The Aardvark Speaks - July 2003 Archive



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Wednesday, July 30, 2003

At some point in July last year, I decided that I wanted to incorporate something like a web journal on my website on which I could vent my frustration with the stupid things Austrian newspapers are printing and publishing on a daily basis. I designed a page layout, called it "The Aardvark Online" and fiddled around with it. I had no Idea what a "blog" was. Actually, I had never heard the word before.

Then I read in a newspaper how Salon.com had started Salon blogs, misunderstood pretty much everything about what it was about, and wrote a rant on my site about the pointlessness of it all.

But I checked back and read more about it and found that it was very similar to what I was just beginning to do myself - only it seemed that there was software which could make publishing the online journal much easier. The article mentioned Blogger and Radio UserLand. I started playing around with Blogger, but got frustrated after a brief while. On July 31st, 2002, almost exactly a year ago, I launched Radio UserLand for the first time. After getting my templates right, my "blog" (I had by now figured out the term), now re-christened "The Aardvark Speaks" (because it sounded a lot catchier) first went online on August 3rd. The rest is, as you say, history.

I'm quite pleased with how things went. From about 10 hits per day (mostly myself, from posting and editing entries) the site grew to 300-500 per day and has been one of the Top 25 Radio weblogs for the past two or three months now (it even went to number 70 of the all-time list). This is pretty amazing and I'd like to sincerely thank everybody who visits on a regular basis and everybody who linked to me from their own blog or website, because frankly, without the huge network of blogrolls, cross-links and credited forwards of blog posts, I still would be nowhere.

Special thanks go to a handful of people (they know who is meant), who promoted my then small blog by regularly relaying my posts and linking back to me. Sometimes they even relayed stuff that I had posted on what I had felt were pretty weak blogging days - they rebuilt my faith in what I was writing ever so often. Thanks folks.

2257 posts later and exactly one year after firing up Radio UserLand for the first time, I will stop using it as my weblogging software. That is despite the fact that I never encountered the serious bugs that killed a number of people's blogs (I only encountered a few somewhat pesky, but relatively harmless ones). The point is simply that I want more functionality in my software in terms of archiving and cross-linking. Movable Type, which I'll be using from now on, has most of what I want, and it doesn't leave me stuck in an annual subscription price model.

With the change in software come two more changes: the first is a slight change of the page layout (and colour); the other is a more profound change in content.

It's a risky step, actually. Currently, The Aardvark Speaks is a lot like the blogs I like to read, and apparently like the blogs my regular readers like to read. However, it's no longer what I want to write, and it's also no longer what I'm able to write in terms of time spent for blogging. So there'll be fewer posts, and they'll likely be about different things than they used to be.

I postponed this step for a while now because I am afraid of losing regular readers, and even though I know only very few of them personally, I've grown somewhat attached to many of them, so much that I'd really hate to see them go (the point here is that I myself stopped reading a number of blogs after they went into a direction very similar to the one I'm going to take). However, it's really time to try something different. Let's see how this works out.

Tech info: My blog will be closed tomorrow to facilitate the migration to the new software. It will re-open on August 1st at three different locations:
  • The Aardvark Speaks will remain where it is right now, at http://www.aardvark.at/blog/ [RSS 1.0] [RSS 2.0] (despite what you see in your browser's address field, this is the actual address).
  • The Aardvark Cooks, until now just a blog category, is now a blog in its own right and has been moved to http://www.aardvark.at/cooks/ [RSS 1.0] [RSS 2.0]; as recipes will no longer be posted to my regular blogs you need to go to this new blog (or subscribe to its news feeds) if you're interested in my recipes.
  • The Evil Empire, which was for the past year also a mere blog category and thus relocated to a weird, longish URI, is now back at its old address at http://www.aardvark.at/evil-empire/ [RSS 1.0] [RSS 2.0]; re-directs from the old site are in place.
As for RSS feeds, the old feeds for The Aardvark Speaks, The Aardvark Cooks and The Evil Empire remain active. There is no need to resubscribe. There are, however, also new feeds in place, and there might be more coming (like feeds for full posts vs excerpts). Check the respective blogs main pages for details.

