The Aardvark Speaks - March 2003 Archive



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Saturday, March 29, 2003

And step by step, the USA is becoming a fundamentalist religious country: Thousands of marines in Iraq have been given a mini prayer book which includes a tear-out section to be mailed to the White House pledging the soldier who sends it in has been praying for Bush, and which contains gems such as:
Monday's [prayer] reads "Pray that the President and his advisers will be strong and courageous to do what is right regardless of critics".
To top it all, the House of Representatives has now also passed a bill to designate a national day of fasting and prayer:
Whereas, through prayer, fasting, and self-reflection, we may better recognize our own faults and shortcomings and submit to the wisdom and love of God in order that we may have guidance and strength in those daily actions and decisions we must take [...].
At least there's now some hope for peace: Bush, Rumsfeld, and the other warmongers might actually starve to death before they recognize their faults and shortcomings. And never mind the US constitution. [via Kurier/Google News and Sick Weirdo]
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Last month's Indian film festival seems to have had a lasting effect: I'm still 8at least partly) in the grip of Bollywood movies, and I actually like to listen to this* kind of music at the moment (6.5 MB MP3 file). I'm sure it's a passing phase.
*) To download, right-click on the link (or ctrl-click on a Mac) and select "Save link target as..." to save it to your disk.
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I usually don't relay Dave Winer because everybody is reading him anyway, but this concerns me professionally: Christopher Lydon writes about terrorism in literature and how many of the great writers seem to have anticipated the contemporary crisis. I'll just quote one example:
In The Secret Agent, (1907) [...] [Joseph] Conrad forewarned us about the double-reverse effects of terrorism that we've seen unfolding since September 11. The plot to bomb the London Observatory in The Secret Agent was disguised as proletarian revolutionism, but the mastermind was an imperial reactionary. The purpose of terrorism in Conrad's novel, like the effect in George W. Bush's America, was to bring on a repressive crackdown by scaring "the imbecile bourgeoisie" out of its absurd and "sentimental regard for individual liberty." (Conrad's words.)
More lit quotes here. This reminds me very much of one of my teachers at university, who would always stress the role of literature as expression of big or even universal truths; and it seems I myself have a point when I teach my own students about the (sometimes immediate) relevance of literary texts for our lives. [via Scripting News]
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Whether it's Rachel Lange in Pittsburgh, or Robert Fisk reporting from Iraq, the picture emerges that no matter whether you're at home or abroad, it's a dirty war. [thx Cartoonist and Shamrockshire Eagle]

And what kind of country is this anyway where you can end up three years in jail for obstructing traffic? Sick, sick, sick. (On the other hand, it figures.)
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While the U.S. government spends billions of dollars to wage war against Iraq, some 30 million people in the United States go hungry, 12 million of whom are children, says Anuradha Mittal, co-director of the California-based Institute for Food and Development Policy (IFDP). [via Craig's BookNotes]
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The BBC's Andrew North reports: "Quite a few of the troops have said to me that this isn't what they were expecting. They have had a tiring week of guerrilla-style fighting and it continues. They are frustrated that their political masters gave the American public the impression that it would be easier than it's turned out to be. [...]

They don't want to admit they can't deal with it, but I think there is definitely a sense that it is not the kind of fighting that they were really trained for. One Marine told me: 'I've had enough of being fired at from all directions, I just want to go home'."


Either this war is a lot worse than what we hear in the media, or the US army is in a much worse state than we are led to believe.
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Derek from the Dog Door of Death had a problem with a mail loop and decided to enter the realm of The Evil Empire: he called MSN Support. The result is reminiscent of a Samuel Beckett play.
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Guess who's next.
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Friday, March 28, 2003

My God. They have built a mock Styrian village on Vienna's Rathausplatz (webcam here, but it doesn't seem to be up-to-date) to promote holidays in and produce from Styria, one of Austria's south-eastern provinces. It just so happens that my office is next door to this event that we all could well do without and I'm forced to listen to pseudo-traditional Styrian music, yodelling freaks and animated animators all day. If you thought the annual Christmas market was an exercise in bad taste, think again.
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Okay, so I'm not going to be famous after all. I'm talking about the BlogTalk conference of course, at which I am not going to speak because my paper was not selected by the jury. But then who'd have thought they'd get 61 proposals? I certainly didn't; had I known that there would be such a tremendous response, then I certainly wouldn't have bothered writing and submitting a paper.

And of course they couldn't not select the likes of Oliver Wrede, Dan Gillmor and Meg Hourihan -- attendance of blog icons like them is a major key to attracting interest, and no matter what they are going to say, not inviting them would be stupid stupid stupid.

So my five minutes of fame are not going to happen this time. Well, greater sh*t than this is happening elsewhere at the moment. And since I don't have to give my speech on real and imagined blog audiences, I can safely take that week off and travel to Finland to meet a good friend whom I haven't seen in a while.
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I can't remember people's faces, but I have a great musical memory. I have stored a substantial amount of music in my brain and can, if I want to, recall pretty much everything from Bob Dylan's "Sad-eyed lady of the lowlands" to the second movement of Beethoven's 9th symphony and listen to it in my head. It's quite nifty, and has so far saved me the need to buy an iPod. Ever since I was very small, I have repeatedly wondered if it wouldn't be possible to record this music, so that, for example, I could record a song like Earthenstein in ten minutes rather than five hours. Now it seems some scientists in Toronto have staged a brain concert, in which several hundred people's brainwaves were recorded, mixed and played back. However, the result was more like "breakfast cereal melting in milk" than Beethoven's Fifth. [via Wired News]
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Dave has discovered bzzzpeek, a website with recordings of children from a dozen different countries speaking various onomatopoetic words (like animal voices) in their respective languages. The website is a cutie, but does some weird window resizing. Oh, and never mind the French cow. Elle fait meuh. Try the Russian pig and the Polish turkey. As Dave says: You won't be disappointed. [Davezilla.com]
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A: "So did you install the new Microsoft Windows Automotive 4.2 in your car yet?"
B: "Yes, and it crashed almost immediately."

Yeah, I know it's lame, but it's such an obvious one. [link via Microsoft Watch]
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Thursday, March 27, 2003

The Bass for Peace project continues. Today I give you... Earthenstein. It's not another loop, but actually a song (or something like a song): a 10-minute monotonous drone based on a 2-note riff, in which you can hear the story of Rudolph Earthenstein and his evil brother Wolfgang Von Wandshausen, and how one of them comes to his untimely death by slipping on a banana peel while trying to achieve world domination. A song for our times, truly. Beware, this is a whopping 9MB download. Oh, and you can actually hear me sing on this one. Or kind of sing. I can't really sing. Enjoy.
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Somebody on some weblog recently asked why everybody seems to be using Saddam's first name all the time, while "Mr. Hussein" still sounds odd, and I have been wondering about this myself. Thankfully, in today's Der Standard, Gudrun Harrer finally explains the mystery.

It turns out Saddam's full name is Saddam Hussein al-Majid; Saddam is the first name, Hussein is his father's name and al-Majid is the family name (consequently, Saddam's son Uday is called Uday Saddam and not Uday Hussein). Saddam himself is not using his family name al-Majid because he sees himself as the leader of all of Iraqis and not just of his family clan. Therefore you either call him Saddam, or Mr. al-Majid, but neither Mr. Saddam or Mr. Hussein.
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Hopefully, the "fierce resistance" that USUK troops seem to meet pretty much everywhere in Iraq (even from civilians who were supposed to welcome the USUK troops) will eventually convince people that this is not a "liberation", or at least that most people in Iraq apparently do not want to be "liberated" in this particular way. By the way, what's the word for a situation in which a foreign army enters a country against the will of its population?

In the meantime, The Guardian's Tim Dowling investigates whether the "confused-looking man with his stiff, empty gestures and false gravitas" is the real George Bush or rather an animatronic lookalike.
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...when all girls and young women between age 16 and 24 walk around the city with small mineral water bottles in their hands. It's something of a fashion that started two years ago -- during last year's summer you couldn't see a single young woman in Vienna without the obligatory mineral water bottle. I guess it's healthy, but it seems odd that a mass panic of dehydration should have gripped all 16 to 24 year-old women. And it looks pretty weird, too.
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Wednesday, March 26, 2003

I'm sick of this war. Give me something else to write about.
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James Jackson on The co$t of war: "According to the Orlando Sentinel a single cruise missile costs roughly $600,000 which puts the cost of just the first night of bombing Baghdad around $24 million. Think of how many inner city school children here in the U.S. could've benefitted from that money." [killing.an.arab]

Well, who thinks of school children when we're talking about world domination? Besides, they didn't support any election campaign.
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I worked on Bass For Peace : Loop 7 on Monday and yesterday, but couldn't come up with something I liked. It took until today and some help from Gabriel to get it finally online. It's less martial than previous stuff. Enjoy.
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Sigh. It's not a particularly new idea, but here we go: Consumers Against War is a German initiative to boycott American products in protest against the Iraq war. After all, the are boycotting French and German products too, aren't they?

Okay, so it's not just a bad idea -- after all we don't want to join the American boycott kindergarten, or do we? -- it's also next to impossible. The downloadable list also on this website is no less than a veritable lesson in globalisation: you just cannot not buy products from American companies. While Europe was sleeping, American corporations seem to have bought just about anything, from Oral-B toothbrushes (used to be Irish) to Suchard chocolates (used to be Swiss), even Volvo, once a flagship of Swedish craftsmanship, is now owned by Americans.

Fact is, you can't go shopping in Europe any longer without supporting the American economy. Which is why I wonder if the site isn't really a fake to point out how futile any resistance actually is. [link via Astrid Paprotta]
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The Guardian has a collection of the most blatant lies about allied military successes in Iraq: When are facts facts? Not in a war.
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The German journalist and PR expert Norbert Schulz-Bruhdoel has written a compelling paper, entitled Chronik eines angekündigten Krieges (Chronicle of a war foretold), in which he gives a credible and frightening account of why the war in Iraq took place and how it had been planned by the think tank that is now behind the Bush administration over ten years ago; only the scandalous failure of the media in the USA and Europe has made it possible that European attempts to stop the USA have failed. The text can be downloaded as a PDF file (attention: German language!) here (196K). This is required reading. [via Schockwellenreiter]
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Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Tom Tomorrow New Tom Tomorrow cartoon at Salon.com: "You're completely out of step with the American public."

Historian Stanley I. Kutler talks about America's future: "We're going to engage in preemptive war, which is certainly against our tradition. We have unelected leaders like Richard Perle saying that the U.N. is dead and thank God it's dead. If you're not with us, you're against us. We have a Congress debating what it foolishly calls partial-birth abortion and changing the name of French fries to freedom fries. What is that?"

Clay Bennett's new cartoon: "Gosh, I sure hope nobody ever liberates us." [thx Volker]

And finally Mark Fiore presents The Blusterizer: "Deal with countries that oppose us on our path to victory." [thx Becky]
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I used to think that John Robb was a fairly reasonable person, but it seems the war has affected him in a frightening way. For days he has now been publishing little else than analyses of the Iraq war on his weblog, some of which are pretty much spot-on, whereas others are fairly strange. However, today he posted this:
Ultimately, the US needs to win this war militarily. This will require that we put away fears of civilian casualties and focus on military victory. We will need to destroy Baghdad in order to win this war.
While I have no doubt that the USA will eventually win the war against Iraq, which has been mostly disarmed and economically starved over the past ten years, I shudder at the amount of hatred (or whatever it is) that must be inside a man to make him demand that a city of 3.8 million people be wiped off the map.
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Umm Qasr, a city in southern Iraq, is currently at the center of a huge temporal anomaly. In what appears to be something of an infinite time loop, has been being secured by US/UK soldiers on a daily basis for the past 9 days, apparently without much progress. The only odd thing about this time loop is that while the event of securing the city seems to be recurring over and over again, the number of wounded and killed does not snap back to zero every day, but instead keeps increasing.

