The Aardvark Speaks - April 2003 Archive



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Wednesday, April 30, 2003

I'm seriously wondering whether there are really so many female Ukrainian librarians who are looking for a husband. And I was honestly taken a bit by surprise by the invitation to add Ludmila, Tanya, Yulya and/or Irina to my shopping cart by clicking the "Order now" button. Just exactly what kind of web site is this? [thx Edlef]
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Strange things happen at Easter: Chris Heilman travelled in what can rightly be called the Elevator of Turin. [via shutterclog]
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In the Miami Herald, Robert Steinback asks, Did our leaders lie to us? Do we even care?: "[I]t seems the agony of Sept. 11 has pushed us [Americans] into an altogether new realm, where we don't even care if our rhetoric makes sense, as long as we're led to a feel-good conclusion. The joy of kicking butt obliterates the need to make an honest case for war." Here's more. [via Craig's BookNotes]
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Tuesday, April 29, 2003

My only quibble with the new Apple Music Store is that it doesn't work outside the USA. As soon as it is available, I'll probably be a regular customer. The whole concept - great user interface, no subscription fees, €0.90 per song - is a winner (see also [1] [2]).
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A metal drum found in northern Iraq that initially tested positive for nerve and blister agents might instead contain rocket fuel, according to new tests, a U.S. chemical weapons expert said Monday. [Salon.com]
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Alex Saunders has compiled a number of interesting - and frightening - links to articles on America's nuclear rearmament, which is apparently taking place at an increased pace: "The only conclusion possible is that despite years of nuclear disarmament, the US has made a strategic decision to rearm with nuclear weapons. The risk is unimaginable. The strategic value is dubious. Why would any responsible American government today embark on this course?" [via GavinsBlog.com]
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Will Iraq war commander Tommy Franks be charged with war crimes? An obscure Belgian law which allows the prosecution of non-Belgian citizens for war crimes might become the basis for what US officials call "an example of political harassment" that would result in "diplomatic consequences" for Belgium.

In the meantime, US troops once again opened fire on a group of Iraqi demonstrators, this time killing at least 13 people and wounding 75 others. [BBC News; Guardian Unlimited]
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Is the USA having a problem with free speech? Well, here's another story that would suggest so.

I'm not sure if the following numbers are correct, so please drop me a note if you have more accurate figures:

According to my somewhat incomplete sources, in the anti-war protests immediately after the start of the Iraq war, some 400,000 people protested in the USA, and there were about 2,500 arrests. In Europe, about 6,000,000 people protested, and there were about 100 arrests (most of them in Spain). Looks like a serious disparity to me.

Again: if you have more accurate figures, please drop me a note. Also, don't relay this story unless I have posted some sort of confirmation.
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Would you hire a railway engineering company to act as adviser for the improvement of secondary schools? No? Not even if the company has never had an educational contract like this before? No? Not even if the police were currently conducting investigations against this company for its role in a train crash that killed seven people? Still no? Well, the British government is doing it.
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The Guardian reports that Tony Blair said the new world order must be based on a European partnership with the USA. Is he talking about the same USA that stated only a few days ago that it neither wants nor needs any partners?
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Monday, April 28, 2003

Ook!. [from the L-Space Web via netbib weblog]
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The Register has an article about the latest tactics of the lowest scum on the Internet:
Pressed by increasingly effective anti-spam efforts, senders of unsolicited commercial e-mail are resorting to outright criminality in their efforts to conceal the source of their ill-sent missives, using Trojan horses to turn the computers of innocent netizens into secret spam zombies.

"This is the newest delivery mechanism," says Margie Arbon, director of operations of anti-spam group MAPS. "I've been looking for it for a year, and in the last couple of months people have actually found Trojans that are doing it... They're carrying their own SMTP engines. Failing that, they install open proxy software."
Full article here. And remember never to click on any unrequested attachment! It's things like these that make me wish that Lawrence Lessig's proposed bounty on spammers were actually on their severed heads. Just kidding. Kind of.
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American soldiers' ways of disciplining Iraqis may be "effective", but they seem to lack the "moral superiority" that the USA claims to have compared to Iraq. [via This Modern World by Bob Harris]
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In the Independent on Sunday, Raymond Walker writes that the case for invading Iraq to remove its weapons of mass destruction was based on selective use of intelligence, exaggeration, use of sources known to be discredited and outright fabrication: "A high-level UK source said last night that intelligence agencies on both sides of the Atlantic were furious that briefings they gave political leaders were distorted in the rush to war with Iraq. 'They ignored intelligence assessments which said Iraq was not a threat,' the source said." Here's more. [via Craig's BookNotes]
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Sunday, April 27, 2003

If you order a notebook from Dell, their order form apparently asks you if you want to use it as a weapon of mass destruction, as Gary Turner found out. This is either one of Baldrick's cunning plans to uncover terrorist cells, or it's just plain weirdness. Will anybody ever answer this question with "Yes"? And I shudder to think what will happen if somebody actually does.
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O'Reilly & Associates, world-renowned publishers of incisive commentary about technology and society, have announced that they will release a number of out-of-print technical books under an Attribution license once they obtain author permission. At that point, they will offer a free download link to obtain a copy of the book. [via Schockwellenreiter]
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The Cartoonist was at the Wire gig at the Barbican yesterday and took a few pictures. Sez he: "The Velvet Underground Reunion was fab; Devo were great; the Ramones were noisy - but Wire beats them all."

Even though I saw Wire in Vienna last year, this is one of the occasions that make me want to live closer to London.
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Wherever you are, whoever you are, whatever you do, just don't ever criticise the USA, because they're always right and never make mistakes. After all, President Bush is under direct orders from God, and with God on your side, you can basically piss off everyone else, because all of them are irrelevant. And who needs friends or allies if no-one stands in your way anyway?
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Saturday, April 26, 2003

Bertha von SuttnerI don't know who started this, but there's this persistent rumour among tourists that the person on the Austrian 2 euro coin is a former Austrian empress. Opinions are divided on who she is, though: Germans seem to favour Empress Elisabeth ("Sisi", 1837-1898), whereas others seem to think it's Empress Maria Theresia (1717-1780).

Bad news: it is neither. It's just a rumour. Although in our consumerist times both empresses would have been top choices to support Austrian tourism, the woman on the coin is in fact Nobel Peace Prize laureate Bertha von Suttner (1843-1914). Have a look at her biography, it's quite impressive. Actually, we'd need a few people like her these days.
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I only went to RetroCrush because Ralf lured me there by promising Diana Rigg/Emma Peel pictures, but there's so much more weird stuff there that I need to take some more time later and check out the rest. Go have a look, too.
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End
Plus, the world is going to end soon. Is anybody really surprised?
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You know it's a very slow day when I start writing about the Dixie Chicks, a Texas C&W band who learned about the wrath of the music industry when they dared to exercise their right of free speech and criticised President Bush. Now, none other than Bruce Springsteen offers his opinion on the whole Dixie Chicks thing: "To me, they're terrific American artists expressing American values by using their American right to free speech. [...] [W]e are supposedly fighting to create freedom in Iraq, at the same time that some are trying to intimidate and punish people for using that same freedom here at home." Hear hear. [thx Bob]
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In the days before junk e-mail, I was totally unaware of all the places on, in, and near a woman's body where human sperm can be deposited. These days, I learn about two or three new places every day. Mind you, I'm not really interested in learning about these things, or whatever else you can do with sperm. Actually, I can think of a lot of other things I'd rather know. It's just that these other things don't come in daily, free of charge via e-mail.
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Friday, April 25, 2003

"We are at war, we are at war and this is for your safety." No further comment. [thx Toby]
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In the Guardian, George Monbiot writes that the USA can only be stopped if all European nations support and strengthen the Euro so that the US dollar loses its value and the hugely overvalued US economy bursts like the bubble that it really is. I say that may not be necessary. Just let George Bush continue. He'll ruin the US economy much, much faster that any EU monetary policy could. Plus, no-one would have to take the blame: the Bush regime is of course absolutely infallible, so they could just blame SARS for the bad economy. Oops, silly me, they're already doing that.
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Over at This Modern World, Bob Harris (who's currently filling in for Tom Tomorrow) points out that now even President Bush has admitted there may not be any weapons of mass destruction on Iraq. Uh-huh. Like, when UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix told him so, he didn't believe it. So where are the WMDs, after all that's why Iraq was attacked in the first place?
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Thursday, April 24, 2003