The feeds for ArtIsLife, Bookstuff, Cinelog, Coinblog, Citylife, Mediawatch and Weblife will be cut. If you are subscribed to one of these, but not the main feed, please change your subscription.

Time to turn off the lights. See you on the new page on August 1st.
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Pascale has been waiting on tables for the last six months. Today she shares with us what she learned in those six months. Seems as if it was quite a lesson. "I think that in six months I learned everything there was for me to learn about waiting on tables." [both2and]
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Jenny Levine summarizes a number of articles about how adolescents today prefer different kinds of entertainment than previous generations. Video games and DVDs are replacing the visit to the cinema, and audio CDs are less and less important. Her analysis seems accurate enough and far more convincing than the media industry's, which blames everything on piracy these days. Check it out. [The Shifted Librarian]
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Usually at this time of the year, someone in Scotland would report a sighting of the Loch Ness monster. No more. Never again. A BBC team has surveyed Loch Ness using the most advanced technology available and now says it has shown there is no such thing as the Loch Ness monster. Which will, I guess, not stop souvenir shops in the area from continuing to sell fluffy Nessie toys, or the Nessie livecam from showing, um, nothing.
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Almost missed this: Nowhere Girl Chapter 2 is online. [thx Joe]
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Cola Turka is the new Turkish success story: only two weeks after its launch, the Turkish soft drink has apparently already gained a 25 percent market share, thriving on what is most likely anti-American and anti-globalisation sentiment. [The Star]
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Tuesday, July 29, 2003

There are rumours that paparazzi have spotted Haldur Gislufsson in bed with some unknown woman. Haldur would like it to be known that he was NOT the moose in question. [IT&W]
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Here's an interesting quote I found in a lengthy article [via Heli]: "Meanwhile [US army] career officers are telling reporters that the Iraq deployment threatens to destroy the army's ability to recruit and retain its troops."

So, um, does this mean that it's okay to join the army only if you don't have to fight and possibly be killed? Somehow I feel that a lot of people have a very wrong idea of what being a soldier is all about. So if this war sets the record straight, it could actually be a good thing.
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From the BBC: "The Pentagon is planning to set up an online trading market in which bets could be made about future terrorist attacks and other major political developments.". I hope to see this exposed as a hoax on snopes.com tomorrow. I really do.

Update: Scott Rosenberg has more.
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"Those who question George Bush's foreign policy are no longer merely critics; they are blasphemers, or 'anti-Americans'. Those foreign states which seek to change this policy are wasting their time: you can negotiate with politicians; you cannot negotiate with priests. The US has a divine mission, as Bush suggested in January: "to defend ... the hopes of all mankind", and woe betide those who hope for something other than the American way of life." - George Monbiot in The Guardian.

I hadn't really seen it that way. To me, they were either dangerously naïve egomaniacs, or part of the worldwide right-wing conspiracy. In the end, it all amounts to the same thing, of course.
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It seems that the US Republican Party emanates a stronger reality distortion field than Steve Jobs. If this article is correct, they're pretty close to becoming a quasi-religious, fascist sect. Frightening. [from Salon.com; you must be a subscriber or watch an ad to read the full article]

On a related note, an article in Adbusters asks the question Is America Becoming Fascist? (a condensed version of this article written by Anis Shivani Oct. 2002), in which Shivani summarizes pretty well what's going on:
American fascism taps into the perennial complaint against liberalism: that it fails to provide an authentic sense of belonging to the majority of people. America today wants to be communal and virile; it seeks to overcome what many have been convinced are the unreasonable demands of minorities and women; it wants to reinvigorate ideals of nation, region and race in order to take control of the future; it seeks to overcome the social divisiveness of capitalism and democracy, remolding the nation through propaganda and leadership.
[Link via Mike Cohen]. The point is certainly true, even though it seems kind of frightening that you can only have a sense of belonging in a society that defines itself by violently discriminates against other societies and even against parts of its own population. However, any group is by definition formed through the exclusion of others, and the more exclusive, the more there will be a sense of belonging. And the more you belong, the less you are free to do what you want to do. So the choice is really between belonging and freedom.
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Monday, July 28, 2003

From the IHT:
Armful after armful of books were taken from the library, passed over the wall to waiting hands and stacked in the Hamdan's empty dining rooms.