Members of the Elk Council who were sent in to investigate were able to track the temporal anomaly to an army press office, which kept sending out the same story over and over again. It is yet unclear whether it was a real temporal anomaly or merely a so-called 'propaganda anomaly'.
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Response to my blog name poll has been overwhelming, and the results are pretty indisputable; let me just say that Haldur Gislufsson will not be delighted. Thanks to everyone who participated.
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MSFT teaching university students computer security: Microsoft is sponsoring an undergrad course at Leeds, UK, in writing secure software. [via Boing Boing Blog]
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Donald Rumsfeld is outraged because by parading of five US PoWs, Iraq violates article 13 of the Geneva convention. What he prefers not to mention is that with the detention of 641 men in Guantanamo Bay, the USA is in violation of articles 4, 5, 13, 18, 22, 26, 28, 34, 38, 41, 70, 71, 72 and 118 of the same convention, says George Monbiot in The Guardian.
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I'm totally stunned by the technological advances made by the Gillette Company. You'd think razor blades are fairly simplistic things, yet every few years they come up with an entirely new concept, and somehow they manage to market it in such a way that they can effectively sell the new product at a 50% higher price than that of the previous model.

I remember quite vividly the TV ads for the Gillette G-II when I was very small. When I reached shaving age myself, I went for the Gillette Contour, which cost 50% more, but the moving blades seemed to be a good concept for a timid shaver who was afraid of cutting himself. I still cut myself a lot.

The Contour Plus wasn't such a big step forward, but as they discontinued the Contour, I had little choice other than to pay the 10% surcharge -- almost a special offer in view of what was to come.

When I did my army service, we got free trial packs of the new Gillette Sensor, apparently in an attempt to get us hooked on the new product, which cost 50% more than the Contour Plus. Well, they got me hooked, even though I thought it was overpriced. Then came the Sensor Excel, which I boycotted, mainly because it cost 50% more than the Sensor and didn't seem to offer any advantage other than a sleekier look.

Then, a few years ago, came the Mach-3. What can I say about the Mach-3? It is heaven for a person with sensitive skin such as myself. Never mind the blades cost 50% more than the Sensor blades -- a small fortune actually -- they were just so infinitely superior that I gladly upgraded.

Yesterday at the supermarket I noticed they had invented the Mach-3 Turbo. I have no idea in what ways it's better than the Mach-3, but it costs 50% more.

You complain about software upgrade cycles? I complain about razor blade upgrades; Gillette might possible be as evil as Microsoft, with the small exception that their products actually work. Still, I predict that in a few years, a pack of Gillette blades will cost about the same as an electric razor with a lifetime of 10-20 years. Problem is, I hate electric razors.
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Mike James has a good quote from The Onion from a story called "God Clarifies 'Don't Kill' Rule":
"Look, I don't know, maybe I haven't made myself completely clear, so for the record, here it is again," said the Lord [...] "Somehow, people keep coming up with the idea that I want them to kill their neighbor. Well, I don't. And to be honest, I'm really getting sick and tired of it. Get it straight. Not only do I not want anybody to kill anyone, but I specifically commanded you not to, in really simple terms that anybody ought to be able to understand."
And here's something for President Bush, also in fairly simple terms:
You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.
First heard this in primary school about 30 years ago. Heard it several times since then. Heard it again in church last Sunday. Mike heard it last Sunday, too. Apparently, Bush never heard it in his entire life. [parts of this come via Tread lightly on the things of earth]
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James Jackson quotes Peter Freundlich, who thinks it is a good thing that the members of the Bush administration seem to have been reading Lewis Carroll.
Robin Cook talks about why he resigned.
Just another example why I'll never understand Americans.
Germany's Viva TV gives you an opportunity to shut up for peace.
Could the Iraq war also be about the euro currency?
Take care, Haldur Gislufsson, Canada has weapons of moose distraction.

[Sources: killing.an.arab, Guardian Unlimited, Craig's BookNotes, Astrid Paprotta, Heli's Heaven and Hell Radio]
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Monday, March 24, 2003

Haldur Gislufsson"Good afternoon. Once again, this is Haldur Gislufsson, administrator general of this weblog. As you can see, this weblog is now pretty much back to normal after the surprise platypus invasion that took place yesterday. Myself and the elk council will make sure that it stays that way.

"I am making this announcement to disperse two rumours -- one, the current poll on renaming this weblog is not a ruse by the current elk administration to get full control of this weblog and lock out the aardvark for good. This accusation is totally unsubstantiated.

"Second, Horst is not locked away in a basement at some undisclosed location. Nothing could be further from the truth. The elk administration is merely trying to make sure that yesterday's platypus invasion cannot be repeated.

"Thank you for your continued support."

Haldur's hairstyle by Pièrre
Haldur's photograph by T. Regnillirp

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In church yesterday, they had a special mass for and organised by the local church's youth group, and while it was a good effort, I must admit that I'm the hardcore organ type when it comes to church music. Acoustic guitars just don't do it. Add to that the fact that most of the religious songs are -- let's admit it -- pretty lame; so lame in fact that the groups of youth sometimes singing religious songs in the streets make me feel pity more than anything else.

That's sad because I think that the cause deserves much better than these meek songs. What about spreading the faith with a fiery sword and all that? I think traditional church music with organ (or better even, organ and orchestra) has it; as for the local church's youth group, I wonder if any of them has ever thought about playing religious Heavy Metal -- Church Metal, if you wish. Now I'm not sure how the parents would react to this, but if you want to spread the word to your age group peers in a powerful way, it'd be a thought.
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I meant to link to this a while ago, because the proliferation of customer cards is something that annoys me too - in some stores it's almost like they won't let you shop anymore without such a card, and whenever you pay with your Maestro card here in Austria, some chain stores will actually store your shopping list on the card's chip without notifying customers about it. For some reason I forgot about it, but today it was in the news again, so here we go:

CASPIAN, Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering are again making the case that so-called 'loyalty cards' issued by chain stores really mean profits for stores, privacy questions for consumers: "With a massive amount of data being collected on shoppers, from the types of soda they buy to whether they like to shop late at night, merchants are getting smarter at tracking consumer trends. '[These cards] are not saving devices, but data collection devices.'" [via Privacy Digest]
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I've been contemplating changing the name of this weblog. Basically I came up with "The Aardvark Speaks" because I own the domain www.aardvark.at and this blog is at http://www.aardvark.at/blog/ (which, in all likelyhood, you won't see in your browser due to technical and legal reasons).

Much as I like the title, I"have no particular affection for aardvarks other than that they come as the first noun in every English dictionary and get me conveniently listed at the top of a number of blogrolls.

I could now take advantage of the recent coup d'état and rename this blog; the title that it currently has due to its current provisional administration ("The Elk Republic") sounds good enough. It'd be great if a few of the regular readers would go to this page, cast their vote and thus help my decision. Thank you. The poll is now closed. Thank you for your participation.
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This is good, but as fact always beats fiction, there's simply no way any computer program could ever come up with a name that would beat the unsurpassable schmaltzy pathos of "Operation Infinite Justice": Still, I give you The American Military Operation Name Generating Device [via Dave < Giorgia]
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If you want to know what disinformation is, just try to follow the story about Turkish troops perhaps entering Iraq, or perhaps not. I've updated a weblog entry from two days ago several times to reflect the changes. Makes interesting reading.
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Karlin Lillington is summarizing an RTE interview with Christina Lamb, a London Times war correspondent in Iraq:
[Lamb] is saying the situation in Iraq is much different on the ground than what she is seeing reported in the US and UK, and to what the military is giving as official versions of events to reporters. Regarding one southern Iraqi city, Umm Qasr, she says: "I think nine times we've been told it's fallen, and it still hasn't."

The US is now saying they are "securing" areas rather than actually making them "safe", she says, she feels because the allies thought they would easily control these areas once they were 'liberated'. "I think they never expected this kind of resistance," she says, also noting that these are very small towns and the allies have brought in massive firepower, more than she has ever seen in any conflict, yet seem unable to make areas safe. In contrast to stories she has seen about smiling welcomes for allied soldiers, she says Iraqis  are throwing stones and are hostile to the soldiers she has travelled with in the south.
The interview should be online some time after noon GMT here (RealAudio); it begins about 20 minutes into the hour-long programme.

Lamb's statements echo something that Brian Whitaker writes about in The Guardian. Whitaker then goes on to talk about the biggest failure of the US-UK alliance:
Iraq is winning the battle of hearts and minds. To have reached such a position against an adversary who is demonstrably one of the world's most disgusting tyrants, to have transformed him into a hero figure, and to have transformed the American flag into a symbol of oppression, is not only unfortunate but reeks of political incompetence.
I'd say it's mostly about credibility. It's hard to say whether Saddam is credible or not, but the reasons Bush and Blair have been making up to justify this war are certainly not credible. Thus a disgusting tyrant who may be lying (but then he's supposed to, right?) suddenly becomes more credible than the leaders of the Western World, who are most certainly lying, but are actually supposed to be telling the truth. Plus: you can't bully and insult other nations and then expect support from them. No sir. [Sources: techno\culture; Guardian Unlimited]

BTW, if you want to read more about the war than you want to know, go read The Agonist. If you want to see more than you want to see, have a look at pictures from Al Jazeera that Heli linked to -- but I assure you: you don't want to see them.
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Heise.de has started a database of what they call (in German) Un-CDs (non-CDs), i.e. CDs with audio content that do not conform to the Red Book standard and can thus not be played on every CD player. Legally, these must not be called "Audio CDs" and should be labelled accordingly. The database interface is in German only, and it can be found here. [thx netbib weblog]
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Hey, we actually got kind of progressive Oscars(R). Not that they would actually ever be progressive, but still better than I expected. And an Oscar(R) for Michael Moore's 'Bowling for Columbine' at a time of heightened patriotism was certainly a pleasant surprise. From his acceptance speech:
I have invited my fellow documentary nominees on the stage with us [...] -- they're here in solidarity with me because we like nonfiction. We like nonfiction and we live in fictitious times. We live in the time where we have fictitious election results that elects a fictitious president. We live in a time where we have a man sending us to war for fictitious reasons. Whether it's the fiction of duct tape or fiction of orange alerts we are against this war, Mr. Bush. Shame on you, Mr. Bush, shame on you. And any time you got the Pope and the Dixie Chicks against you, your time is up.
A couple of others also mentioned the war. Plus, Chris Cooper finally got the Oscar(R) that he has deserved for a long time now, and both Almodóvar and Nicole Kidman were top choices as well. For once I'm not totally disappointed by the results.
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I would like to thank Jordan McClure for his kind permission to use his pictures, without which yesterday's dose of comic relief wouldn't have been possible.
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Sunday, March 23, 2003

Haldur Gislufsson"Good evening. My name is Haldur Gislufsson. If you are a regular reader of this weblog, you know me already. I am a trusted friend of the owner of this weblog and have already written a number of weblog entries myself.

"As you may have noticed, a commando of militant platypi has driven away the aardvark and taken over his weblog, only to leave again when they noticed there were no more shrimps in the refrigerator. To avoid the danger that anarchy might take hold and this weblog end in utter chaos, the elk council has decided to pass administration of this blog over to me until the aardvark returns.