"Former West Point instructor and retired U.S. Army Special Forces Master Sergeant Stan Goff breaks down what really happened in the Iraqi war, with the US media, and to Americans at home. As the so-called coalition prepares to declare 'Victory', Goff reminds us and perhaps tells many for the first time how the Iraqi campaign was actually fought. [...] Massacred women and children seen by a New York Times photographer are not elements of spin. Massacred Iraqi soldiers with white flags of surrender still beside their bodies are not propaganda. These are crimes." Read more in Wolves and sheep: A short history of the Bush Mafia's war in Iraq. [via Der Schockwellenreiter]
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I had been aware of the cultural differences in regard to male circumcision in the US (virtually everybody) vs. Europe (virtually nobody); but when I was recently re-directed to the penis blog (caution: not work safe), I noticed one more difference: it seems that American males seem more likely to shave or trim their pubic hair - or perhaps they simply grow less of the stuff. Now I wonder: is shaving/trimming your pubic hair really an integral part of male American culture?
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Audacious plans

This week's edition of This Modern World. Brilliant.
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The United States says it has regained the capability to make nuclear weapons for the first time in 14 years and has resumed production of plutonium parts for bombs. [thx Hetty]
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Hm, so it's not Syria after all that's going to suffer next: US secretary of state Powell says France will face the consequences for opposing the war against Saddam Hussein. Tom Tomorrow reports that White House officials are trying to discredit political opponents by saying they "look French", and Gavin Sheridan even sees the possibility of a US-EU war in the long-term future.
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Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Tom Tomorrow asks: "Did they even think about any of this?" "As Iraqi Shiite demands for a dominant role in Iraq's future mount, Bush administration officials say they underestimated the Shiites' organizational strength and are unprepared to prevent the rise of an anti-American, Islamic fundamentalist government in the country."

If it weren't so sad, it'd be worth quite a laugh. At any rate, if this is true it raises the question of how incompetent you have to be to become a political leader in the United States. As far as I remember, pretty much everyone pretty much everywhere else had predicted that exactly this was going to happen.
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I managed to spot a weirdo today. It isn't as easy as it used to be, you know. A couple of years ago, if somebody talked to themselves on the street, you could be pretty sure he was a weirdo. These days, when somebody is talking to themselves, you can be pretty sure they're merely using their mobile phone. Actually, pretty much everybody is talking to themselves on the street these days. Four out of five people in Vienna seem to have one of their hands permanently glued to their mobile phone, which is in turn permanently glued to one of their ears, usually on the same side, although in some particularly sad cases, the phone is glued to the right hand, but the left ear (or vice versa).

Anyway, I spotted a weirdo yesterday. He was talking to himself and did not have a mobile phone.
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If you didn't see this page for part of today, this was due to a glitch in Radio UserLand, which sometimes fails to properly upload the updated version of this page. I usually check if it worked, last time I didn't. Hence, ths page was empty for about eight hours.
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So now the US military has admitted that children aged 16 years and younger are among the detainees being interrogated at its prison camp in Guantanamo Bay. I can't say I'm surprised. The mere existence of the camp is an indication that the USA is turning into a police state where citizens can be arrested seemingly at random and held indefinitely without charges and without the right to a lawyer. The Austrian daily Der Standard quotes Jimmy Carter saying Donald Rumsfeld had declared the Guantanamo prisoners would not be released even if they were proven innocent. This sounds unbelievable, yet I find it probable. These are sad times.
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Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Following the good example of their government, now the US sugar industry has also decided that the UN is irrelevant: "The sugar industry in the US is threatening to bring the World Health Organisation to its knees by demanding that Congress end its funding unless the WHO scraps guidelines on healthy eating, due to be published on Wednesday." [thx Hetty]
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Do not, repeat, do not breastfeed your children if you are in the USA. If you do so, you risk being being arrested for terrorist action, or you might have your children removed from the family and face charges over child pornography. Instead, use baby formula produced by friendly multinational corporations, and keep your baby as far away from your breasts as possible. [via Tom Tomorrow and Plastic.com]
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I just hope this never happens to me: from Wired.com, Online, Some Bloggers Never Die. The final posts from webloggers now deceased have become a popular topic of discussion on some weblogs. I should probably leave a note somewhere with instructions on how to remove my web pages if I should suddenly die.

Just remembered that my webspace is automatically deleted as soon as my employment at Vienna University ends. Saves me the trouble. The story is still spooky.
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From the NY Times: Internet Is Losing Ground in Battle Against Spam: "Brightmail, which makes spam-filtering software for corporate networks and big Internet providers, says that 45 percent of the e-mail it now sees is junk, up from 16 percent in January 2002. America Online says the amount of spam aimed at its 35 million customers has doubled since the beginning of this year and now approaches two billion messages a day, more than 70 percent of the total its users receive. [...] Indeed, the spam problem defies ready solution. The Internet e-mail system, designed to be flexible and open, is fundamentally so trusting of participants that it is easy to hide where an e-mail message is coming from and even what it is about."

Is it just me, or is anyone else getting tired of reading articles about how problematic spam is becoming, while there is no solution whatsoever in sight or under development?

Sooner or later we'll have to dismiss the current notion that e-mail blacklists, even those generated by more or less intelligent software, is sufficient. Spammers have ruined the Internet to such an extent that now is the time to come up with efficient whitelist software, in other words, a possibility to configure e-mail accounts in such a way that only mails from trusted senders (or domains) are allowed through, with an option to allow others through if they pay a specified amount of money.

Yes, this changes e-mail from an open to a closed system. But there's no point in having an open system if 70% of all mail is unwanted mail anyway. I'm not saying all e-mail accounts should be closed like this; I just want an option to close my account for unwanted mails if I want to do it. And we need software that allows us to do this NOW.
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Recently I talked about the mysteries of beige women's underwear, and now Palmers, an Austrian lingerie manufacturer known for its daring - some say sexist - advertisements, presented its new "Invisible" collection of - you guessed it - beige women's underwear. There's even a TV spot directed by none other than Ed Lachman. It can be downloaded here (3 MB MPEG movie), but beware, it's not work safe.
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Friday, April 18, 2003

Right, I've had enough. I'm outta here. Unless something extraordinary happens, I'll be back on Tuesday. See ya then, and happy Easter!
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Singing Easter Eggs

Well, here's your bit of Easter fun: No bunnies, but I give you the singing Easter Eggs. Requires Flash, and is good fun, although the graphics are better than the music. But what do you expect from eggs anyway? This is from a company that sells coffee, by the way.

PS. If you miss the rhythm section, they're sitting in the tree to the left and on the fence to the right.
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There's really nothing I have to say right now. There are no stories on the web or anywhere else that I want to discuss. The only reason why I'm writing this stupid weblog entry is to move the silly animated GIF of the orgiastic woman further down the page. I get dizzy when I look at the page and I see that image for too long. I wonder what possessed me to post it in the first place. I should have posted something with Easter Bunnies instead. Ack. Why didn't I think of that? Who needs stupid orgiastic women anyway.
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Remember when I said that the rescue of Pvt Jessica Lynch seemed like a scene from Wag the Dog? Well, now the Times runs a story that it was not the heroic Hollywood story told by the US military, but a staged operation that terrified patients and victimised the doctors who had struggled to save her life, according to Iraqi witnesses. [via G'day Cobbers]
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AnimatedForgive me for posting an animated graphics file, but I just couldn't resist this one. It's taken from a banner ad for some porn site, but it seemed so, well, erm, silly. If this is orgiastic ecstasy, then I hope I never experience it.
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Yes, you can now buy Aardvark shares over at Blogshares. When I last checked, there were only 100 shares left, so grab them while you still can... (and in case you're wondering, yes, this blog is mostly employee-owned, for purely ideological reasons).