Shopkeepers from across the street joined in. Then some of the neighbors began to help. They used sacks and boxes. Baker tore down the library's curtains to bundle the books. The group worked through the night and into the next afternoon, carrying books on every subject but one. [...]

"The people who carried the books, not all of them were educated," Zambqa said. "Some of them could not write or could not read, but they knew they were precious books."

The night of the fire, Muhammad said, he went to the British asking for help, but they did nothing. [...]

"The Mongol invasion, that was the last time anyone would burn a library," she said. According to legend, in the 13th century the Mongol leader Hulagu burned the Baghdad library but threw the books into the Tigris, turning the river blue from ink."
Read more... [ResourceShelf]
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And they still continue to believe that all of this is merely the work of "Saddam loyalists"? Maybe they should start to reconsider. At any rate, the death toll since the war is "over" has now risen to 50; with 18 soldiers killed in the past 10 days it seems to rise faster every day. [via BBC News]
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As of today, my foodblog (recipe and cooking site), The Aardvark Cooks has been relocated to a new address (sorry for the odd layout - it still needs some major tweaking). This location is at The RSS feeds can be found at the following addresses: Please notice that starting today, I will no longer be posting recipes to The Aardvark Speaks. All recipes will exclusively go to The Aardvark Cooks at the new address.

This means that if you want to read the recipes, you must from now on go to the new address; if you want to receive the recipes via a news reader, you must subscribe to one of the news feeds.

However, if you have previously linked to one of the recipes, you do not need to change the link; while the old site is positively gone, visitors should be redirected to a page on the new site that's very close to the recipe they're looking for.

Sorry about the hassle.
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Bush vs Bush

Here's an absolutely brilliant piece from Comedy Central's Daily Show: a debate between President George W. Bush and the only man to stand up to him, coming through a timewarp from the year 2000, Governor George W. Bush.

N.B.: Requires RealPlayer, and you may need to click through to the next page to find the video; in case you don't find it, try this RTSP link.. [via Heli's Heaven and Hell Radio]
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Looks like somebody hasn't paid his bill. Will BlogTree come back?
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Sunday, July 27, 2003

After testing b2 today and growing increasingly tired of setting up new test blogs all the time, I called it quits and decided to migrate my blog to Movable Type, mostly because it seems to best support the kind of things I want to do (other software supports other things better).

I think I also found a way to delete all the old daily blog archives (I need server space!) without totally breaking the permalinks (they'll be only partly broken, you'll see what I mean). If all goes well, the migration will take place on July 31st, with the new blog opening on August 1st. Further details will follow.
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Saturday, July 26, 2003

Screenshot from 'Monkey Primate and the Oily Grail'If you are familiar with Monty Python and the Holy Grail, chances are you'll also like this shameless parody, adapted to current politics: Monkey Primate and the Oily Grail, about how Sir Tony and his master Bushy go to seek brave knights to join their crusade quest to disarm Saddam Hussein. (1.4 MB, requires Flash) [from Too Stupid To Be President via Heli's Heaven and Hell Radio]
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Now here's a movement that truly captures the spirit of our times: the Church of Fear (older site here): "About 17 per cent of the population suffer from states of fear or anxiety. According to experts, this percentage will double in the next 25 years, owing to causes of a personal nature, but also to political, religious, social and cultural problems. Become the ruler over your fear! Build your own Empire of Fear and wipe out everything and everybody that wants to make use of your fears! You have the right and you have the power!"