"Normal operation of this weblog will resume tomorrow under elk administration. Thank you for your continued support."
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Platypus with food"Greetings, my fellow platypi. I'm finally back from the supermarket. Sorry I'm so late, but there were so many people, I had to queue for ages. Guess what, they've got much better food than those aquatic insect larvae that we always eat. This will give us the strength to continue the occupation of this weblog and... erm, where are all my fellow platypi?"
Platypus photography by Jordan McClure
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The platypi have left again, as suddenly as they had appeared from out of nowhere yesterday. They ate all the shrimps in the fridge, and when there were none left, they left, too. There's no sign that they ever were here, except for a few burrows they dug, plus a few discarded shrimp shells and partly-chewed aquatic insect larvae. Everything is back to normal. You can now safely take off your funny hats.
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French playtpus"Good afternoon. I am the Freedom Platypus, and I'll be your host for the next few minutes (actually, I used to be a French Platypus, but in a weird chain of events which I'd rather not talk about right now, my name got changed). Your new platypus overlords sent me to assure you that they will continue to support the Bass for Peace effort; to prove this, they'd like me to inform you that Loop 6 is now online, and they sincerely hope that you'll enjoy it, even though this time it isn't strictly bass guitar, but also includes drum and organ parts.

"Again, please do not panic. Everything about this weblog is under control. There is no need to be afraid. Just keep your funny hat on, and I'll bring you some Freedom bread later if you're hungry. Contrary to other places in the world, we still have some left."
Platypus photography by Jordan McClure
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Platypus with funny hat"Good afternoon. May we please have your attention for this announcement. We hope that by now you have recognized that we, your new platypus overlords, are not evil. We come in peace.

"In our attempt to make this a brighter and better weblog, we now decree that effective immediately, every reader of this weblog must wear a funny hat while reading this weblog. We are sure that this will boost morale to no end and will convince those who are still not sure about the benefits of this weblog now being run by platypi instead of aardvarks that this weblog is now in much better hands than before.

"Further announcements will follow. Again, please do not panic. Everything is under control, and you will not be harmed. Just be sure to put on that funny hat."
Platypus photography by Jordan McClure
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Militant playtpus"Good morning. We would like to inform you that as of Sunday, March 23rd, 2003, 0:00 hours, this weblog has been taken over by platypi. There is no need to panic. This is not an act of violence or hostility. Please stay calm. Nobody will be harmed.

"Even with the aardvark thrown out and a commando of militant vigilant platypi in its place, you should not really notice much of a difference under the new management. Actually, our sole aim is to make this a brighter and better weblog, and you should be able to see the improvements soon.

"First of all, no more entries on the Iraq war or on corrupt politicians. We may bring you special features on digging burrows instead. Also, there have been too much curry recipes lately; we'd like to give more space to aquatic insect larvae, shrimps and worms.

"That's it for now. Please stay calm. Contrary to other occupations that have taken place recently in other parts of the world, we assure you that no-one will be harmed."
Platypus photography by Jordan McClure
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We're sorry to interrupt the transmission of this weblog, but it seems that this weblog is in the process of being taken over by a couple of militant, um, platypi. We will broadcast as long as we can, but expect to be shut down and replaced by platypi any moment. If they take over, you're bound to be inundated by platypus propaganda, so please don't take anything seriously that you'll hear while they're in charge. We will try to resolve the situa-----
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Saturday, March 22, 2003

Yet another study proves that Austria is an extremely dangerous country when it comes to traffic accidents; in fact, on a per capita basis, Austria has the highest number of traffic accidents of all EU countries; you're four times as likely to be involved in an accident than in the UK, and twice as likely to be killed in a car accident than in Finland or Sweden (Diagram here).

Of course, the car lobby says this is due to bad roads and wants more motorways; never mind that we already have the highest density of motorways in Europe. Fact is that Austrians are simply the worst car drivers imaginable. Many of them exercise their lack of ego by speeding, drunk driving is socially accepted, and the police is looking the other way whenever possible. To top it all, a politician who has fervently opposed stricter alcohol limits on the streets for years has now been appointed state secretary for transport. Any questions?
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Signs that all is not lost yet: The new Panda bears in the Vienna zoo have made it into the BBC's "Europe's week in pictures" (see picture 5 of 8).

Signs that all may be lost: Bush, Saddam, World War III, the apocalypse - it's all in the Bible, depending on how you interpret it.
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This is a quick variation of a Chicken Madras. Nothing particularly special, but you can't get a decent hot curry any faster than this (well, you can, but I wouldn't recommend it). Takes about 30 minutes total and serves up to 4.
  • 2 tablespoons ghee or vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 600g boneless chicken breasts, cut into small pieces
  • 1 capsicum (green bell pepper), deseeded and cut into 1/2" rings
  • 5 fresh green chilies, chopped
  • 1 small piece fresh ginger, chopped
  • 1 can tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons tumeric
  • 3 teaspoons coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon hot chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 large bunch green coriander, stalks and leaves chopped separately
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala
  • salt
Heat 1 tablespoon ghee (or oil) in a large frying pan or wok and fry the chicken pieces until white all around (and slightly yellowish), then remove from the pan and put aside.

Add the second tablespoon ghee, put in the chopped onion and fry until brown. Then add the capsicum, ginger and chilies and fry briefly for about 1 minute.

Whizz the tomatoes in a blender, then pour the purée into the pan; add the tumeric, coriander powder, cumin, chili powder, paprika, salt and coriander stalks. Stir well and cook over high heat for a few minutes. Then add the reserved chicken pieces, reduce heat, cover and let simmer over low heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Turn off the heat. Stir in the coriander leaves and garam masala. Let stand for a few minutes, then serve with rice and/or chapatis.
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I went to the anti-war demonstration in Vienna today. Some 50,000 others were also present. After about 20 minutes of speeches, I realised that I have become too old, too sarcastic, and perhaps also too resigned for this kind of thing and left early.

I mean it's a good thing that people voice their protest, and they are right to do so, but somehow it seems so terribly naive to expect that these demonstrations could have any impact on a handful of morally corrupt politicians that defy international law. Besides, chanting "Hoch die internationale Solidarität" (long live international solidarity) just feels so totally out of place these days when the split between the rich and the poor widens more than ever before, even in this country.

Or maybe I simply went to too many demonstrations as a student and my bullsh*t detector is simply over-sensitive to hollow phrases. Who knows. The sad thing is, the only things that might have an impact on the likes on the warmongers are totally unacceptable. So tomorrow I'll probably do what old people do, which is go to church and pray.

I've become pathetic, haven't I?
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If you thought my flatmate Haldur Gislufsson was cute, you haven't seen this yet. It's time I went to Australia.
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Now this might add an interesting twist to the Iraq war: To prevent the Kurds from forming a state of their own, Turkish troops have entered northern Iraq (see also here).

Ralf says there is no need to be concerned: "They are probably just killing or torturing them."

Heli says we have the USA to thank for this: "Now that national and international law no longer prevails, all countries feel free to follow their own interests. [...] The US can't accuse Turkey of illegally invading a country because that's what the US is doing already."

I say that at the moment I prefer watching cheesy Bollywood movies to watching Baghdad being bombed to bits and pieces.

Update: So do most Americans, apparently.

Another update: There seems to be some confusion as to whether the Turkish army has entered Iraq or not. The Turks say they haven't.

One more update: Austrian media report that the Turkish army has indeed entered Iraq, and the US is no longer opposing this move.

Yet another update (24-Mar-03): The BBC reports that President Bush now strongly warns Turkey not to send troops into Iraq, but units appear to have gone in already. Erm... I somehow feel I'm lost in a war of disinformation.

And here we go again (24-Mar-03): According to The Guardian, the Turkish army is in Iraq now. Adopting the same line of argument used by the US to justify its own invasion, Turkey says that it is merely taking "pre-emptive action".
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In The Spectator, Richard Perle, chairman of the Defense Policy Board, an advisory panel to the Pentagon, writes that the United Nations is dead, and good riddance. Instead of "the looming chatterbox on the Hudson", the future lies with coalitions of nations that agree on attacking other countries together:
The chronic failure of the Security Council to enforce its own resolutions [...] is unmistakable: it is simply not up to the task.

We are left with coalitions of the willing. Far from disparaging them as a threat to a new world order, we should recognise that they are, by default, the best hope for that order, and the true alternative to the anarchy of the abject failure of the United Nations.
I may get this wrong, but I think he is saying the times of peacekeeping are over, and instead of a body that blocks wars whenever possible we should have a world order where any coalition that is willingto do so can attack everyone if they deem it necessary.

Wow. I call that a shift of paradigm. Apparently this is what you get when you have a military superpower that is no longer kept in check by another military superpower.
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More about the illegal war: Both the Spanish prime minister José Maria Aznar and Portuguese prime minister José Manuel Durão Barroso face criminal charges for violating the constitution of their respective country. If found guilty, Aznar could have to spend 15 to 20 years in prison. In the meantime, the Spanish trade unions are threatening that there will be a general strike if the support for the war continues.

In the USA, support for President Bush's Iraq policy is at an all-time high. Apparently this might be due to a collective shutdown of American brains: "This is always what happens in the US at the beginning of a war," said historian Peter Kusnik, a specialist on US society in times of conflict. "The Americans think it's unpatriotic at this moment not to support the troops."
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Friday, March 21, 2003

Loop 5 is now online.

Plus: e.thePeople has an article why this war is illegal. [thx Ralf]
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I wonder if many men really think that women think that men wearing heavy gold necklaces are attractive; if not, I'm looking for alternative explanations why they are wearing them.
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Friedensdemo am Alex, Photo: Gabriele Kantel, 20.03.2003

A sign found at an anti-war rally in Berlin yesterday [thx Schockwellenreiter]. The text reads: "I already learned in the GDR that US imperialism is a constant danger to world peace."

No, it's not meant literally. This is called irony. I'm just not sure how many people outside Germany understand it.
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From an article by Michael Kinsley comes something I've been wanting to say for a long time:
If the United Nations wants to be "relevant," [George W. Bush] said, it must do exactly as I say. In other words, in order to be relevant, it must become irrelevant. When that didn't work, he said: I am ignoring the wishes of the Security Council and violating the U.N. Charter in order to enforce a U.N. Security Council resolution. [more]
[via Craig's BookNotes]
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I removed the song titles from Bass for Peace because I felt they sounded cheesy. Which leads me right on to another problem: why is it that most of the things you can say against war sound so utterly cheesy?

There'll be a meeting of the Vienna English Laguage Poets in 2 weeks. I expect many of them will be reading anti-war poetry. I expect that much of it will be terribly, terribly cheesy. I have been trying to write a non-cheesy anti-war poem for weeks now, but there is just no way to do it.

Basically, that's why I started Bass for Peace in the first place, as a non-verbal (and hopefully non-cheesy) way of expression.
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I have very ambivalent feelings about this war. On the one hand, I want that President Bush and his warmongers are taught a lesson that they will never ever forget, on the other hand I want this war to be as short as possible with as little casualties as possible. Any suggestions?
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It is entirely possible that the USA are only mad at the French because they are afraid of competition: Here's a list of US vetoes, detailing all UN resolutions stopped by the USA. Quite an impressive list. Now who's the bigger weasel? [via Schockwellenreiter]
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Poland is creating a serious problem for the European Union. Its participation in the current Iraq War (Poland is sending 200 elite troops) means that according to current international law, Poland can no longer become a member of the EU, according to a German international law expert. This means that either EU membership for Poland is off (which I'd say is totally unlikely), or the EU has to open some kind of sleazy back door and thereby not only undermine its constitution, but also create a dangerous precedent.
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Thursday, March 20, 2003

I've been eating a lot of curries lately, so I just wanted to point out that this has allowed me to update my website with restaurant reviews of Indian restaurants in Vienna.

