time, because with my modest reader base I have no chance of winning anything anyway.
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Friday, January 3, 2003

Samuel Pepys's diary (written 1660 to 1669 and reporting both the Great Plague and the Great Fire of London) is currently being published in weblog format. A new entry will be published each day for the next ten years starting January 1, 2003. And yes, there is also an rss feed to subscribe to. [via Adam Curry's Weblog]

By the way, "Pepys" is pronounced like "peeps".
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This year went Harold the earl, and his brother Tosty the earl, as well with a land-force as a shipforce, into Wales, and they subdued the land; and the people delivered hostages to them, and submitted; and went afterwards and slew their King Griffin, and brought to Harold his head: and he appointed another king thereto. [The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle]
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1: I only realised this recently, but a mobile phone is really a corporate dream come true: you can be charged money for everything that you do with with it, no matter what is is, and I'm not just talking about connection charges - like, in most cases you pay a monthly fee just to carry it around with you. With mobile phones increasingly widening their functionality, the possibilities are endless. Imagine for example a mobile with a built-in MP3 player that charges you a small fee for every song that you listen to.

2: With technology developing at the current speed, it is the perfect surveillance device to spy on people: you can easily determine where they are, and, as Bill Thompson points out, now that camera phones are becoming more popular, even what they are doing: "what about having to provide picture evidence of your red nose and bleary eyes when you call in sick, or a photo of your mates to your partner when you go out for an evening without them."
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Hank Williams died 50 years ago. Strange that all Austrian newspapers reported this, even though you'd expect most Austrians would roll their eyes at the sight of a yodelling cowboy and the sound of hardcore country & western music. At least so far everybody I told that, yes, I actually listen to Hank Williams about once or twice a year reacted this way; and I don't expect this country's youth to be more interested in fifties c&w than this country's thirty-somethings.

Hank Williams died, by the way, due to some drug cocktail he had taken to combat his aching back, which was causing him severe pain. The drugs didn't mix too well with his morphine addiction and the huge amounts of alcohol he had also taken; it amounted to some sort of overdose. You could say that Hank Williams's death was one of the first rock'n'roll deaths. Many more would follow.

On to a lighter note: Austrian newspapers report that not only did shops sell significantly less this Christmas than last year (about 8%, to be precise), a majority of people also said that they wouldn't go to some New Year's party. Instead, over 65% of all Austrians said that they would just stay at home alone or with their SO and have the most quiet New Year's Eve imaginable.

I think we simply OD'd on the whole Xmas/New Year hassle. Consuming/partying like mad was a nice pastime for a while, but it has gone so much over the top that somewhere along the way we just got tired of it. I guess I can speak only of my generation, but it seems to be a logical development: when we were children, it was still very much under control, but every year we were inundated by an economy that consistently told us to buy more and more.

My friends started complaining that they were getting really tired of being forced to buy presents for just about everyone, not because they wanted to do it, but rather just because the calendar told them to. I felt pretty much the same thing, plus I was starting to get tired of having to fight my way through millions of shoppers with about the same expression of being forced to shop on their faces. This time, with my income significantly reduced due to euro inflation and record tax levels, I decided to buy as few presents as possible. Surprisingly, many of my friends told me that they were planning to do exactly the same thing.

We had all grown tired of Christmas. Plus, we all don't have children. And there's very little point in the full Christmas celebration if there's no children. And the shops with their "buy buy buy" mantras and Christmas muzak starting back in November gave us the overdose that left us lethargic on the sofa. With birth rates going further down and the shops showing no intention of cutting back the Xmas hype (on the contrary - due to the decrease in sales this year, I expect a full-blown ad attack next year), it'll be interesting to see how this develops.
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Hey - the Fall's brilliant 1980 album 'Grotesque' has been re-issued on vinyl. If you don't have it yet, grab it while stocks last.
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Last update: 28.07.2003; 18:15:18 Uhr

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