Jeremy has posted spam we will never see.

I have totally neglected the Bass for peace project over the past two weeks. That is despite the fact that the bass guitar is right next to where'm sitting at my computer, and I keep stumbling over the cables on a daily basis. I have also been posting much less on my blog than I used to. As you may have guessed, this is because I'm busy doing other things at the moment.
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Thursday, April 17, 2003

A US commander says American troops did shoot dead a group of Iraqi civilians during a protest in the northern city. That was yesterday. Today, it happened again: More die as troops open fire on Mosul crowd. US forces became involved in a lethal firefight in the city centre for the second day running.

In the meanwhile, Bill Clinton appears as an ulikely voice of reason: Former US president Bill Clinton today blasted US foreign policy adopted in the wake of the September 11 attacks, arguing the United States cannot kill, jail or occupy all of its adversaries.
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In The Independent, Robert Fisk predicts that the real war of liberation in Iraq is about to begin - the war of liberating Iraq from the Americans. [via GavinsBlog.com]

I'm not so sure. The Iraqi society seems to disparate to unite against a common enemy. I think that a civil war for political dominance is much more likely - at least in the beginning.
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Wednesday, April 16, 2003

In response to the United States' Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2002, which assessed the human rights situations in over 190 countries and regions in the world, but not the United States itself, the Information Office of China's State Council published an article titled "The Human Rights Record of the United States in 2002".

I find it highly ironic that it should be China (a country not particularly renowned for its compliance to Human Rights regulations) that publishes such a report. But then again, no other country, not even China, has a higher rate of prison inmates per capita than the USA, which accounts for an astonishing 25 percent of the world's prison population. On the other hand, China is one of the four countries (the other three are Iran, Saudi Arabia and the Congo) that execute more people than the United States.
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I was going to publish a typically male, possibly sexist story, but I decided not to. Just let me say that today was a very nice, warm (almost hot) spring day, and the streets seemed to be full of young women wearing tight jeans. I'll leave the rest to you and your dirty imagination.

While I'm still recovering of the (weather-induced) effects of my hormones, let me direct you to the weblog of Meg Hourihan, who may have found the explanation for the existence of some of the most horrid garments in the world: beige women's underwear. In fact, only some types of men's underwear are worse, but no-one has come up with an explanation for them yet.
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I've got to take a picture of this: I drove past a car dealer on Vienna's Triester Strasse today, and I noticed something they had written in huge letters on the building:
KAUFEN SOFORT
"IHR AUTO"
BARZAHLUNG
I just love those quotation marks. They mean the same in German as they do in English, so this reads: We'll buy "your car" - get cash immediately. Are they aware of the message they're sending? Or does the dealer really have this knowing smile on his lips when he asks, 'So it's "your car", right? - nudge nudge, wink wink, say no more!'

As I said, I'll try to take a picture next time I'm in the area. Reminds me of when I may have accidentally sold my old TV set to the Russian mafia. I'll tell you that story another time.
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According to this article in today's Der Standard (in German), new details about the looting in Baghdad are slowly being revealed (and via Google News I found some other sources in English who seem to confirm this): Not only had the Pentagon been warned of the lootings well in advance, now the suspicion is growing that the US actively encouraged the lootings to take place to make sure a small group of wealthy US art collectors would get their hands on rare artefacts. Before the war, this group had lobbied the Bush administration to relax both U.S. law and the Iraqi regulations banning the export of that nation's antiquities, says Patty Gerstenblith, president of the Archaeological Institute of America.

Update: The suspicion that US forces initiated the looting has in the meantime popped up in several places. The Independent has an article on artefacts stolen 'on order'. The Glasgow Herald reports on how the pressure group of antiquities collectors and arts lawyers lobbied the Bush administration, and Bryan Pfaffenberger (of the University of Virginia) has more about this rather influential group. Even CNN reports that the museum lootings were probably carried out by by art and cultural professionals of non-Iraqi origin. [thx Craig and Jeremy]
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Tuesday, April 15, 2003

An article by Professor Arjomand (NY State Univ.) on the History News network points out that when it comes to preserving culture, even the Nazis and the Iraqis were not as clueless as the Americans:
The U.S. must bear the heavy responsibility for [the looting]. [...] The sack of the Iraq Museum under American occupation is unprecedented in recent history. The Nazis did remove museum collections, but they packed them carefully and kept inventories, which made their return after the war possible. The Iraqis were much berated for taking the collection of the Kuwait Museum during the first Gulf War, but they did so in accordance with the Hague Convention. They were responsible for the collection as invaders--so they packed it professionally, took an inventory, and informed UNESCO at the time that they had taken the collection to Baghdad for safekeeping. More...
There's also a brief article with further details about the library, the lootings and the lost artefacts in The Guardian. [thx netbib weblog]
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Privacy Digest has a couple of good links to information about spyware:
  • SpywareInfo - if you need information on how to protect your privacy, remove an annoying piece of adware, restore a hijacked browser, or want to know whether that free software you just downloaded might have an adware module hidden inside.
  • Article from PC Magazine - according to a recent report from research firm GartnerG2, more than 20 million people have installed adware applications, and this covers only a portion of the spyware on the loose.
  • SpybotSD - Spybot - Search & Destroy
If you surf the Internet a lot, and especially so if you have a Windows PC running Microsoft Internet Explorer, have a look at these articles - your computer may be infested with parasites without you knowing about it.
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Interesting art piece about nakedness: "Something that every single one of us experiences in varying degrees of pride, shame, audacity and reserve." (requires Flash; probably not work safe, but not porn) [via Boing Boing Blog]
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Let me just file this link for posterity and then let's see what'll happen over the next few months: Bush vetoes Syria war plan.
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The BBC reports that almost all of the contents of Iraq's national library and archives are reported to have been destroyed by fire, meaning the loss of priceless records of the country's history. The library, in central Baghdad, housed several rare volumes, including entire royal court records and files from the period when Iraq was part of the Ottoman Empire. [BBC via netbib weblog]

I agree with Klaus Graf on this: destroying a nation's cultural heritage and cultural memory, or watching while others destroy it, is as much a war crime as killing civilians. But command thinks that the Iraqi oil ministry is more important, and the soldiers are more likely to complain about the lack of McDonald's in Iraq than the lack of books.

Update: Craig asks: "What if terrorists blew up the Library of Congress and the National Archives? Would Donald Rumsfeld or George Bush be content with the excuse that "stuff happens" from the perpetrators?"
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Monday, April 14, 2003

Greengrl really hates peas. So does my colleague with whom I share the office. Apparently lots of people hate peas. Myself, I'm blissfully indifferent towards peas.
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Now that came faster than expected: Bush claims Syria has weapons of mass destruction. -- Syria denies having weapons of mass destruction. Sounds familiar? Well, at least this time they'll spare us the farce of sending in the weapons inspectors first.
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Have a wild guess: what is the one building in Baghdad that was one of the first occupied by US troops, and is now the most heavily guarded building in the city; in fact, it's the only former government building that hasn't been left to the looters?

Why, it's the Ministry of Oil, of course.
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War against Iraq was a foregone conclusion months before the first shot was fired, the chief weapons inspector Hans Blix has claimed. In a scathing attack on Britain and the US, Mr Blix accused them of planning the war "well in advance" and of "fabricating" evidence against Iraq to justify their campaign. More... [thx Gavin]

And two former UN weapons inspectors in Iraq said in a German TV interview that the information the USA presented about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction were false. So-called "decontamination vehicles" turned out to be simple fire engines, and suspicious ventilation systems were just that - ventilation systems. One of the inspectors had already complained about US disinformation in an interview in mid-March. More (in German)...