I realise that this is somewhat useless for most of my readers, as they don't live here in Vienna, but (a) I do have a few Viennese readers, and (b) who knows who'll be coming to Vienna in the near future.
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Finally! I ordered this monitor back in December. I remember reading a review somewhere online that said something like "grab one while you can, because they are notoriously hard to come by."

Well, it took me about three months to finally get it, and that's not through the dealer where I ordered it, but through another dealer who was lucky enough to get a surprise shipment from the manufacturer.

My verdict? The Samsung SyncMaster 172T is one of the best TFT displays I've seen so far, and at around €750 certainly has a great price/performance ratio. The display is unbelievably crisp, with perfect contrast (500:1), and the colours are absolutely astonishing for a non-CRT display (I run this via my Mac's DVI connector, if you use the VGA connector, your results may vary). I can certainly recommend it. Grab one while you can, because they are notoriously hard to come by.
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No, you won't get a comment on the war from me. At least not a written one. You can have this, though: Loop 4: First Attack (3676K QuickTime), the latest part of my ongoing Bass for Peace project.
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Nothing in the news but the war, and I don't want to write about it anymore; especially now that it's started and any chance to prevent it is over. It was Davezilla who found a way to make war less depressing: President declares jar. "Every time I hear Bush or a reporter say war, I pretend it's a typo." Thanks Dave.
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Bush speech. My response:
  • What "coalition"?
  • What "grave danger"?
  • What "honor"?
  • What "respect for [Iraq's] citizens"?
  • "No ambition"?
  • Define "reluctantly".
  • What "work of peace"?
  • What "freedom"?
  • Which God?
Lest I forget: The USA also intensified its attacks on Afghanistan today. No, the war over there is still not over. And there's no end in sight either.

Plus: the US is spending more on this war than it raises in taxes, paving the way for a nasty surprise for its taxpayers.
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Wednesday, March 19, 2003

It's time to talk about my very own personal way of protesting online against the Iraq war.

I had the idea a few days ago, when I sold my old bass amplifier and the person who bought it said she was playing in a band where they are now 3 bass players. Suddenly I felt the urge to start playing again, probably join them to form a 4-bass player line-up and play a concert with truly ghastly stuff to protest against the war.

This project isn't fully developed yet (and may never be), but I can present you the first three installments of Bass for Peace, a small-scale edition of basically the same concept. From now on until the end of the Iraq war I will add a new track or sound loop to this catalogue of bass guitar oddities every few days. Some of the tracks may reflect on real-life events, whereas others will not. I hope there won't be too many of them.
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CDT has released a new report based on a six month project entitled "Why Am I Getting All This Spam?" The results offer Internet users insights about what online behavior results in the most unsolicited commercial email and also debunk some of the myths about spam. [Slashdot via Privacy Digest]
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An item from the news today reminded me of a spoof Zen koan I posted yesterday; only this is not about Zen, and it's also not funny. I'll still write about it in koan form:

President Bush approaches Saddam Hussein with a large DU shell and says: "If you do not go into exile, I will attack Iraq. If you go into exile, I will also attack Iraq." No-one is enlightened, and no-one will be in the foreseeable future.
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Electronic bugging devices have been discovered in offices used by the French and German delegations at a European Union headquarters building where an EU summit will open on Thursday.

EU spokesman Dominique-George Marro said on Wednesday that the EU had launched an investigation into the bugging but had no immediate idea who was behind it, whereas the French newspaper Le Figaro claims that the Belgian police have proof that the bugs were installed by "Americans". However, Belgian authorities declined any comment [1] [2] [3] [4].
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The word library is set to fade from our vocabulary - but not because we've fallen out of love with books. Today's libraries are being made over as "idea stores", complete with cafés, crèches and multi-media offerings, writes the BBC's Megan Lane. Well, if they have the money. [via Peter Scott's Library Blog]
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Robin Cook: "We cannot base our military strategy on the assumption that Saddam is weak and at the same time justify pre-emptive action on the claim that he is a threat."
Full text | Real Video [thx megnut]
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The original CRT iMac, the computer that brought peppy colours into many houses and offices, died yesterday at age 4 1/2. Originally born in 1998, the iMac lived through several incarnations before being finally replaced by its flat-panel successor. Obituaries can be found here, here, here, here and here.
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After criticizing President Bush, Natalie Maines (of the Dixie Chicks) said, "My comments were made in frustration, and one of the privileges of being an American is you are free to voice your own point of view." Wrong. Her record company forced Natalie to apologize for her criticism. [Salon.com via techno\culture]
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Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Pretty much a standard veggie curry. Aloo is potato and gobi is cauliflower, so you get an idea what it's like. Serves 3.
  • 1 cauliflower
  • 3-4 potatoes
  • 1 onion
  • 1 small piece fresh ginger, chopped
  • 1 can peeled tomatoes
  • 3-4 fresh green chilies, chopped
  • 3-4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons tumeric
  • 1 large bunch green coriander, stalks and leaves chopped separately
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala
  • salt
Quarter the cauliflower, remove the trunk, then cut or pluck into smaller pieces. Peel the potatoes and cut into small pieces.

Put the tomatoes and their juice into a blender, whizz briefly until semi-smooth, then pour into a bowl. Add the coriander stalks, tumeric, chilies, ginger and salt.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan or wok, then fry the cumin and onions until yellowish-golden, but not brown. Add the mixture from the bowl and fry for 3-5 minutes.

Reduce heat, then add the cauliflower and potatoes. Stir well. Add some water if necessary, but not too much or it'll become watery. Cover and let simmer over low heat for 20-30 minutes, stirring ocasionally, until the potatoes are done and most of the liquid has evaporated.

Turn off the heat, add the chopped coriander leaves and garam masala; stir carefully, then cover and let stand for at least 5 minutes. Serve with rice and/or chapatis.

Update: I forgot to mention that I hate cauliflower, but I absolutely love Aloo Gobi.
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Tom Tomorrow: "Those of you who mockingly suggested this over the past few days may now understand the difficulties facing a satirist in times when reality so often surpasses satire."

What was a joke among those who criticized the current francophobia in the USA has now become a demand of the francophobes themselves: they have now started an online petition to return the Statue of Liberty to France. [via This Modern World]
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CNET has an article on the social profile of computer virus authors: "In almost all cases, virus writers are computer-obsessed males between the ages of 14 to 34 years, said Jan Hruska, the chief executive of U.K.-based Sophos, one of the world's largest antivirus companies. 'They have a chronic lack of girlfriends, are usually socially inadequate and are drawn compulsively to write self-replicating codes. It's a form of digital graffiti to them.'" [via WorldWideKlein - The Daily Durchblick]

Writing viruses as a masked cry for love? Depends on cause and effect. They may be writing viruses all day because they don't have girlfriends, but they might as well not have girlfriends because they're writing viruses all day.
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At the 2000 ACRL conference, attendees were urged to think not just about the day-to-day but about the larger issues facing the profession. ACRL has done just that. In late fall 2002, an ACRL task force completed its first report on the top seven issues facing academic libraries. All responses point to one overarching priority: "Librarians," the report notes, "must demonstrate to the campus community that the library remains central to academic effort." [via The ResourceShelf]
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Inspired by the Zen Librarian, I wrote these two koans:

The Zen Librarian said to a patron, "If you return this book after the due date, you will be fined. If you do not return this book after the due date, you will also be fined." The patron was instantly enlightened.

Holding a large axe, the Zen Librarian approached a student who was reading a book. He said, "If you continue reading, I will chop off your head. If you stop reading, I will also chop off your head." The student said, "Mu", whereupon the Zen Librarian swung the axe and hacked the book in two.

Yes, I admit I was also slightly inspired by the story of Ganto's Ax. And contrary to most Zen koans, these two actually make sense. So sue me.
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More fun with those ready.gov emergency pictograms. [via Adam Curry]
Plus: Dave's cats are up to something. [Davezilla]
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Steve Kirsch writes about lessons learned from 9/11, or rather not learned, as the Bush administration seems to be doing the opposite of what they should be doing. His conclusion is compelling:
It is likely that terrorism in the US will increase as a result of our pre-emptive strike on Iraq. That's what our Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge tells us. It's also likely we'll spend at least 10 times more money fighting wars that we instigate than 911 cost us.

Ironic isn't it? In the same way, they used our airplanes to kill our people and devastate our economy, now they are using our own government to kill our people and devastate our economy on a scale 10 times larger than the original attack. In addition, they are using our own government to increase the chance of future terrorist attacks on America. All with the majority support of the American people!

The terrorists have won. They have successfully convinced America to attack itself.
[via Dan Gillmor's eJournal]
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Whereas there have been no reports of hostilities towards Americans in Europe, mobbing against German exchange students in the USA seems to have become a serious problem, according to an article in Der Spiegel (in German). Especially in rural areas, German exchange students are met with open hostility, denounced as Nazis and confronted with statements such as "I like you, but I think we should bomb your country to bits and pieces, because Germany sucks big time." Some exchange students are desperate and want to leave the USA as soon as possible: "My friends are not allowed to see me just because I'm German. [...] Help me, I can't stand this anymore." [my translation; via PapaScott]

Update (19-Mar-03): Apparently Der Spiegel had quoted the exchange students out of context. There is now a website by their exchange program organiser where they say that - a few minor quibbles aside - they're not having any problems at all. Odd. I had always thought Der Spiegel was trustworthy quality journalism. [thx PapaScott]
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From the Canadian comedy show "This Hour Has 22 Minutes," comes a hilarious apology on behalf of Canadians to their US neighbours.

I'm sorry we called George Bush a moron. He is a moron, but it wasn't nice of us to point it out. If it's any consolation, the fact that he's a moron shouldn't reflect poorly on the people of America. After all it's not like you actually elected him.

And there's much more. Requires RealPlayer. [via Boing Boing Blog]

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Not for the squeamish: This Is War. Pictures of burnt and disfigured bodies from the last Gulf War. Have a look, just to have an idea of what will be happening again pretty soon. [thx Ralf]
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Monday, March 17, 2003

Today, the wrong politician resigned in the UK. The problem is that it's always the good people with ethics who know when to quit. That's why there's so few of them in politics.
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Mark Fiore cartoon

Brilliant new animated cartoon from Mark Fiore. And here's another good one: Preemptive Diplomacy (requires Flash). [thx Becky]
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I only just found out that Michael Jackson (no, not that Michael Jackson) has a web site. Lots of beer information.

As it happens, the ideal accompaniment for beer hereabouts is a Brezel (or "pretzel", as Americans prefer to spell them). So when you're done pining for beer, why not send a pretzel to Bush? € 1 per sold pretzel goes to a children's charity. [thx Heli]
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In an op-ed in today's Der Standard, Barbara Coudenhove-Kalergi writes that Bush's warmongering has had a very positive effect on Europe. It might even, eventually, result in a greater sense of unity:
Up until now, there was not much of a European collective consciousness. A European identity? European values? A European soul, even? [...] Suddenly everything has changed. Suddenly the Europeans, of which 80% oppose a war in Iraq, know who they are and what they want: they are people who want to head in a different direction than the one dictated by the America of the Bush administration.

To find an identity you need someone with whom you do not want to identify. This is not necessarily an enemy, but an idea of what you want to be and what you don't want to be like. [...] As the French foreign minister said recently, "We don't want to blindly follow the USA." [...] This includes a preference of the welfare state over shareholder values, scepticism instead of a messianic sense of mission, and rationalism instead of pseudo-Christian fundamentalism.