Apparently, the whole thing is some kind of activism conceived by German author/director Christoph Schlingensief for this year's Venice Biennale, but I think he may have hit a nerve there. After all, we are living in a culture of fear. Many countries, most notably the Bush regie, are using fear as their main instrument to carry out their agenda. So I guess this is a good a time as any to join the Church of Fear. [thx to Sabine for the link]
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gay-o-meterChannel 4's Gay-o-meter says I'm 30% gay, which apparently makes me a straight bore. And on top of it all I have pimples. What a bummer. How gay are you? [via Greengrl]
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Friday, July 25, 2003

Haldur Gislufsson's brief appearance in my video clip yesterday has prompted a visitor to suggest that I should make Haldur my press secretary. Which is a compelling idea. Just compare the pictures: now which of these two looks more convincing?

Ari Fleischer  Haldur Gislufsson

Well, exactly.
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Nice: Yes, We Have No Weapons Of Mass Destruction. "Tony and George are having terrible trouble finding some pesky evidence of weapons of mass destruction. Help them by finding matching weapons in this game." Requires Flash and has some rather intrusive background music, but is otherwise good fun. [via Presurfer]
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Why is it that whenever I eat even the slightest amount of pork, I get pimples like a pubescent teenager, even though I'm supposed to be out of puberty for a while now? Is pork in itself bad for your skin or is it the vast amount of hormones and medication they pump into those poor animals that make my skin react so vehemently?
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Scott Rosenberg writes to celebrate the first anniversary of Salon blogs and captures, I think, the essence of what's positive about blogging: it didn't turn out to be a big business, and there are no "vast numbers of people using the service", but it has opened a number of very interesting people a window to express their creativity: "The only thing I could reasonably predict, going into this project, was how thoroughly unpredictable the range of bloggers and blogging would be." Amen. [Scott Rosenberg's Links & Comment]
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'They welcomed us at first; now they want us to get out.': -- An American GI recently said, 'We're like people who were given a wonderful reception for a week-end. But we've stayed in the house for a year. No one wants a house guest that long.'

Nope, this is not about Iraq; it's France, circa 1945, and the excerpt is from a US army manual, which has just been republished and become a surprise bestseller in France. Shows you how history repeats itself and some basic truths are true everywhere. [from Plastic]
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For the past few weeks, the media have been full of news about the horrible state of affairs in Liberia. Oddly enough, the gruesome civil war has been going on in ths country for over ten years, and the situation now isn't much different from what it was, say, two years ago. Strangely, up until very recently, nobody seemed to be interested. Now they suddenly are. Was it to prepare the rest of the world for this? At any rate, it makes you wonder what makes news and what doesn't. Obviously, things change if somebody's interest is at stake.
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Thursday, July 24, 2003

Still testing blog software for my migration next month. Today's candidate, Movable Type took me substantially longer to set up and get running than yesterday's candidate, Blosxom. Still, I like it - it supports my multiple blogs much, much better than previously tested apps.

On the Belgian Beer front, I have only two new test results: The first bottle of the Blanche de Namur had obviously contained a dead yeast culture, because the bottle I opened yesterday was absolutely delicious. This could be my favourite blanche. On the other hand, the Blanche de Haecht was a bit of a disappointment; not much of a distinct taste there.
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Does this explain some of the weird laws that have been passed by the Austrian parliament lately? I hope not. Social Democrat and Green MPs are complaining about some other MPs' alcohol levels and are pressing for an alcohol ban in parliament. Says one MP: "They wouldn't be allowed to drive a car in that condition, but apparently no-one objects to them passing laws." [via warteschlange]
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The Observer has a tale of naked greed, bungled security and unscrupulous dealers on map thefts from European libraries [via librarian.net]
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Watch the aardvark speak! In colour!
Yes, thanks to advances in technology you can now see me speak. In colour! So who needs audioblogging? Bah, let's videoblog! Anyway, here I am talking about the wonders of Apple's iSight camera, and how it discriminates against some people, like moose.