And it'll be interesting to see how soon UK foreign secretary Jack Straw changes his mind.
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Sunday, April 13, 2003

Wild Garlic

The weather was too nice to stay inside today, so I went for a walk and took the pictures of wild garlic in Vienna's Lainzer Tiergarten that I promised earlier on. Enjoy.
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In Baghdad, food was said to be running low last night, water reduced to a trickle and the electricity still off. Although some looters concentrated on government buildings, others were attacking shops and even robbing people at gunpoint. Arkan Daoud Boutros, 24, said: "Americans entered the city with the slogan of helping us, but we haven't seen anything from them. We have seen only robbery." More...

The National Museum of Iraq recorded a history of civilizations that began to flourish in the fertile plains of Mesopotamia more than 7,000 years ago. But once American troops entered Baghdad in sufficient force to topple Saddam Hussein's government this week, it took only 48 hours for the museum to be destroyed, with at least 170,000 artifacts carried away by looters. More... [thx Craig]
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Karlin Lillington has a transcript of a radio interview, with Channel Four reporter Lindsay Hilsum, which suggests that the US soldiers in Iraq lack experience and fail to understand the situation:
[The American soldiers] tell vehicles to stop, but people in Baghdad don't know they're being told to stop because they don't have any megaphones and they say stop in English, not in Arabic. It's very hard for people to know what they're being told to do. So the Iraqis quite often speed up, because they think, oh gosh, we don't know what the situation is, let's get out of it, and they speed up. When that happens, the Americans shoot. [...] And also the Americans don't seem to know what they are shooting at, and they seem to shoot at anything. They seem to shoot before they think, such is their fear that they are going to be attacked themselves, and the consequences are just terrible.
Here's more. [techno\culture]
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Now doesn't that sound familiar? Powell deals Syria new warning. Syria must not become a safe haven to Iraqi officials fleeing Baghdad, US Secretary General Colin Powell tells the BBC. -- Syria denies helping Iraqis on run. Damascus' foreign minister rejects US claims that Syria may be helping fugitive supporters of Saddam Hussein.

I predict that US troops will attack Syria in less than three months. And I truly hope that I'm wrong.
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Jonathon Delacour: "In a post titled Pax Americana, Doc Searls wrote: 'We've won in Iraq.' Two questions for Doc: Who, exactly, are 'we'? And what, precisely, have 'we' 'won'?"
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Saturday, April 12, 2003

I am currently suffering from some kind of wild garlic addiction. I just had excellent gnocchi (small Italian potato dumplings) with wild garlic sauce, and with that fresh wild garlic taste still in my mouth, I'm longing for a wild garlic sandwich...

Anyway, as for how to make the gnocchi, I'll entrust you to what Google has on the subject because I used - shame on me! - pre-cooked gnocchi from the local Italian discount supermarket since, frankly, unless you do something pretty awfully wrong or buy extra cheapo-cheapo stuff, all gnocchi pretty much taste the same. It's totally the sauce that matters, so without further ado, here's the sauce recipe (serves 4):
  • 40g butter
  • 40g wheat flour
  • 1/2 litre chicken stock
  • 1-2 handfuls fresh wild garlic leaves, finely chopped
  • 1/8 litre cream (or more, according to taste)
Melt the butter in a pan, then stir in the flour and fry it until light brownish. Pour in the chicken stock and bring to boil, stirring well so that all the flour dissolves. As soon as the sauce thickens, add the wild garlic leaves. Stir well, then add the cream. Stir again, then mix with the cooked gnocchi and serve immediately.
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Gott & blandatIn German, "Gott" means "God". In Swedish, it obviously means something else.

Still, since my mother tongue is German, eating these sweets evokes something of a semi-religious experience pretty much every time. This experience is further enhanced by the fact that some of the liquorice bits in this package have salmiak (ammonia) flavour, and even the fruit gums have a taste that is strongly reminiscent of dishwashing liquid or detergent.

What is somewhat frightening, though, is that the ingredients are printed on the package in just about every language except Swedish. Let's hope it's an export packaging rather than some sinister plan to take over the world.
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Dave Winer: "MSNBC proclaims Bush a visionary, makes me wonder how this war is changing my country. What vision does it require to start a war? Have we lost our minds?" More... [Scripting News]

Speaking of visionaries, I wonder if George Bush ever had visions of this. I certainly hope he sees these things in his dreams every night. [via GavinsBlog; thx Raymond]
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So just how irrelevant is the UN for the United States? Apparently it's relevant enough to help the US cash in on Iraq. It's understandable that EU countries do not agree - after all, it's not as if they weren't in need of the money themselves. But if that's how Bush wants to save the ailing US economy, then the future doesn't look good. We're heading towards a US-European trade war, and this means that things will get nasty pretty soon.
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Ah yes, so now more and more "evidence" comes in that indicates they're goint to invade Syria next. And of course all those WMDs that still were not found in Iraq were secretly sent to Syria, right?
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Meg Hourihan proudly presents the American War with Iraq Justification Process Flow. [Megnut]
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Friday, April 11, 2003

It's Bärlauch season again. That's the German term for ramsons, or wild garlic, which grows in abundance in the forests around Vienna at this time of the year. But it's only there for a few weeks in April - you have to pick it when the leaves have just grown out of the earth, but the plant is not yet in bloom.

Usually I associate the first spring days in April with collecting wild garlic, but this year it has been so cold that I almost forgot the wild garlic season had started, had I not been invited to a chicken in wild garlic sauce with wild garlic dumplings at some of my friends' a few days ago.

So off I went to the Lainzer Tiergarten (this means "Zoo in Lainz", but it's not really a zoo, even though there are wild boar and deer roaming about freely in the area) to collect some. It grows there in such abundance that on a warm spring day (which today wasn't), you're almost overwhelmed by the smell of garlic as you make your way through the forest. Actually, I think next time I go there I'll take my camera with me to show you what I mean. Basically, everything that you see in the forest that's green is wild garlic. And you see a lot of green in the forest.

Anyway, here's some culinary ideas: bread and butter sandwich with wild garlic; gnocchi with wild garlic sauce; wild garlic risotto; and I'm planning to try the potato fingers recipe that I posted a few days ago with some wild garlic added.
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Questions from the simulated world: Exactly how many people were present when they tore down that Saddam statue? [via Tom Tomorrow] And was anyone else who witnessed the rescue of Pfc Jessica Lynch last week reminded of "Old Shoe" in this movie?

Plus: Now that the Iraq war is almost over, we get these test results: Paris 'ricin' find is harmless. Tests show a substance found in a Paris railway station locker last month is not the deadly toxin but a wheat-barley mix. So it took them one month to recognize a wheat-barley mix, huh? Could this have something to do with the fact that public support for the Iraq war is no longer needed?
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The new European copyright laws (a revision was required by an EU directive) are causing protest across most European countries, especially in Germany and Austria. The rights of the media industry are now valued above those of consumers, libraries and scientists. Is it the end of the knowledge era, as the Süddeutsche zeitung calls it (in german)? One thing is certain: what libraries do will be illegal if the laws go through as planned. [via Schockwellenreiter]
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In his excellent book on the introduction of the public private partnership (PPP) scheme on London's underground, Christian Wolmar predicted that things like this would happen on a regular basis. What he did not predict was that they would start happening on day one of the PPP.
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Now the Iraq war seems to be almost over, suddenly everybody, even many of those who opposed it at first, seems to think it was a good thing. Why this sudden change of heart? Let us not forget that it was still a blatant violation of international war that cost the lives of tens of thousands. History is indeed written by the winners.

Update: Seumas Milne in The Guardian says the same thing, at least.
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Good take at religious commercialism: the Jesus Christ Superstore. One might think that they're serious, but their "Allah" product gave them away (to say nothing of the Ninja-Messiah throwing nails"). :-) [via ::ab::gebloggt::]
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Thursday, April 10, 2003

Here's a running tally. [via This Modern World]
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Get Your War On #23

The first post-war edition (#23) of Get Your War On is now online. This comic is certainly the most clever use of clip art that I ever saw. Did I mention before that I love the concept?
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Just how boring was Sweden in the 1960s? Have a look at these postcards and cast your votes. Or mail them to your friends. Good stuff. [via Schockwellenreiter]
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They've pulled down a Saddam statue in Baghdad. That was very symbolic, but is the war over now? Are "hundreds" of cheering Iraqis representative of a population of several million or should we be more concerned about "growing unrest"? And how stable will the Pax Americana be?