[...] The time when the American way of life was seen as the ideal for everybody and everything is most probably over now. [...] The conflict over the Iraq war may give the notoriously disagreeing Europeans an opportunity to finally take their unity seriously. Without a common foreign and security policy they can never approach the USA with credibility. [...]

During the last few weeks, in the course of the preparations for the Iraq war, [...] a lot of things have been broken or damaged, but European self-esteem has grown and flourished.
My translation. Entire op-ed (in German) here. [Der Standard]
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In your eyes I've seen it,
in my silence it's heard,
in a dream it lingers.

In solitude it's known,
in honesty I scream it,
in panic, I forget it.

In desperation I need it,
in this time I lose it,
in my mind I save it.
In death I have it.

(Kira Roessler/Mike Watt); from the Minutemen's Three-Way Tie (for Last), one of the great mid-1980s post-punk albums.
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It's good to see the "Return the Statue of Liberty to France" meme is spreading -- from my own very 'umble blog via Quarsan, vowe.net and others to BBspot. In the meantime, the Christian Science Monitor gives us an example of some real patriotic cleansing -- English sans French. (Heavy satire alert on all linked posts). [Bush of Ghosts; vowe dot net]
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This one is Here was a link for the Baronesse, since she asked... For obvious reasons, the file will self-destruct in 16 hours has in the meanwhile self-destructed.
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The lapin à la kriek (rabbit in cherry beer sauce) I cooked yesterday was delicious. So without further ado, here's the recipe for this traditional Belgian dish. You need a bottle of Belgian cherry beer (kriek), which may be hard to get if you're not living in Belgium. Fortunately, here in Vienna Meinl am Graben has it.

Preparing this dish requires some work on 2 consecutive days; you need about 2 hours on the day before serving and about 70 minutes on the following day. This recipe serves four to five, or even six if they're not very hungry and the rabbits are large.
  • 2 rabbits
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper seeds
  • 1 bottle kriek (Belgian cherry beer)
  • 20 g butter
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • a glass (approx. 300 g) of black cherries with juice
  • salt
  • pepper
  • flour
Day 1:

Cut the rabbits into six pieces each -- front legs, back legs, saddle pieces. Don't throw the trimmings away; instead put them, plus 1 onion, 1 carrot, 1 bay leaf, half the pepper seeds and 1 pint (500-600 ml) water into a pot; cover and simmer for 1 1/2 hours to make stock; then strain and reserve.

In the meantime, use the remaining onion, carrot, bay leaf and pepper seeds, plus the kriek to make a marinade. Use this to marinade the rabbit pieces; cover and let stand for at least 24 hours.

Day 2:

On the next day, remove the rabbit pieces from the marinade. Mix flour with salt and pepper, cover the rabbit pieces with the flour. Heat the oil and butter in a large, deep pan and fry the rabbit pieces until golden brown on all sides.

Put 15-20 cherries aside; put the remainder plus some juice in a blender and whizz until you have a very smooth purée.

Remove all rabbit pieces except the back legs from the pan; add the stock, puréed cherries and the beer marinade. Cover and simmer the back legs for about 20 minutes; then add the front legs and saddle pieces. Add more salt and pepper if necessary. Simmer for a further 20-30 minutes.

Before serving, add the reserved cherries. Serve with boiled potatos or potato croquettes.
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Logic would dictate that this story is a hoax. After all, carps don't have vocal chords. However, if it is not a hoax, then we're in trouble. Serious trouble.
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My referrer statistics tell me that the word other people search most frequently on my website is "the". This is not something that is bound to boost my ego.
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Sunday, March 16, 2003

36
Almost forgot -- I'm 36 today. Happy birthday to me! Other famous people celebrating their birthday today include Bernardo Bertolucci, Karlheinz Böhm, Isabelle Huppert, and Jerry Lewis.

The rest of the day will be spent celebrating and cooking Lapin à la kriek (rabbit in cherry beer sauce), so there'll be no more posts today. See ya tomorrow.
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The Salon.com review of Bend It Like Beckham. would indicate that the reviewer didn't like it much. Which is a pity, as I thought it was one of the freshest, wittiest comedies of last year. Now some people might say that I'm easily taken in by attractive girls playing soccer. But that's not it. Honest. Plus, it really whetted my appetite for Aloo Gobi (I'll post a recipe on The Aardvark Cooks soon, but you can find plenty via Google).

Update: Andrea also likes it.
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If the real war on television gets too boring, your children can now play war with Bush, Hussein, Osama or Blair action figures. There's also a "Talking Bush" and a "Babbling Osama" action figure, but when it comes to talking bushes, I prefer the one from the book Exodus. [via Schockwellenreiter]
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I only just realized today that Merkur, one of Austria's larger supermarket chains is actually selling stroopwafels, highly addictive (and perfectly legal) caramel waffles that are ubiquitous in the Netherlands, but next to impossible to find pretty much anywhere else.

Now the waffles I found today may not be authentic -- they're called "Honigwafferl" (honey waffles), which means they might contain honey rather than stroop; but they look and taste totally like stroopwafels, so I think I don't really care. They also cost about three times as much than what stroopwafels cost in the Netherlands. But that's a small price to pay to satisfy one's cravings. Now somebody please import Hoegaarden Blanche to Austria.
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Never mind the fact that French Freedom fries are actually from Belgium, now the town council of Carrboro, NC launches French trade month. Angered by efforts to ostracise the French over their opposition to war, inhabitants are encouraged to buy as many French products as possible. [BBC News | World | UK Edition]
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While my mailbox is overflowing with George Bush jokes, reading the media about the US president is much less entertaining. In an op-ed, George Soros argues that the Bush administration's overconfidence shares the characteristics of a market bubble: "I see parallels between the Bush administration's pursuit of American supremacy and a boom-bust process or bubble in the stock market. ... For a while, reality reinforces the misconception, but eventually the gap between reality and its false interpretation becomes unsustainable."

There is something of an echo of this in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal today by Oriana Fallaci, who thinks Bush and Blair are right to fight but that they (and we) may ultimately, like the defenders of the Alamo, be doomed. Why? Because Europe, and the rest of the world is already occupied by the Muslims: "Europe is no longer Europe. It is a province of Islam, as Spain and Portugal were at the time of the Moors. It hosts almost 16 million Muslim immigrants and teems with mullahs, imams, mosques, burqas, chadors. It lodges thousands of Islamic terrorists whom governments don't know how to identify and control." Sounds like a dangeroius case of paranoia to me. [via Scott Rosenberg's Links & Comment]

In the New York Times, Paul Krugman asks, Is George Bush Mentally Unstable? According to the Krugman article, Bush's obsession with Iraq is leading him to destroy America's alliances, sacrifice American values, avoid facing the real threats to U.S. security, and to manage to turn virtually the entire world against the USA. His madness is his blindness to the consequences of his actions. [via Toby's Political Diary]

Plus, yet another article on how the USA is trying to buy votes in the UN security counciland why it isn't working as expected. [Salon.com]
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Seems somebody likes Mozilla: Matt Haughey calls it Blogging's Killer App: " I always wanted a resource to point friends to that were not yet mozilla/phoenix/chimera converts and decided a few months ago to finally sit down and write it." [via Schockwellenreiter]
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Friday, March 14, 2003

Cover Daily MirrorCover Sun

First casualties. [iMakeContent.Net]
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From the year 1894: The End of Books: "I do not believe (and the progress of electricity and modern mechanism forbids me to believe) that Gutenberg's invention can do otherwise than sooner or later fall into desuetude as a means of current interpretation of our mental products." [Scribner's magazine via Library Link of the Day]
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Having sent in my 2002 tax report a few days ago, I got a letter from the tax office today, which contained a questionnaire in which they're asking me all sorts of strange things about my "private enterprise". Sheesh, what do they want? I did one somewhat lucrative translation job last year, which I dutifully reported. I'm not sure if I will ever do something similar again, and I am certainly not running a "private enterprise". Nor do I have the slightest idea about my "projected earnings" from my "private enterprise" this year and next year. My only chance to fill out this questionnaire correctly is to phone the person in charge and ask her about every detail on this form. The downside is that this might take an hour or so. I already feel like it was a pretty bad idea to declare that one translation job.
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And here's yet another one of those pointless comparisons between Mac OS X and Windows XP: XvsXP.com. I call it pointless because no matter which OS is better, I wouldn't touch a Microsoft product with a ten foot pole as long as "Microsoft" and "security hole" are synonymous. I didin't even care much which OS wins, as I'm sure there's some things that are better under OS X and some better under XP. Still, the final score was quite a surprise. [via Airbag]
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The Register's John Lettice reports that the Pentagon proposes to take radical new steps in media relations should war in the Gulf commence, - 'unauthorised' journalists will be shot at. Speaking on The Sunday Show on Ireland's RTE1 last Sunday veteran war reporter Kate Adie said she had been warned by a senior Pentagon official that uplinks, i.e. TV broadcasts or satellite phones, that are detected by US aircraft are likely to be fired on. [The Register]

In the meantime, in an interview US amabssador to austria, William L. Lyons Brown demanded that Austria support the USA in every possible way should the war in Iraq start. The one problem is that unless there in a UN resolution authorizing that war, Austria is bound by its constitution and by international treaties not support the USA or any other warring nation.
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On Slate.com, Christopher Caldwell asks a good question: Why are English books made so badly? [via Heli's Heaven and Hell Radio]

I have noticed the same thing: the paper of ten year-old British books often looks worse than that of 60+ year-old books from other countries. Heck, even some of my books from East Germany, which used to be notorious for inferior paper, are in a better state than mostof my British paperbacks from the late 1980s.
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The Austrian National Broadcasting Corporation (ORF) is now offering RSS feeds for most of its sites (in German). [via Schockwellenreiter]
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Mike James writes quotes Maureen Dowd saying that it still confuses many Americans that, in a world full of vicious slimeballs, the USA is about to bomb one that didn't attack it on 9/11 (like Osama); that isn't intercepting its planes (like North Korea); that isn't financing Al Qaeda (like Saudi Arabia); that isn't home to Osama and his lieutenants (like Pakistan); that isn't a host body for terrorists (like Iran, Lebanon and Syria). [Tread lightly on the things of earth].

Guess what -- it confuses a whole lot of other people, too. Ever wonder why so many people are opposed to this war? Hint: it's not because they think Saddam is such a nice guy.
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Thursday, March 13, 2003

An article on spam in today's Washington Post, which includes an inside look at AOL's spam control center in Northern Virginia, reports that roughly 40 percent of all e-mail traffic in the US is now spam, up from 8 percent in late 2001 and nearly doubling in the past six months; that AOL's spam filters now block 1 billion messages a day; and that spam will cost U.S. organizations more than $10 billion this year from lost productivity and the equipment, software and manpower needed to combat the problem. [Slashdot via Privacy Digest]
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Once again, I received a copy of The Chain Letter That Won't Die today: it's that e-mail wherein somebody dying from leukemia is urgently looking for a bone marrow donor.

Please: if you get this e-mail, don't forward it. Instead, if you want to help one of the hundreds of thousands of people suffering from leukemia, contact the nearest hospital and tell them that you want to register for the international bone marrow donor database. Convince your friends to register, too.