N.B.: Requires QuickTime 6.3; approx. 3 MB download.
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Wednesday, July 23, 2003

iBush is "an artificially unintelligent Oval Office Occupant simulator" that will generate eerily believable Bush speeches from snippets of actual Bushisms (for Mac OS X only, but there is also a reduced CGI-based online version). [via IT&W]
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Spending your holidays in Turkey? Then make sure you don't buy the wrong kind of souvenir. The Turkish authorities are now all of a sudden very strictly enforcing a 1987 law for the protection of antiquities or geological objects of "an exceptional universal value".

A French tourist found this out the hard way when he was arrested for buying a small fossil at a souvenir stand for €2. He spent almost a month in prison, along with other tourists who had made similar purchases, and came free only after paying a €9000 bail, according to an article in Libération (N.B.: the article is in French).
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A pretty easy, straightforward Greek recipe. Serves 4.
  • 1kg sea bass slices or similar fish
  • 5 medium-sized onions, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 (125ml) cup (good olive oil
  • 500g puréed tomatoes (or passata)
  • 4 tablespoons wine
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • 1 cinnamon bark
  • salt
  • pepper
Heat the oil to moderate temperature and brown the chopped onions and garlic. Add all the other ingredients except the fish plus 1-2 cups of water and let cook for 15 minutes. Then add the fish and let simmer for another 20 minutes.
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Just had my first video chat with vowe. It works! After tweaking iChat's maximum bandwidth to stay below my, well, maximum uplink bandwidth, it worked even better.
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Kind of. As my Radio UserLand licence is expiring in about two weeks and this is as good an opportunity as any to migrate to another software product, I'm currently testing other blogging software, hence the relative silence on my part.

As part of the migration, I'm also planning major changes to this blog, in terms of what I write, what I write about, and how often I write. I'm afraid that the changes will cost me several of my regular readers, but somehow it felt like it was time to move on. Stay tuned for details.
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Tuesday, July 22, 2003

L'oeil de Willem
-- One American killed per day in Baghdad...
-- As we are easily 250 million Americans, we can keep going at this pace at least for another 600,000 years. After that, we'll have to improvise.

Cartoon by Willem. Source: Libération.
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Thursday, July 10, 2003

To leave you on a happy note: Senators Grill Rumsfeld. No, not like St Lawrence, but it must have been pretty uncomfortable nevertheless. [via WorldWideKlein]
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I seriously need a break. See you in a few days.
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Wednesday, July 9, 2003

Frightening article on how George W. Bush may win the 2004 election from Plastic.com. It seems that the electronic voting machines that will be used nationwide in the 2004 US presidential elections are extremely easy to manipulate, according to a (very detailed) article by Bev Harris, who took a close look at one of these machines. [via Plastic.com]
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Assorted fragmentss: And that's it, I think.
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Rob: "I'm a bit uncomfortable about a US company pressuring a foreign government to change their laws so we can sell more crap. Can you imagine the reverse ever happening? Not that we have bans on silly things like gum, but you know what I mean." [Generic | Synthetic]
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Hum. So it's official now: I'm not allowed to order any books until September, at least. No, not privately. At work. Seems the library where I work (never mind that it's the largest in the country) has run out of money. So the reports were not exaggerated after all.
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It's been a while since I last reported about my Belgian beer shipment, so here's an update on some beers I tested in the meantime: Duchesse de Bourgogne is a cask-conditioned red beer modelled after Rodenbach. It's a very smooth brew, slightly restrained, but thoroughly enjoyable. St Idesbald Triple is clearly an attempt to imitate Westmalle or Chimay Triple, and, while smoother, it doesn't quite achieve the same sophisticated taste. Quintine Blonde surprisingly turned out to be a quite similar brew, only better. It lacks the sharp taste of the Trappist triples while having all the aroma. Very bubbly, but not bad at all. Finally, Leffe Radieuse is a strong amber/brown brew from the Leffe brewery, a stronger and more lively version of their brune. Not bad at all.

Here's the tally:
Pleasant surprises: 7 | Already knew the brew: 7 | Disappointments: 6
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A.S. Byatt vs. Harry Potter: "[S]ome of Ms. Rowling's adult readers are simply reverting to the child they were when they read the Billy Bunter books, or invested Enid Blyton's pasteboard kids with their own childish desires and hopes."