Well, I guess once we see this picture, we can safely declare this war over [thx Gary]. Until then, this could be a hollow victory. Or worse (although I don't share the full extent of Toby's pessimism).

And where are Saddam's Weapons of Mass Destruction -- you know, the stuff because of which the USA started this war in the first place? Will they be found at some point? And when they are found, will they be found because they were always there or because Donald Rumsfeld said that Iraq's weapons 'must be found'?

By the way, does anybody know how many Iraqi soldiers have died? Iraq Body Count reports about 1400 dead civilians, and USUK forces talk about 130 dead coalition soldiers, but the number of dead Iraqi soldiers seems to be too complicated to calculate. Is that because there's so many of them?

And Sony copyrights "Shock and Awe." What an American thing to do - I thought they were Japanese?

And will we see more so-called "preemptive strikes" in the future? Hetty and Doc are afraid so. Will Syria be next? I guess we really should start getting enthusiastic about the New World Order, or we'll end up being depressed. Or oppressed, if somebody chooses to attack us preemptively.
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The World Turned Upside DownThis is weird, kind of, and it's not just happening over there: Some university professors (most of which studied during the 1960s) are now more progressive than their students. There seems to be a profound generation gap exposed by 9/11 between the progressive Vietam-era American professoriate and their current crop of conservative students. One student even took a professor to task for canceling classes to protest the war in Iraq, saying the university should reprimand her and refund tuition for the missed periods, reports the NY Times. [Plastic: Most Recent]
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In contrast to my Mock EModE translation of the Book Thief Curse yesterday, here is an authentic story from about 1540. The spelling is the same as in my source and free of typos (honest!).

It's a fun story from Merie Tales of the mad men of Gotam; the joke is based upon the fact that Scottish and English people talked very differently then; where the English used an "oa" sound, the Scottish language had "ea" instead.

From this results a misunderstanding between a Scottish inn owner and a London carver. The Scotsman has bought a house near London, which he wants to make into an inn. For his inn sign, he wants to have a boar's head:
And he wente to London to haue a Bores head made. He dyd come to a Caruer (or a Joyner) saying in his mother tonge, I saye spek, kens thou make me a Bare hede? Ye said the Caruer. Than sayd the skotyshman, mek me a bare head anenst Yowle, and thowse bus haue XX pence for thy hyre. I will doe it sayde the Caruer. On S. Andrewes daye before Chrystmas [...] the skottish man did com to London for his Bores heade to set at a dore for a signe. I say speke said the skotish man, haste thou made me a Bare head? Yea said the Caruer. Then thowse a gewd fellow. The Caruer went and did bryng a mans head of wod that was bare and sayd, syr here is youre bare head. I say sayde the skotyshman, the mokyl deuill, is this a bare head? Ye said the caruer. I say sayd the Skotishman, I will haue a bare head, syk an head as doth follow a Sew that hath Gryces. Syr said the caruer, I can not tel what is a Sew, nor what is a Gryce. Whet horson, kenst thou not a sew that wil greet and grone, and her gryces wil run after her and cry a weke a weke. O said the Caruer, it is a pigge. Yea said the skotish man, let me haue his fathers head made in timber, and mek me a bird and set it on his skalps, and cause her to sing whip whir, whip whir. The caruer sayde, I can not cause her to singe whip whir. Whe horson sayde the skotish man gar her as she woulde singe whip whir.
[Quoted from Charles Barber, Early Modern English (Edinburgh, 1997), p. 14.]
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The NY Times reports that, working with the Bush administration, Congressional Republicans are manoeuvering to make permanent the sweeping antiterrorism powers granted to federal law enforcement agents after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, officials said today.

When it passed in October 2001, moderates and civil libertarians in Congress agreed to support it only by making many critical provisions temporary. Those provisions will expire at the end of 2005 unless Congress re-authorizes them. -- There's another story in the SF Chronicle. [via Privacy Digest]
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New dangers in the living-room: an unforeseen consequence of very high-speed CD-ROM drives is that sometimes they spin the disks so fast that they explode. [via Boing Boing Blog]
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Wednesday, April 9, 2003

Tom Tomorrow - Parallel world

Oh no - now they're attacking Liechtenstein (farce alert).

Meanwhile, The Guardian's Duncan Campbell raises the question if US media are really in such a sad shape that some people actually seem to believe that the USA is at war with France (reality alert).
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I was kind of inspired, so on my second attempt I was able to produce an English translation of yesterday's curse against book thieves. Here it is:
He who stealeth a booke from this librarie shall haue a fierie signe in his hande so that it be couerd with pustules and blisters. Smitten be he with a sweatie heauinesse, and his manhoode shall drie and wither away. Let him suffer from a paine that cannot be decribed with wordes, that his cries for helpe be unheard and his goblet ouerflowe with miserie. His tortures shall find no end until the last bit of his bodie hath turned to duste. Until then, bookworms shall incessantlie gnawe on his twitching intestines with their sharpe teethe as a signe of the worm that hath spoilt Eden and that ruleth foreuer ouer all sinners. And when the thief finallie goeth to his last resting place to receiue his punishment in the Ualley of Scheol, so may he meet the flames of Gehenna without mercie that they eat him wholle for all eternitie.
I think this comes pretty close to the original, which. as I pointed out, came in via netbib weblog; I just hope my Mock Early Modern English is convincing enough ('u' is used for 'v', but the other spelling is pure conjecture from what I remember from my EModE exams seven years ago). We plan to post a printout of this somewhere on our announcement boards. If you think that castration and being eaten by bookworms are a somewhat extreme punishment for book theft, well, tough luck.
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The results of the World's Most Stupid Security Measures Competition are in. [The Register]
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Barry has had enough of phony patriotism: "[E]ver since the terrorist acts of 9/11, I'm seeing the American Flag being marketed to consumers in every possible way, on every possible item. Bumper stickers, decals, commemorative plates, t-shirts, car antennas, screensavers, e-mails, billboards, grocery bags, toys... the list is endless, and they bear the flag for no other reason than to make money and prey on our patriotic spirit. [...] (People seem to think that waving a flag makes them better Americans. It doesn't. Patriotism is more a matter of community than a matter of how many and how high we wave our flags.) [...] This site is a satire of this kind of exploitation, and I hope you can appreciate the humor." [via Boing Boing Blog]
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Most frequently used object by US librarians these days: the shredder? But Bush's anti-free-speech legislation is having even stranger consequences... [NY Times ; Privacy Digest]
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The comments that got lost yesterday have magically returned over night. Scott Rosenberg has an explanation of what happened:
The problem with the comment server [...] was the result of individuals spamming the server with repetitious lengthy posts. This problem also affected the main UserLand comments server.

UserLand has implemented a maximum limit on the length of a comments thread. The good news is that this deals with the problem. The bad news is that this limits the length of comments threads. Longer term fix in the works: allowing bloggers to delete posts.
Yes, that is a much asked-for feature.
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This is just a reminder, in case you have forgotten that the USA is not just waging a war in Iraq: US bomb kills Afghan civilians: "The US military in Afghanistan says it has killed 11 Afghan civilians by mistake in an air attack." Yes, despite what you may think and what you're being told, the war in Afghanistan is still not over yet. Any guesses how long it'll continue in Iraq after it's officially been declared "over"?
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Tuesday, April 8, 2003

Jonathon Delacour writes that the critical question that the peace movement faces about Iraq is not whether USUK troops should withdraw now, but rather how the aftermath is managed:
I believe that this war was never about Islamic terrorism but rather constitutes the first stage of implementing the strategy for US military and political dominance outlined in the first draft of Paul Wolfowitz’s 1992 Defense Planning Guidance.