I described the procedure here a few months ago. Simply put: if you register, the chances that you'll ever have to donate marrow are minuscule. More information can be found here: Thanks for listening.
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This is another one of my favourites. Not only is it the simplest curry recipe that I know of, it's also extremely tasty.
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger powder
  • 3 fresh red chilies or 1 teaspoon ground dried chilies
  • 1 teaspoon tumeric
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 tablespoon coriander powder
  • 1 tablespoon wheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 cup (250 ml) coconut milk
  • 500 g sole fillets (also tastes great with shark)
  • salt
Heat the oil in a large frying pan or wok, add the onion and fry until brown. Add ginger, chilies, tumeric, coriander and mustard seeds and fry for a few minutes more over low heat, making sure the spices do not burn.

In a bowl, mix coconut milk, lemon juice, flour and salt, then pour the mixture into the frying pan. As soon as the sauce thickens, put in the fish fillets. Squeeze the garlic through a garlic press and put it on top of the fish fillets.

Cover the pan with a lid and let everything simmer over low heat until the fish is well done (about 15 minutes, depending on the size of the fish). Do not stir while it's cooking, just shake the pan from time to time so that nothing sticks to it. Serve with rice and/or chapatis.
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300
Ten minutes before the scheduled execution, the US Supreme Court ordered a stay of what would have been the 300th execution in Texas since the re-introduction of the death penalty in 1982. Delma Banks, who was sentenced to death under dubious circumstances and could probably be innocent, will not die -- yet. But I'm sure the State of Texas will find somebody else to kill soon enough. As the New York Times reports, Texas executed 9 men in January and February and is on pace to break its 2000 record of 40 executions.

"They're killing people every day almost, every week," said Michael Dewayne Johnson, who was scheduled to be No. 300 himself until he and another inmate received temporary reprieves last month. "It's not shocking any more. Most people don't even know unless they're involved. There's just a vague mention of it in the paper."
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The Zen Librarian said, "Reference service is like a man hanging from a rope by his teeth over a cliff, with his hands bound to his sides and feet resting on no ledge, and another person asks him for books about Enrico Fermi for a child's school assignment."

A high-school student asked the Zen Librarian for the Cliffs Notes to The Scarlet Letter. The Zen Librarian opened a drawer full of eggs and said, "This is where your research begins."

How true. More Koans of the Zen Librarian can be found at The Laughing Librarian [via Library Link of the Day]
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I entered the list of Top 100 Radio weblogs of all times (right-hand column) yesterday. Yay!
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Wednesday, March 12, 2003

They may be terrorists, or they may be perfectly innocent citizens. But it doesn't really matter, because even though they're still alive, they don't legally exist any longer: A US appeals court has ruled that some 600 prisoners held without charge at a US military base in Guantanamo Bay were aliens outside US sovereign territory and thus not protected by the US Constitution. In the USSR, they called this the Gulag. [BBC News | World | UK Edition]
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A small step for a man, a giant leap for all men: a Mancunian who had sued his employer for sexual discrimination because all men had to wear ties on the job (whereas women had a much greater choice on what to wear) won the lawsuit that might one day free all men from the abominable neckwear.

Did I mention that I hate ties? They're about the most ridiculous thing that was ever invented. I wore a tie about five times in my life, and that includes my PhD graduation ceremony and my best friend's wedding ceremony.
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Disinfopedia is a collaborative encyclopedia of disinformation.
  • case studies of deceptive PR campaigns
  • industry-friendly experts
  • industry-funded organizations
  • list of lists
  • public relations firms
  • think tanks
  • war propaganda
[via Boing Boing Blog]
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First, it was just one café owner in North Carolina, now it's the House of Representatives that's regressing into infantile behaviour: CNN reports that the House cafeteria is renaming French fries and French toast into "Freedom fries" and "Freedom toast" respectively, and they're stupid enough to even be proud about how well they're able to mimic the behaviour of three year-olds. They think they're laughing at the rest of the world, but it's really the rest of the world that's laughing at them (even some US media agree [1] [2]).

The official answer from the French government was that French fries were really from Belgium, not France. Now that's weak. They could have said this instead:
  • "Coochie-coochie coo!" (or similar baby talk)
  • "Shouldn't a true American patriot stop eating French fries rather than just renaming them?"
  • "In case you want to get rid of another one of those unpatriotic French symbols, please wrap the Statue of Liberty in duct tape and return it to the Government of France, Elysee Palace, Paris."
But they didn't say it because that would have been just as childish. So what they said instead was this: "We are at a very serious moment dealing with very serious issues and we are not focusing on the name you give to potatoes."

The cheek! The cheek! I'm sure a few boys in that huge kindergarten in Washington, DC threw quite a temper tantrum when they heard this.

In the meantime, Francestinks.com sinks.com. How sad. A chronology of fries-renaming is available from plastic.com. For more information on francophobes in the US administration, try a Google News search for GOP Rep. Jim Saxton.
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Clothing designer Benetton plans to weave radio frequency ID chips into its garment tags. While Benetton is poised to save money by tracking the clothes with RFID, it could also mean a loss of customers' privacy. The RFID chips would allow anyone with an RFID receiver to locate customers wearing Benetton clothes, including companies that want to sell them their products.

Mike Liard, an analyst with technology research and consulting firm Venture Development, said the more companies that embed RFID tags in their products, the more likely it is for someone to drive by a home and say, "Look what we've got in there. An HDTV is in there, and she wears Benetton." [via Privacy Digest]
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Neglected
[Der Standard]
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Halley Suitt on US presidents: "Listen guys, give me a president who just wants a blow job any day, over one who wants to BLOW US ALL TO KINGDOM COME." [thx Karlin]
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One of the very good things about the Internet is that through it, citizens of any given country have access to news media from other countries, and are thus able to see things from different perspectives. This is why the regime in China blocked free Internet access; and this is also why American citizens are increasingly reading European news sites: British news-sites are seeing unprecedented traffic from US IP ranges as Americans, repulsed by the stilted war coverage in the US papers (who have collectively abandoned stories like Rumsfeld's handshake with Saddam and spying on security council members at the UN) turn to Old Europe for Real News. [via Boing Boing Blog]
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In the meantime, the library/internet porn debate goes on: Should libraries filter out Internet porn? My answer: Absolutely not. Library are supposed to get you all kinds of information. They're not there to make moral judgements, and they're certainly not there to compensate for some people's lack of responsibility. [The ResourceShelf]

So says Geoffrey Nunberg in the New York Times: Public libraries can't shield their patrons from the evils lurking in cyberspace, nor can technology eliminate the problems it creates. [New York Times: Education]
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Tuesday, March 11, 2003

No more Bush

No comment necessary, I think. [This came from gnurps via koewi and The Cartoonist.]
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Meg Hourihan has found a web page on Avoiding the It's / Its Confusion. One of the strange things about languages is that this is one of the things that most native speakers always seem to get wrong, whereas my Austrian students, no matter how incompetent they are otherwise concerning English grammar, usually get it right. Same with lie / lay -- I don't know how often I have read "lay" in texts by native speakers where they meant to use "lie", but strangely, my students mostly get that one, too.
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Interesting: the conservative London Times publishes an article on Bush Sr criticising the actions of his own son towards Iraq in a public speech.
The first President Bush has told his son that hopes of peace in the Middle East would be ruined if a war with Iraq were not backed by international unity.

Drawing on his own experiences before and after the 1991 Gulf War, Mr Bush Sr said that the brief flowering of hope for Arab-Israeli relations a decade ago would never have happened if America had ignored the will of the United Nations.

He also urged the President to resist his tendency to bear grudges, advising his son to bridge the rift between the United States, France and Germany.
What can I say? Wise words. Listen to your father, Mr President. [techno\culture]
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Sixty years ago today, British bombs destroyed 400,000 books in the Bavarian State Library in Munich. Further bombings up until January 1945 completely destroyed the building. The Süddeutsche Zeitung has an article commemorating the event (in German).

Back to the present, where, in a war against information, Governor Jeb Bush is trying to close the Florida State Library. Here's a website collecting most of the available documents. [via netbib weblog]
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Here's capitalism turning truly evil: Dow Chemical is suing Bhopal survivors who protested the company's role in one of the worst environmental disaster in history. [Boing Boing Blog]

And then there's those people talking about the free economy while using their political office to promote selected corporations: US firms set to cash in on reconstruction of Iraq.

One of the companies in the running for the deals is Halliburton, which was headed by the US vice-president Dick Cheney between 1995 and 2000. No big surprise that they want in on this lucrative contract -- they made lots of dosh off deals they made with Saddam Hussein after the Gulf War. Halliburton has already been awarded a lucrative contract, worth hundreds of millions of dollars, to resurrect the Iraqi oilfields if there is a war. Other companies have strong ties to the US administration; and all the companies are from the USA. [Guardian Unlimited ; techno\culture]
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Doc Searls and David Weinberger present World of Ends: What the Internet Is and How to Stop Mistaking It for Something Else. This should put a few things straight. I wish this were required reading, just as Emily Postnews used to be eight years ago. [The Doc Searls Weblog]
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Perry Hoberman is an innovative artist who builds his works of art from our daily computing experiences, some of which are collected in his new exhibition, Accept: My Life in Spam superimposes a week's worth of spams over each other; OK/Cancel is a take at those dialog boxes that drive us mad, and Infringement is a witty comment at the Copyrght debate. Well worth a look. [via Dan Gillmor's eJournal]
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Monday, March 10, 2003

Hmmm.... it's the 10th of March -- I wonder if a certain computer company is beginning to ship certain components today, and when mine will arrive.
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This is the army that, according to George W. Bush, is a threat to the American people. [via Presurfer]

In the meantime, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair is facing increasingly strong opposition in his party: not only have several ministers threatened to resign, should the UK attack Iraq without a UN resolution, now Tam Dalyell, a veteran of Britain's Labour Party and the oldest member of the House of Commons, called for the resignation of Blair over his policy on Iraq. "The US and Britain are very wrong. I think it is too late for Tony Blair. Personally I want a new prime minister. We are looking for someone other than Tony Blair," Dalyell said on France Inter radio (Story also available in German). [Der Standard ; News24]

Plus, Colin Powell is warning France that there will be "serious consequences" if France vetoes the proposed UN resolution. [Der Standard ; Le Monde]
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This is one of the most addictive dishes that I know of. It is, however, absolutely vital that you use good olive oil when you're cooking it; cheap oil or any oil other than olive oil will totally ruin the taste and/or upset your stomach. Serves two to three, as usual.
  • 1/2 cup (150 ml) good olive oil
  • 350 g boneless chicken breast, cut into cubes
  • 300 g okra
  • 1 medium-sized onion, chopped
  • 400 g tomatoes, skinned and chopped (or a can of polpa)
  • lemon juice
  • salt, pepper
Ideally, let the okra soak in lemon juice for about two to three hours before cooking.

Heat the oil in a large wok or frying pan, but don't let it get too hot or it'll lose its taste. Add the chopped onion and chicken pieces and fry until meat and onions have a brownish tint. Add the chopped tomatoes, salt and pepper, stir well, then reduce heat, cover with a lid and let everything simmer over low heat for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove the chicken from the sauce and put it aside. Put the okra into the sauce. If the okra have been soaking in lemon juice, do not add the lemon juice; if they have not been soaking in lemon juice, add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Cover and let simmer over low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Then add in the chicken pieces, let boil very briefly just to make sure the chicken is warm; then serve immediately, preferably with rice.

The idea behind cooking chicken and ocra separately is that the okra and tomatoes get a fruity, slightly lemony taste, whereas the chicken does not. This contrast is essential, and you should not spoil it by cooking okra and chicken together.