Plus: reader responses that seem to prove that Byatt is basically right. [via Boing Boing Blog]
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Tuesday, July 8, 2003

This will seriously change my online reading habits: according to the BBC, The Guardian newspaper plans to start charging for some of its online content from 30 July.
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Is the UK part of the US or part of the EU? Recent evidence would indicate the former, says George Monbiot in The Guardian. And I like his conclusion: "For the very reason that the United States is a greater threat to our sovereignty than the European Union, they [the British right] will not stand up to it."
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Revolting librarians, "one of the lasting monuments of the library underground", is now available online in an (almost) full-text edition. [via netbib weblog]
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Speaking of which, a friend of mine in Vienna is selling an eMac. It's two weeks old, barely used and comes with the full 2-year warranty. He's selling it at €150 below the current list price. If you're in Vienna and interested, contact me.
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Two Austrian fraudsters pretended to be representatives of the Austrian police, the Caritas and the Austrian Freedom Party and ordered a total of 5899 cars for these organisations from a French manufacturer. Oddly enough, the cars were actually delivered and are now parked in several places all over Austria.

The Austrian police have about 4000 cars; the order would have effectively doubled that amount. Now everyone is baffled how the order could be fulfilled even though it was fairly obviously a fake -- not only is 6000 cars what Citroën sells in Austria in a year, but several procedures that are usually necessary with such large orders were not taken. The other mystery is why the two men did it, especially as it was obvious that the fake deal would be discovered sooner or later, and the role of Citroën Austria, which has so far declined any comment, is also unclear.

At any rate, if you'd like to buy a white Citroën car, then 6000 of them may be available soon at a special rate.
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Monday, July 7, 2003

"It is evident that the human community has reached a critical juncture in its history. Today's world requires us to accept the oneness of humanity. In the past, communities could afford to think of one another as fundamentally separate. But today [...] whatever happens in one region eventually affects many other areas. The world is becoming increasingly interdependent. Within the context of this new interdependence, self-interest clearly lies in considering the interest of others. Without the cultivation and promotion of a sense of universal responsibility our very future is in danger."

The Dalai Lama of Tibet turned 68 yesterday. Happy birthday! [via Presurfer]
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I totally agree with Dorothea: Some of the things you can do with CSS are sick. Very much so.
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News from the Iraqi National Library. Things aren't looking too great. [via netbib weblog]
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For those who can't get iChat AV to work, there are a number of helpful links at IT&W. [via Schockwellenreiter]
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Sunday, July 6, 2003

You Don't Look Like a Librarian! [from Library Link of the Day]
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Britain expresses its concern that some of its citizens held in Guantanamo Bay might face military tribunals.

Ah, so now that it concerns their own citizens, Britain suddenly discovers Human Rights? How cute. Let's see if the Bush regime is impressed. They have, after all, been known to do good friends a favour now and again.
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Silvio Berlusconi confirms what a nice person he is by denying that he apologized for his Nazi remark. [BBC News]

By the way, I visited the remains of the Mauthausen concentration camp today, but I doubt that even if Mr Berlusconi ever were to visit it, he would not realize that calling somebody a "Kapo" is neither funny nor ironic -- just a show of extremely bad taste. As is the fact that tourists visiting the camp are apparently stealing the shower heads from the gas chamber: the guide told us that in the past four months alone, five shower heads were stolen. All of them were replicas, by the way, but the thieves probably didn't know that. Question: what kind of sick person must you be that you want a shower head from a Nazi gas chamber as a souvenir?
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Since major combat for the 150,000 troops in Iraq was declared over on May 1, more than 60 Americans, including 25 killed in hostile encounters, have died in Iraq [...]. Frustrations became so bad recently at Fort Stewart, Ga., that a colonel, meeting with 800 seething spouses, most of them wives, had to be escorted from the session. "They were crying, cussing, yelling and screaming for their men to come back," said Lucia Braxton, director of community services at Fort Stewart. [via Heli's Heaven and Hell Radio]

So what the heck did they expect? A soldier's profession is to kill and to be killed. As I have said several times, there is no clean war. In a war, people die. If you support a war, you must therefore support the fact that your husband, brother, friend, son, or father may die. Everything else is a deception. If you don't want them to die, oppose war. It's that simple.
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Friday, July 4, 2003

William Pfaff with another excellent contribution to the transatlantic debate:
[E]ven in serious circles [in the US] there seems little acknowledgment that the Iraq war dispute [between Europe and the US] was caused by differences of political principle and different visions of the world, and that the French and German governments were overwhelmingly supported by public opinion in nearly all of Europe.