Therefore I see the next essential steps as:
  • “Winning” the war (though I believe that under the current US leadership any “victory” contains the seeds of eventual defeat).
  • Getting rid of Bush & Co.
  • Finding a diplomatic solution to the Palestinian situation that will guarantee the security of Israel and give the Palestinians their own state (replacing both Arafat and Sharon will probably be needed to achieve this).
  • Using a combination of diplomacy, economic sanctions, police investigation, covert counter-terrorist action, and small scale military engagements to combat Islamic terrorism.
Sounds like a good idea.
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netbib weblog has lately been posting book curses like this one, which promises infinite pain to book thieves:
Ihm, der da stiehlet eyn Buch aus dieser Bibliothek, möge es werden eyn Feuerzeychen in seyner Hannd, auf dasz sie bedecket sey mit Blattern und Blasen. Geschlagen sey er mit schwitzender Schwaere unnd verdorren moege seyn Gemaecht. Lasz ihn darben in unbeschreiblichem Schmerz, vergeblich rufe er umb Gnaden und von Elend fliesze über seyn Kelch. Kein Ende sey seyner Qual bis zur letzten Stunde der Verwesung. Diweylen aber moegen Buecherwuermer seyn zuckend Gedärm benagen mit scharfen Zähnden ohn Unterlasz, eyn Zeychen des Gewürmbes, des uns verdarb Eden und das unsterblich herrschet über die Suendiger. Und gehet der Dieb endtlich zu seyner letzten Statt, zu empfangen die Straffe im Thale Scheol, so moegen ihn heymsuchen ohn Gnad die Flammen von Gehenna und ihn verzehren auf immer und ewiglich.
I tried an English translation of this, but failed. I'll try again later. However, I assure you that if you are ever smitten by this curse, you'll never steal a book again.
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Anybody interested in how many Iraqi soldiers have died in this war so far? [link via Heli]
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President Bush says there'll be a 'vital' postwar role for the UN, although it's not at all clear what this role will be. Probably it'll consist of cleaning up the mess the USA has made and play targets for Iraqi suicide bombers.
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The UserLand comments server is more like a UseLess comments server. Late last year, it was offline most of the time, so that loading this page took ages. Then it worked for a few months. Now, sometime between yesterday and today, a significant number of comments were lost.

If you check the entries between April 6 and April 3, you'll notice that the comments indicator displays a higher number of comments than what you can actually see if you click on the comments link. And that's a real bummer, because for once, this week's comments were interesting. I am not amused.
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Monday, April 7, 2003

Tom Tomorrow sez this:
I'm really sick of the current meme that blogging is somehow on a par with journalism. As I've said before, the relationship of blogging to journalism is mostly the relationship of the wood tick to the deer.

Lord knows I believe in the need for media criticism, and there's no shortage of that in the blogs. And as compendiums of news sources in an era of information overload, they're invaluable. But with a few rare exceptions, it's just not journalism, and it's silly and self-aggrandizing to pretend otherwise.
Well said. Thank you.
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I find it interesting how "friendly fire" is becoming one of the big topics of the current war. It's almost as if it wasn't supposed to exist. Well, the big news is, it exists. It has always existed. In a combat situation, it's almost impossible to avoid (even though in this war there have been a couple of avoidable situations, too).

The point is: now people notice. For all we know from his comrades, my grandfather died by friendly fire in WWII. The big difference is: back then in 1944 friendly fire didn't exist, and it certainly didn't exist in Hitler's Wehrmacht. Every German soldier (there were no more Austrian soldiers at the time) died by enemy hands, of course.

Despite all the propaganda that the media help to spread these days, they are still pointing out issues that were not (or not to this extent) part of war news coverage in the past. Uncomfortable issues. Fear of too many civilian casualties (which might result in bad media coverage) may have caused the deaths of more soldiers than necessary. Friendly fire is suddenly becoming an omnipresent and rather embarrassing topic. Is there a chance that at some point war itself may become such an uncomfortable topic that it will be avoided altogether?

Okay, okay, I'm waking up already.
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Here follows a longish piece on curries, free speech, and the permanence of web pages vs. newspapers. If you think that's not possible, think again and read it.

If you read this weblog regularly, you should know by now that I'm a curry addict. Actually, I just had another one at my favourite Indian restaurant (go to this site and figure out which one it is) and I'm still amazed at how they do it. Their Chicken Madras is hot, it's spicy, it's completely, totally addictive, and despite the fact that I pride myself of being able to cook a decent curry, I come nowhere near it in my attempts to re-create it. Their curries have that strange darkish taste, as if you're selling a bit of your soul to somebody evil every time you eat there, but it's probably just because they roast their spices before they put them in the pot. Or whatever. I'd give a lot for that recipe, but I guess I'll never get it.

In other news, I was reminded of the public nature of the Internet a few days ago, when I got an e-mail from a proprietor of an Indian restaurant asking me to delete to the review of his restaurant from my website. Which was a bit odd, as the review was actually favourable; the only thing I complained about were the high prices, plus I had put in a throwaway remark about the Addams Family that I thought was charming, but he took exception to it.

Never mind that it says "this is my personal opinion only" several times on this web page; he demanded that I take it down. I complied, of course, because I am not interested in anybody being mad at me. However, it seems like it's no longer possible to publish a web page that expresses your opinion - even if it's "I think that [insert name here] is a great place, it's just a bit expensive" - without facing the threat of being sued. This is truly sad. I just hope that the owners of the restaurants that I found really bad aren't going to write, because if they do, I can take down the entire Indian restaurants website.

Then I thought about how newspapers review restaurants all the time, and they don't like some of them either. Why aren't they sued/asked to not publish a review?

Answer: believe it or not, the Internet, always denounced as a "fleeting" medium, is too permanent. A newspaper is put away and forgotten after a few days. A web page remains in place for a much longer time. True, contrary to the newspaper you won't be able to find it in ten years from now. But whereas no old newspaper will be read by new readers week after week, this may well happen with a web page. Thus, anything you publish online is actually prone to greater scrutiny and to more criticism - because, if you enter the right search terms, it can be found so much more easily. It won't disappear in the wastepaper basket after a few days.

As somebody who has often made a point of the "non-permanence" of web content, I find this twist quite interesting. Depending on the user approach, the web can actually be more permanent than print media. Something I learned by eating curry. Wouldn't you believe it.
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Today, The Register's John Lettice writes a very, very true article about free speech and the Internet. The subject is really the English-language version of the Al-Jazeera website, but he hits the nail on the head when he says:
The Internet is different, however, in that despite it being, allegedly, the New Frontier, the ultimate medium for free speech, it's also eminently suited to the suppression of free speech. Sure, anybody can set up a web site and say whatever they like, but only if not too many people read what they say, and only if they're careful about what it is they say. Say something controversial that enough people don't like, and you'll get attacked. Say something particular pressure groups don't like, and you'll get attacked on multiple fronts, bombarded via email, mail and voice phone, indirectly via your neighbours, other people in your organisation, hosts your organisation deals with, other outfits using the same hosts who don't like the publicity.
He's right: the Internet is more about the illusion of free speech than free speech itself. If it were, then Al-Jazeera wouldn't have been hacked into oblivion practically from the first hour that it started. And guess why I have been avoiding certain topics ever since my terms of employment changed a few months ago. There is no free speech.
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Salon.com liked Aki Kaurismäki's latest film as much as I did. Go see it if you haven't already, it's brilliant.
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So Iceland wants to start whaling again, claiming they want to find out to what extent the whales are responsible for Europe's diminishing fish stocks.

Hello?!?

Just how dumb do these people think we are? Now it's supposedly an almost extinct species that's eating all the fish, and the fishing fleets of almost every North European country who have been overfishing the North Sea for decades to the point where there's nothing left are not to blame? Just how blind (or egoistic) can you get?