Update: At the request of a reader, here is some more information about okra: [1] [2] [3].
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According to a report by the Institute of Policy Studies, Bush's so-called "Coalition of the Willing" is not really based on genuine multilateralism; quite on the contrary, almost all countries joined "only through coercion, bullying, bribery, or the implied threat of U.S. action that would directly damage the interests of the country. This 'coalition of the coerced' stands in direct conflict with democracy. In most nations, including those most closely allied to the United States, over 70 percent of the public opposes U.S. military action against Iraq."

This just shows that what is going on in the UN security council at the moment is truly a farce, and that the relevance of a body whose members can so easily be coerced into compliance to just about anything simply by buying or bullying them is highly doubtful -- if the richest nations can buy votes so easily, we don't need the UN any longer; a few banks who take care of the money transfers will suffice. The full report can be dowloaded here (PDF file), a summary in English is here, and a summary in German is here. [via Schockwellenreiter]
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At least I'm not alone: A third of UK academics want to quit. Nearly one in three of Britain's university academic and teaching staff is seriously considering quitting the profession, because of a growing workload and poor pay, according to a new survey out today. The workforce is under-paid, stressed-out, demoralised and demotivated, the Association of University Teachers shows. Nearly half the academics said morale had worsened in the past two years, while an overwhelming majority complained that they suffered from work-related stress. [Guardian Unlimited]
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Sunday, March 9, 2003

V is for Victor

Edward Gorey's Gashlycrumb Tinies, an illustrated alphabet of horrible things happening to children, is now available online. More about Edward Gorey can be found at the Edward Gorey House and this Gorey tribute site. Enjoy! [via BoingBoing]
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Via BoingBoing, I found this amazing map of fetishes and sexual obsessions. Not only is it an exercise in how well you can deal with complex, confusing diagrams, it's also interesting to see what people can find erotic -- things like eye patches, bad breath or popping plastic bags aren't too high on my list, nor are (listen up Niek) clogs. Parts of the body, which I'd say are the most obvious type of fetish, are, however, mysteriously missing.
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Fat
By the end of the 21st century, Americans could be extinct, having eaten themselves to death: at the moment, 26 per cent of Americans are now clinically obese (meaning that their weight will be the reason for their death), but current projections indicate that by the year 2050, all Americans will be overweight. This interesting article from The Observer summarizes a few interesting points how Americans are being fattened by the food industry:
In the mid-Seventies, palm oil, previously tricky to process, became available as commercial fat, fit for frying French fries and for baking cookies; moreover, products made with it last. Unfortunately, it is also 45 per cent saturated fat. Palm oil and HFCS changed the nature of the foods Americans love to eat forever.

In 1960, a serving of McDonald's french fries contained 200 calories; in the mid-Nineties, it contained 450 calories; today, it contains 610 calories.
Yum yum.
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Spooky story from Michael Barrish today: Turn. [thx joe]. Reminded me a bit of a film I saw at the Edgar G. Ulmer retrospective at the film museum yesterday: Detour. When you hitch a hike, always take care in whose car you step -- it could just be the wrong one.
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UK prime minister Tony Blair faces a major crisis, as over 200 backbenchers prepare to rebel and five cabinet members have threatened to resign should the UK enter the war against Iraq without UN backing. According to an article in the Mail on Sunday (unconfirmed; no online edition) over 40,000 Labour Party members have cancelled their party membership in protest against Blair's politics.
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Saturday, March 8, 2003

The US government has been comparing the situation Iraq with that of Nazi Germany, and it's been saying something to the effect that it wants to repeat what it did in Germany during and after WWII. I mean, I get the bit about removing a ruthless, inhuman, dictatorial regime, but are they really planning to completely (and I mean completely) destroy most major Iraqi cities, knowingly causing the deaths of half a million civilians and about 80,000 children?
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Andrew J. O'Conner, a former public defender from Santa Fe, was arrested in a public library and interrogated by Secret Service agents for five hours on February 13th. His crime? He said "Bush is out of control" on an internet chat room, and was arrested for threatening the President.

Bernadette Devlin McAliskey of Ireland was recently passing through Chicago from Dublin, where she passed security, when she heard her name called over a loudspeaker. When she went up to the ticket counter, three men and one woman surrounded her and grabbed her passport. McAliskey was informed that she had been reported to be a "potential or real threat to the United States." When she snapped back that she had rights, she was told not to make the boss angry, because he shoots people. "After 9/11," said one officer, "nobody has any rights."

Here's more. I don't know if this is true or not, but I tell you I don't feel like travelling to the USA anytime soon. [via Wortlog]
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Slap me with brie and call me French - I oppose the war
Nice t-shirt. [Der Schockwellenreiter]

Plus, the so-called "evidence" on Iraq trying to import uranium to build nuclear weapons has been declared "not authentic" after careful scrutiny by UN and independent experts (another article about this is here). The UN inspectors also said that they had not been able to verify US claims about hidden weapons in Iraq and once again asked the USA to provide more details.

The bad news is that the UN inspectors have not been able to conduct searches for biological weapons due to lack of time; however, it doesn't look like they'll be getting more of it.
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I just noticed that very funny things happen to my weblog postings, especially my RSS feed, when I type <%radio.weblog.getUrl%> instead of <%radio.weblog.getUrl()%> in Radio UserLand.
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Hm. Yesterday, I linked to a grim article about the state of American schools, and today comes the news that the Bush administration is about to announce a $60 million programme to get children out of school. For the moment it's in emergencies only, but who knows what will come next? [via New York Times: Education]
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Just back from this month's annual Labyrinth poetry open mic. I read the beginning of a longish piece of prose I've been writing on for ages, a thing that might one day become a novel entitled A Small Devil's Hour, which is mostly weird. Audience response was okay, but not too good, so they might not get the continuation next month.

Quite a lot of people read anti-war poems, and I was unhappy with most of them. There's something about anti-war poetry (just as with most anti-war movies) that makes it sound mostly, well, cheesy.

After the reading, I spent some time thinking what good, sincere anti-war poetry could be like. The problem is that I think it has to be completely non-didactic and absolutely devoid of pathos, which is a pretty tough thing to do.

Maya Lin's Vietnam Veterans Memorial came to my mind. If I could write a poem that was as simple and yet as direct about war as this monument, that would probably be it.
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I never thought that I would ever agree with a British Conservative MP, but here we go: In The Spectator, ex Conservative MP Mathew Parris writes:
The whole credibility of the United Nations is at stake this week. If the Security Council buckles under the US blackmail to which it is now subject over Iraq, we can discount the organisation as an independent force for international order.

We find ourselves stumped for words at the cheating to which our Prime Minister [Blair] and his new friends on the Right have stooped in their arguments for war. Nobody would call the hawk's mind open, but the door of his intellect does seem to have been hospitably open to a bewildering series of opposing arguments.
Isn't it strange when former Conservatives are suddenly more progressive than the so-called 'leftitsts'? Strange world indeed. [via My life in the Bush of Ghosts]
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At the behest of Greengrl, I joined Jennifer Government NationStates, a kind of government simulation game and founded my very own little nation (in case you were wondering, it's named after a country in a story that I wrote a long time ago).

However, I must have made some kind of mistake early in the game, as the country's income tax rate keeps climbing and climbing - at the moment it's at a whopping 72%, and I see no way how I could lower that rate. Notice the irony that I have lately been complaining a lot about my very real, non-simulated 41% income tax rate. Which reminds me that I must do my 2002 tax report fast. Today. Immediately.

Well, at least the gonkus seem to be happy.
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Moves to give Baghdad a 10-day ultimatum gather pace. I just hope those suckers don't start the war on my birthday.
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Thursday, March 6, 2003

Khabi Khushi Khabie GhamToday's Bollywood movie at the film museum was Koran Johar's Khabi Kushi Khabie Gham (official site here). The nice thing about many Bollywood movies is that their neither comedy nor drama nor tragedy, but almost always all of it at the same time. So you can have the audience laugh at one time and be sad only a few moments later, and this was true cinema of emotions, all emotions that you can think of, and all 210 [sic] minutes of it.

Okay, so the emotional scenes are totally over the top and don't always ring true to a Western audience, the plot has a few holes, and there's plenty of unintentionally comic bits (like the constant wind in Kareena Kapoor's hair) but never mind all that. Tonight's audience did get into the mood, and when, towards the end, Nandini (Jaya Bachchan) tells her husband that he is wrong and leaves with the words "there is nothing more to say" -- a sentence he had used several times before -- there were spontaneous cheers and applause, something I hadn't experienced in the cinema in a long, long time. It reminded me that cinema can be like this, too.

A friend of mine, with whom I'd watched the movie, summed it up pretty well: "Heck, this is emotion. 'Gone With the Wind' totally pales in comparison."
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Dave Winer says that it's impossible to like the American people and not like their government, or vice versa by referring to the first three words of the US Constitution.

I'm not sure what this implies. Does this mean that there will never be any opposition of the American people to what the US government does? Does it mean the US government is always representing the will of the people? Does it mean that whenever I criticise the US government, I am also criticising every single US citizen? Does it mean that I have to not like all Americans simply because I don't like the present US government?

Whatever the implications are, I'm not particularly comfortable with them.
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Lets all spell "waste of bandwidth" together: AOL announced today that its spam filters hit the 1 billion reject mark for a 24 hour period. This is an average of 28 rejects per day per member. In addition, AOL spam engineers say they receive 5.5 million spam submissions each day from AOL users. Other reports here(1) and here(2). [Der Schockwellenreiter < Slashdot.org]
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One of the slogans of the 1968 student revolts in Germany was "Patrioten sind Idioten" (patriots are idiots). If you don't understand why they would say so, check out the website of Dan, a.k.a. 'Yankee Doodle', a true American patriot. [thx Nico]

Update: Perhaps I should clarify this: the students' slogan had nothing to do with the USA; quite on the contrary it meant to remind people that Germany was at its most patriotic when the Nazis were in power. Patriotism makes people blind, and most of the time it leads right into war.
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From the New York Times: The War on Schools. It's an insane society that can contemplate devastating and then rebuilding Iraq, but can't provide schooling for all its own young people. [New York Times: Education]. Well, it's a matter of priorities, I guess.
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I like this: The SJ Merc interview with Marc Andreessen (founder of Netscape) asks if he has a blog. "No," he said. "I have a day job. I don't have the time or ego need."

As you might expect, blog guru Dave Winer begs to differ: "People used to say stuff like that about email, believe it or not." [Scripting News]

Okay Dave, but I'll tell you something: one does need a lot of time to write a good weblog. At any rate, it's beginning to take up more time than I wish to spend on it. Same is true for my e-mail too, of course.
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Wednesday, March 5, 2003

I am by now convinced that even if Saddam Hussein committed suicide and his body were handed over to the USA, Donald Rumsfeld would still either say it's a fake or he'd claim Saddam just did it to deceive the UN; at any rate, it'd be a reason to attack Iraq. From the BBC today: Rumsfeld denies Iraq is disarming.
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And here's yet another 'Europeans Are Evil American Haters' article, this time from USA Today. Apparently Europeans are now spitting on people just for being American. Sheesh. Do Americans really believe we have no other problems than to hate them? This is so ridiculous. Okay, so George W. Bush and his warmongers in Washington, D.C. aren't too popular in Europe at the moment, but unless some American approaches me in the street and tells me my country should really support the war against Iraq, I don't really care where they're from. I smell a huge dose of Anti-Europeanism being created by the American media. It seems George W. needs a new enemy to divert some attention from his poor performance.