Well, at least the Icelandic tourist board is protesting. Apparently Iceland earns more money from whale watching tourists than from whaling itself. Some small hope in grim times.
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Snowstorm. Freezing. Cold.
The good thing: no pollen.
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Sunday, April 6, 2003

It's The dullest blog in the world, but it's oddly compelling. And it has an unbelieveably high number of comments. [via jenett.radio]
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Noam Chomsky talks about the Iraq war:
This [war] should be seen as a trial run. Iraq is seen as an extremely easy and totally defenceless target. It is assumed, probably correctly, that the society will collapse, that the soldiers will go in and that the U.S. will be in control, and will establish the regime of its choice and military bases. They will then go on to the harder cases that will follow. The next case could be the Andean region, it could be Iran, it could be others. [...]

This is not pre-emptive war; there is a crucial difference. Pre-emptive war has a meaning, it means that, for example, if planes are flying across the Atlantic to bomb the United States, the United States is permitted to shoot them down even before they bomb and may be permitted to attack the air bases from which they came. Pre-emptive war is a response to ongoing or imminent attack.

The doctrine of preventive war is totally different; it holds that the United States - alone, since nobody else has this right - has the right to attack any country that it claims to be a potential challenge to it. So if the United States claims, on whatever grounds, that someone may sometime threaten it, then it can attack them.
[via Heli's Heaven and Hell Radio]
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Trigger-happy US bomber pilots strike again: this time they open "friendly fire" on a Kurdish convoy, killing at least 10 and seriously wounding a Kurdish political leader.

Hint: the Kurds are part of the coalition against Saddam.

Not as if that would matter: as an MSNBC report points out,
Thirty-five of the 146 Americans killed in action during the first Gulf War were killed by their own comrades and American soldiers killed more British than the Iraqis did in that conflict.
35 of 146 is about 25%, or 1 in 4. That's a pretty bad record, even in the heat of battle. Especially as the solution would be so simple: give those pilots regular eye checkups and contact lenses if necessary. Teach them what the British flag looks like. Oh, and make sure they are taking their brains along with them. [techno\culture]
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US Image plummets"Anti-war sentiment and disapproval of President Bush's international policies continue to erode America's image among the publics of its allies. U.S. favorability ratings have plummeted in the past six months in countries actively opposing war - France, Germany and Russia - as well as in countries that are part of the 'coalition of the willing.' [...]

"[P]ublics in seven of the eight nations surveyed believe that American policies have a negative effect on their country. Only the British are divided on the impact of American foreign policy on their country. [...] [T]he poll finds strong support for the idea that Western Europe should take a more independent approach to security and diplomatic affairs."

Any questions?

[from the Pew Research Center via American Samizdat and Heli's Heaven and Hell Radio]
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They're hardly in Baghdad, but they're already setting up the new provisional government: The Observer reports that the US is ready to install the first leg of Iraqi interim government as early as Tuesday.
America's readiness to establish the first stages of a civil administration to run post-war Iraq comes at lightning speed and constitutes a rebuff to European ambitions to stall on the process until some kind of role for the United Nations is agreed.

It was reported yesterday that the National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice has also ruled out any key role for the UN. [...]

Pentagon officials told The Observer that the administration is determined to impose the Rumsfeld plan and sees no use for a UN role, describing the international body as 'irrelevant'. [The Observer]
In the meantime, al-Jazeera reports that the British have admitted that there may be no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. [via American Samizdat].

And if you think that you can't trust what al-Jazeera writes, then read this commentary by Mary Riddell on the manufacturing of public opinion and think again.
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Hey, Tom Tomorrow won the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for cartooning. Congratulations! His new cartoon will be out tomorrow.
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Saturday, April 5, 2003

This is a local recipe from the area where I grew up, from my mum's collection of recipes. Never mind fish fingers - I used to love these potato fingers when I was a kid (minus the sauerkraut, which I hated back then). It's totally unhealthy of course, but cheap, filling and yummy, as are most of the traditional farmers' recipes from this part of Austria. Serves 3-4.
  • 500g potatoes
  • 100g coarse wheat flour (type 480 - in Austria, we call it "griffig")
  • 60g semolina
  • 20g butter
  • 1 egg
  • salt
Cook the potatoes, then skin them. Put them in a large bowl with the butter, semolina, wheat flour, egg and salt. Mash the potatoes, then mix and knead everything until you have a smooth mass of potato dough.

Form the dough into thumb-sized, finger-shaped pieces. Heat oil in a frying pan, then fry (or deep-fry) the potato fingers until they are well browned on all sides. Serve with hot sauerkraut.
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I thought it was spring, but it's snowing. Well, at least there'll be no pollen for now.
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The Guardian's list of claims and counter claims made during the media war over Iraq is growing steadily: "'Fog' is the watchword of this war, with the lines between fact and propaganda being blurred on a daily basis." [thx Allan]
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Small printEvery time when I think I've seen the website with the smallest print imaginable, somebody comes along and proves me wrong. Why is it that every year or so, text on web pages becomes one pixel smaller than the previous year? I wonder if this is due to how different browsers handle text or if some people can actually read this.
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The Apathetic Online Journal Generator can help you generate weblog entries for those days when you don't want to write anything and don't know what to write anyway. [via ::ab::gebloggt::]
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I'm still amazed at how quiet my computer has become with the new fans in place.
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I wonder if John Robb is right and the USA has indeed in a sense become Israel: "We needed a target for our rightous indignation and thirst for revenge re: 9/11. The long slow process of terrorist hunting wasn't enough to satisfy this need. We didn't have Palestinians to beat up on so we manufactured them in Iraq."
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There's screaming outside on the street, and some freak seems to be smashing in windows. Had a look out the window, but couldn't see anyone or anything. Now I'm being confronted with the dilemma of whether I should call the police or not. Not that I could tell them anything useful -- "At around 1:13am I heard a male voice scream something like 'Aaargh!', which was followed by the sound of a hard object smashing a large pane of glass (probably a car windscreen or a shop window). The same thing happened again about 2 minutes later. No, I did not see who did it, nor did I see just what was broken." Hm.

Now two girls and one guy are standing in front of the house across the street from mine, arguing loudly and gesticulating wildly. Sheesh, give us some peace, willya?
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Just what does Davezilla do to find freaks like this one (okay, it's probably a joke) on a regular basis? Am I a pervert if I take interest in the freak accidents reported regularly on Exploding Cigar? And in Unknown News, just how much more freakishly ridiculous can the whole anti-French thing in the US get?
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Bomblet.
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Friday, April 4, 2003

Both Radio Wien, a local radio station and the New Musical Express have recently published lists of the Best Albums of All Times. I daresay the comparison says a lot about the difference between Vienna and London in terms of popular music: Radio Wien list | NME list.
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Now here's good news for a cell phone hater such as myself: As camera phones become more popular, more and more organisations are restricting how they can be used. In Saudi Arabia, they're banned altogether. Who'd have thought that camera phones might actually be a solution to the cell phone menace? [BBC News | Technology]
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The Register has an interesting article on how Google and the mechanics of the web may bring about language change faster than you may think.
Although it took millions of people around the world to compel the Gray Lady to describe the anti-war movement as a "Second Superpower", it took only a handful of webloggers to spin the alternative meaning to manufacture sufficient PageRank(TM) to flood Google with Moore's alternative, neutered definition.

Indeed, if you were wearing your Google-goggles, and the search engine was your primary view of the world, you would have a hard time believing that the phrase "Second Superpower" ever meant anything else.

To all intents and purposes, the original meaning has been erased. Obliterated, in just seven weeks.
[thx Karlin]
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First they asked soldiers to pray for President Bush. Then they asked children to pray for President Bush. Now, finally, they are asking us to pray for those who really need it. Just brace yourself for yet another Bad Taste Attack before clicking this link. [from Craig via Heli]
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[ ] Stop blogging about the war, and you'll lose 100 readers.
[ ] Stop blogging for 3 days, and you'll lose 100 readers
[ ] Now that the war media hype is over, every blog loses 100 readers.
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Thursday, April 3, 2003

The Be Good Tanyas
Left to right: Trish Klein, Frazey Ford, Samantha Parton.

Every once in a while I come across a band that feels something like a musical revelation. This hasn't happened a lot recently. Actually, it has not happened in a long time. Then a few weeks ago, when I was zapping through cable channels, I found the video for It's Not Happening (RealPlayer video) by The Be Good Tanyas on some music channel. I was instantly hooked. I felt like I had to buy their CDs instantly, and that hasn't happened in a long, long time. Unfortunately, no shop here in Vienna had them in stock, but thank God there's always Amazon.

The CDs, when they arrived, proved to be revelatory indeed. I'm not sure what to call this, "progressive folk" or whatever, but the sparse, sometimes chilling arrangements and vocal harmonies are simply beautiful. It's at the same time ethereal and down to earth, cool and warm, and anybody who's not touched by this has either a cold heart or a profound dislike of American folk music (never mind that these girls are actually from Vancouver, Canada).

If you have neither, then buy their CDs (there's only two so far [USA] [UK] [D], and both are great), and don't you dare download pirated copies from the internet. These girls need your support, and they deserve it. By the way, I'm usually not a great fan of country or folk.
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I have noticed that Americans seem to like the German word "über" a lot. I find it on some web page almost every day. I'm not going to comment on what this says about some people's obsession with Nietzsche as that would be pure conjecture, but I'm going to say something else: it's "über", not "uber". Please use an umlaut. I know it's not on your keyboards, but you can easily reproduce it in HTML by typing ü for ü or Ü for Ü. If you do normal word processing on a Mac, press Option-u then u or U and they'll be umlauted. Do it for me. Please.

And the correct pronunciation accoring to IPA is [y]. It's simple: Say eeeeeeee (as in "cheese"), and while you're saying it round your lips. See? You can do it.
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What a bummer. The latest round of data analysis from the seti@home project seems to suggest that no signs of life have been found. [via Adam Curry's Weblog] Well; I would be running that cancer screensaver instead if they only had a Mac version.
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Piccadilly CafeThis one comes directly from The Cartoonist, who seems to share my obsession with 1930s-1950s cafes and bars with their inevitable wooden panelling and formica tables, and which are rapidly dying out pretty much everywhere: Classic Cafes in London.

"Often dismissed as 'greasy spoons', classic cafes are actually little gems of British vernacular high street design. Here we celebrate the best ones with over 100 vintage formica caffs and associated enclaves, reviewed, revealed and reappraised.

Makes me wish I were in London right now to check out a few of these.
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Arundhati Roy on Mesopotamia, Babylon, The Tigris and Euphrates in The Guardian:
According to a New York Times/CBS News survey, 42 per cent of the American public believes that Saddam Hussein is directly responsible for the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. And an ABC news poll says that 55 per cent of Americans believe that Saddam Hussein directly supports al-Qaida. What percentage of America's armed forces believe these fabrications is anybody's guess.

It is unlikely that British and American troops fighting in Iraq are aware that their governments supported Saddam Hussein both politically and financially through his worst excesses. [...]

After using the "good offices" of UN diplomacy (economic sanctions and weapons inspections) to ensure that Iraq was brought to its knees, its people starved, half a million of its children killed, its infrastructure severely damaged, after making sure that most of its weapons have been destroyed, in an act of cowardice that must surely be unrivalled in history, the "Allies"/"Coalition of the Willing"(better known as the Coalition of the Bullied and Bought) - sent in an invading army!
[via Craig, who says that this is required reading. So read it.]
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Brad Christensen is a guy with a lot of time at his hand. He's also a brilliant prankster, and so one day he began fighting back against the Nigerian scammers, using humour and imagination as his weapons. This archive of Brad's mail exchanges is sure worth having a look at. Check out the correspondence with "Dr. Elvis," in which Brad pretends to be an insane bird watcher/hunter. Woo-hoo. [via Boing Boing Blog]
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I can't believe it. With the new processor fan and power supply now in place, my G4 is now virtually silent. Please notice that I'm not saying "quieter", I'm saying "virtually silent". Meaning it's emitting so little noise that I actually opened the case to check if all the fans are running. They are. The high-pitched whine is totally gone, there is only a low hum that is so quiet you can actually hear the hard disk. This is definitely emitting less noise than my old 7300 or the old Sawtooth G4 that I"have at the office. To think that they could have shipped the computer this way in the first place!

Two caveats for everybody who are still going to exchange their fans and power supply:
  1. As others have already noticed, fitting in the new power supply is a bit of a pain. The top left bracket on the power supply wouldn't fit into the notch on the computer, so I had to widen it a bit with a large flat screwdriver, after which it went in painlessly.
  2. My instruction booklet came with an erratum slip that said the processor fan had to be inserted with the cable outlet down, i.e. rotated 90° clockwise compared to the old fan. The problem is, if you rotate it 90 degrees clockwise, the cable outlet is on the right, but this is the only position it will fit in. So rotate it, but ignore the "cable down" notice.
Wow. I'm still stunned by how quiet this computer has become. For the moment, please let me define happiness as "a quiet computer". Thanks Apple for correcting this terrible error.
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New G4 fan
Shutting down computer now. Report of fan exchange will follow as soon as I'm finished.
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Wednesday, April 2, 2003

Having been somewhat discouraged by the announcement that the G4 replacement fans have been delayed further, I was surprised to find a note from TNT (the courier company) at my door today that they had tried to deliver a parcel while I was not at home. Now as I'm not expecting anything via courier, this can only mean that the replacement fans are here!! This is so exciting, especially as other people report that the new fans are significantly quieter.

Plus, Apple seems to have learned from the experience. They are now hiring a senior acoustic engineer.
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UK foreign secretary Jack Straw made a statement that the UK will not attack Syria or Iran. Is it just me, or does this statement strongly imply that somebody has intentions to attack at least one of these contries in the near future?
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Is The Presidential Prayer Team for Kids meant seriously or is it some kind of sick April Fool's joke? In my book, this would be filed somewhere close to "blasphemy." But maybe being not just an "old European", but also a Catholic gives me a different view of things. [via Craig's BookNotes]
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Tom Tomorrow cartoon

This week's Tom Tomorrow is well worth clicking through Salon's ads to see all of it: The prelude. The war. The aftermath. The prelude. Brilliant.
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What you always wanted to know, but never bothered to ask: Number theory and the ISBN [thx librarian.net]
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If the Belgian Prime Minister said that he thinks the US is very dangerous, it is not because he was speaking in a city with relatively large Muslim population, but rather because he is reflecting what all of Europe is thinking. [via Heli's Heaven and Hell Radio] Belgium, by the way, is the country that invented French fries. Boycott, anyone?
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In today's edition of the ongoing Bass for Peace project, I give you Today At Six. Okay, so it's an old song that I recorded five years ago, and there's not much bass in it, but it's also the closest I ever came to writing a protest song, so it qualifies. New material will be coming later this week.
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Tuesday, April 1, 2003

I may have run out of ideas for what to write in this weblog.

Clue 1: Three days in which I didn't feel like writing anything. Clue 2: Three days without any urge to read other people's weblogs. Clue 3: Three days' worth of news in my news aggregator and nothing that I find worth a comment.

Possible topics, discarded:

The war? The war explains itself. Or rather, it had explained itself before it even started. No need for further comment. And don't even get started on the seven civilians that got killed today. These things happen in a war. If you think you can fight a clean war, you're a hypocrite.

SARS? It seems it is getting scarier every day. The fact that my gf is in Japan, preparing to go to Hong Kong in about 2 months' time, is not exactly helpful in soothing my nerves. I'm not sure how discouraging I should sound in my e-mails.

April fools' day? Please. There has barely been a year when I found I was less of a joking mood.

Spring? Well yeah, I must say at the moment, with the weather being really nice and warm, I prefer spending my time outside to sitting in front of the computer. Especially now that the birch tree pollen are not giving me hayfever yet. Usually they arrive around April 1st and leave around April 30th. Which is why I hate April and usually hope it rains a lot.

Whatever. Let's see if I'm in a blogging mood tomorrow. If not, I might take a few more days off. See you.
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Last update: 28.07.2003; 18:30:04 Uhr

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