The "Tips for blending in" quoted in the same article are absolutely hilarious:
Concerned about being a magnet for anti-Americanism during your next trip abroad? Avoid American fast-food restaurants and chains.
Not that you'd get a seat in there anyway, as they're always crammed with local teenagers.
Keep discussions of politics to private places, not rowdy bars.
Actually, rowdy bars might not be a safe place no matter whether you're talking politics or not.
Take a rain check on wearing clothes featuring American flags or sports team logos.
Not that anyone would notice, as many locals are wearing similar stuff.
Keep your passport out of sight; keep cameras, video equipment and maps tucked away.
Not that pickpockets care about your nationality. They steal from Germans and French just the same.
I wonder how many people actually believe this load of utter nonsense. [article found via Boing Boing Blog]
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Seems I was lucky having just two colds last month. Michael Barrish is talking about his fourth cold this winter. And other things. [Oblivio]
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Can they still spell "first amendment"? A lawyer was arrested late Monday after refusing to take off a T-shirt bearing the words "Give Peace A Chance" that he had just purchased at the mall. He could face up to a year in prison if convicted. [via jenett.radio]
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GodmotherJust returned from the Austrian Film Museum, where they are currently showing a big Bollywood retrospective. The film I saw was Vinay Shukla's Godmother, quite a compelling movie.

Putting aside the somewhat unusual narrative pace and plot structure that is so typical of Bollywood movies, this is actually an excellent movie. Shabana Azmi is simply stunning in her portrayal of Rambhi, a simple farmer's wife, who moves to the city with her husband and, when her husband is killed, becomes a veritable mafia Godmother, killing every opponent without so much as a blink and fighting the corrupt political system, while her own political power steadily increases.

At the same time, it is a movie with a strong feminist twist, as it is the belittled widow who becomes the most ruthless and influential politician in the district; and in the end, when she realizes that she has made some serious mistakes, it is also a very progressive plea for tolerance and understanding -- "if you try to unite a community at all costs, you tear it apart".
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The planet will face an unprecedented shortage of drinking water in the next 20 years, a U.N. report warns. Pollution, global warming and thick-headed politicians get most of the blame. [Wired News]

After the current war, which is fought over oil, the next one will probably be fought over water.
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Tuesday, March 4, 2003

VIP-Icons

Brighten up your desktop with VIP Icons. [via Der Schockwellenreiter]
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Do we really need to know that Michael Jackson put a curse on Steven Spielberg and Singer Tom Jones cleans his penis with minty Listerine mouthwash? Or is all of this just a poor substitute for other things that we'd like to know, but aren't told? [via Exploding Cigar]
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Once again, Zürich is in first place of the Mercer Insitute's Worldwide Quality of Life Survey 2002. Vienna (leading the list of EU capital cities) went up a notch to second position, sharing that position with Vancouver. As you'd expect, every newspaper, online medium and radio/TV station hereabouts brought the news, and it's a bigger item than Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

I've never been to Vancouver, but I must say that I have very few complaints about living in Vienna. Not sure about Zürich, though -- it may be safe and clean, but it's not particularly exciting. On the other hand, "exciting" cities such as London or New York are pretty far down on the scale, sharing 41st position (of 213 evaluated cities).
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The New York Times:"48 percent of Americans believe in creationism, and only 28 percent in evolution (most of the rest aren't sure or lean toward creationism). According to recent Gallup Tuesday briefings, Americans are more than twice as likely to believe in the devil (68 percent) as in evolution."

Karlin Lillington: "And we're obsessed with Muslim fundamentalism? Sheesh." [techno\culture]
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Galilei manuscript, destroyed by ink corrosionThe two most dramatic things we learned about in library school were Säuretod (death by acid) and Tintenfraß (ink corrosion) -- two things that are rapidly killing old books and manuscripts. Now the Cartoonist has found The Iron Gall Ink Corrosion website with all the gory details about, well, ink corrosion, featuring the ink corrosion horrorshow.

As for Death by Acid, I found no such drastic documentation, which is a true pity, as it is a much greater problem than ink corrosion -- there are, after all, a lot more books printed between 1840 and 1980 than there are manuscripts written with iron gall ink, and all books printed between 1840 and 1980 will eventually disintegrate and turn to dust (paper made before 1840 was not made of wood and is therefore not affected). There is further information here, here and here. The Kansas State University Library has a few pictures.
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Monday, March 3, 2003

One more bit from Gary Turner: "I sense a massive business opportunity looming what with all this talk of war in Iraq. I can see a successful franchise in the offing, whereby the discerning entrepreneur sets up a small, easy-to-assemble, branded stallholding in busy market towns all over the middle east, selling various convenient articles of insult and international protest kits."

Which reminds me that a few days ago, I already posted a link to a website, but hid it behind a not-too-obvious link text. So here it is again: The American Flag Burning Archive.
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Will the fact that I update this weblog almost daily make people think that I have no life? Let me assure you that I have a fulfilled and interesting life, I just spend most of it in front of the computer.

Just kidding. Still, I feel like participating in this Webstinence thing Gary Turner is promoting.
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Craig Jensen has a link to EcoFuture, who have an interesting set of statistics on how wasteful the American Way of Lif is and ask the question, Is this the American Dream?
Quality of life:
To me, the article seems a bit too favourable of Europeans -- there's so much more ways energy could be preserved and waste could be avoided; we're very, very far from an ecological ideal. However, if this article is really correct, I shudder to think how our planet is being ruined even worse elsewhere. [via Craig's BookNotes]
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Private security companies have become the most lucrative source of income for German neo-Nazis, reports heise.de. Just when you thought you were feeling safe... [via Der Schockwellenreiter]
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So has the war against Iraq already begun or what? Allies bomb key Iraqi targets: missile systems hit, rocket launchers destroyed. Apparently you don't need an UN resolution to do this.

Update: Iraq: six dead in allied bombing. Raid killed six civilians, Iraq says. [Guardian Unlimited]
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A large Austrian bank is using Barbapapa to promote its "flexible loan". Spot on, I'd say -- you can't get any more flexible than Barbapapa and his family, although it hurts a bit to see this icon of every 1970s childhood being used for such a crass commercial purpose.

Update: I had completely forgotten that one of Barbapapa's children, Barbalib (Barbaletta in German, Barbotine in French) was actually the librarian type, complete with glasses and all.
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Sunday, March 2, 2003

Via Greg Storey, who writes that Google has grown beyond being a mere search engine, I found an article in The Economist, where a journalist uses Google as a kind of Public Opinion Engine, writing:
Certainly, American anti-Europeanism is a marginal phenomenon in comparison with its evil European twin. A (real) Google search generates 401 references to "anti-Europeanism in America" and 22,300 to "anti-Americanism in Europe".
So? What is this supposed to be indicative of? If anything, it proves that said journalist has no idea of how to use research tools and how to evaluate the results.

The only thing this search proves is that there are 22,300 websites mentioning the words "anti-Americanism in Europe" and 401 websites mentioning "anti-Europeanism in America", nothing more and nothing less -- never mind that "anti-Europeanism" is not exactly a real word and that you'd get another 2,700 hits for "anti-European in America" and 1,420 for "anti-European in USA".

He also forgot to take into account who wrote these web pages. Half that number could be American warbloggers whining over and over again about how bad anti-Americanism in Europe has become, and the other half could be Europeans writing that anti-Americanism in Europe doesn't really exist at all. If that were the case (which it probably isn't), I could just as well claim the exact opposite -- that the high number of search results on mostly US websites indicates that Americans seem to have a substantial problem with Europe.

This flawed piece of so-called "research" says nothing about real anti-Americanism (or anti-Europeanism), nor does it say anything about real Europe or real America. People who don't have the slightest idea what Google can be used for should keep their fingers off their keyboards and ask their local librarian how search engines work.
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Shelley Powers writes today: "The President [Bush] focused his weekly radio address on Iraq and the need to remove Saddam Hussein. He also issued promises to the Iraqi people that he will not leave them to suffer from this war."

Incidentally, I saw a documentary on the Allied bombings of Germany during WWII on Spiegel TV yesterday. The documentary was the result of a debate raised by a new book by German historian Jörg Friedrich, who questions the rationale and the ideology behind these bombings, which were intentionally aimed at civilian targets: the Allied liberation of Germany cost the lives of 80,000 children and over 500,000 adult civilians; over 150 German cities were completely destroyed, many of which had no military significance at all.

"Promises not to leave them to suffer"? Please! There may be differences between the massacres that the Nazis committed against other nations and those that the Allied troops committed against Germany, but they're still massacres. Let's not even for a second believe that there is such a thing as a "good" or "moral" war. It may sometimes be necessary, but it's never good or moral.
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Michael Koch: "My main criticism of weblogs at the moment is that there are so few webloggers who actually have to say something. I want to read weblogs from people talking about the fields in which they are working. I want to listen to insiders, who are able to communicate their knowledge intelligibly and who, due to their extensive knowledge, can evaluate the current situation differently than the average layman." [Monoklon]

It's a problem that I also have become aware of during the last few weeks - even in my own weblog. Originality is a serious problem. I will have to deal with it one of these days.
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I'm still suffering from the Cold From Hell, even though it seems that the antibiotics are now, finally, kicking in. Bad news is that the bug is spreading -- Pascale has got it too, it seems. Get well soon, Pascale!
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From The American Prospect: "The sedate shushers of your childhood have stepped into the political arena, and they've emerged as one of the most vital and effective progressive forces in the country. Over the past several years, librarians, and their professional governing body, the American Library Association (ALA), have been behind some of the most significant civil-liberties battles in the country -- from the fight over the Communications Decency Act (which the Supreme Court struck down as the result of a lawsuit brought by the ALA and the American Civil Liberties Union) to the controversy over the USA PATRIOT Act (which the ALA sharply criticized in a recent resolution) to the question of whether to strengthen copyright restrictions on digital media (which the ALA opposes)." [librarian.net]
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The Observer reports that the US uses dirty tricks to win the vote in the UN security council: a secret document details American plan to bug phones and emails of key Security Council members ahead of the crucial vote over war on Iraq [Guardian Unlimited]. Yeah well. Anybody who's surprised, please raise your hands.

And if you're not yet convinced, here's a page about The Bush Credibility Gap : a chronology of Bush saying one thing then doing another. [jenett.radio: dailywebthing < Steve's No Direction Home Page]
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Net Gurus Rally Anti-Spam Forces. The Internet Research Task Force forms a new offshoot whose sole goal is to document the magnitude of the junk e-mail problem -- and do what it takes to fix it. By Justin Jaffe. [Wired News]

Martian Software is developing a tarpit for spam: "If an incoming message looks like spam, the connection could be slowed dramatically, consuming the spammer's resources and wasting their time." Interesting concept. [Privacy Digest]

In the meantime, France is passing legislation to ban spam. Direct electronic marketing without prior consent would be allowed in certain circumstances where the parties involved were properly registered so as not to penalise e-business between companies. [Privacy Digest]
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The Independent and other media have reported that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the suspected planner of the 11 September attacks, has been arrested. The interesting thing is that he was arrested in Pakistan, a country that does not have such things as a Homeland Security Office, Total Information Awareness, or Total Citizen Surveillance.

Quarsan says: "This is how we can defeat terrorists - by arresting them, not by declaring an agressive war on nations that Daddy doesn't like." I have nothing to add to that.
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According to an opinion poll, a whopping 3 (three) per cent of all Austrians think that the new government, formed a few days ago by the conservative People's Party and the right-wing Freedom Party "fully reflects the will of the voters." 72 per cent say that it is not "the best possible government for the country."

This is the worst backing that any Austrian government ever had. The irony is that in the November 2002 elections, the People's Party had won a landslide victory with 42% of the votes, indicating a huge support by the voters. I have no idea what the voters thought they'd get. It would seem obvious that you won't get a leftist government if you vote for a conservative party.
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