Thus, while there is considerable domestic U.S. debate over unilateralist foreign policy, the Bush administration's hostility to existing international institutions, its repudiation of previously accepted treaty obligations and the legitimacy of the hegemonic ambitions increasingly expressed in Washington, few have seemed willing to recognize that this is what the trans-Atlantic conflict has also been about. [...]

Most of Europe's policy leadership recognize that American policy opposes an independent security policy and is now being formulated to "disaggregate," or divide, the EU. Their concern is what to do about it. [...]

France is systematically denigrated, as to a lesser extent is Germany - Germany is thought salvageable, or open to intimidation, once Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder is gone. France is portrayed as suffering from "a profound pathology," and America's enemy. In Washington power-corridor leaks to the press, in neo-conservative magazines and on the Internet, France is said to be driven by hatred, national vanity and the personal vanity of Jacques Chirac, and as allied with the radical Arab world out of fear of France's unassimilated Muslim population. [...] This kind of nonsense sets the tone. Few Americans acknowledge any intellectual or moral weight or merit on the "old" European side, and certainly not on that of France.
Well worth the read. [via Gavin's Blog]
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Apparently what all of us suspected is entirely true: Ink for home printers is now seven times more expensive than vintage champagne. According to Which? magazine, ink in a typical replacement cartridge costs about £1.70 (€2.55) per millilitre, compared with 1985 Dom Perignon at 23p (€0.35) per millilitre. This is why vendors are shipping $30 printers (presumably at a loss): because they plan on grabbing you by the nads and squeezing once you're locked into the printer. [Boing Boing Blog]
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It's things like this that make me really angry that Radio UserLand doesn't support Trackback. And there hasn't been a single update since I bought a licence a year ago. Which means that on the first anniversary of my blog on August 3rd I will either be closing my blog altogether or move to a different software product.
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Referrers

Either this is some sort of goof-up, or I'd really like to know which highly popular search terms you have to enter so that Google's "I'm feeling lucky" feature sends you to my site.
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smi: "Dancing professors are no better than dancing polar bears; the danger of mistaking one for the other is unbelievably high." [smi, my translation]
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Thursday, July 3, 2003

Two things:

1. Does talking about Blogshares make the bot come? Anyway, a few hours after I complained about having been forgotten by the bot, it came by today, indexed my blog and, as I predicted, upgraded its value.

2. Yesterday, I received a mail from Amazon.co.uk that they had dispatched my order. Today, I found a notification that a parcel from Amazon had arrived. If this is the same parcel, then they must have beamed it to Vienna.
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Brilliant op-ed by the Austrian writer Karl Markus Gauß on Berlusconi and why the European union deserves him as punishment, from today's edition of Der Standard. Here are a few excerpts (my translation):
So who could credibly argue in favour of sanctions against the Italian government, whose main aim it is to grant its prime minister immunity for his crimes and at the same time convert Italy to a Berlusconi Corporation? Blair, the charismatic preacher, who for years has been undermining European reforms so vehemently that one has to hope in despair that either the UK or Europe be excluded from the Union so that something can happen? Or the impassionate bookkeeper Aznar, whose first contribution to the Iraq war was to send elite police troops against his population in a way unprecedented since the Franco dictatorship?

No, President Berlusconi is not an inadequate punishment for Europe. He is a caricature embodying ugly, trivial, thoroughly uncultured and corrupted Europe, which constantly tries to reach for power. The privatisation of the state as practiced by Berlusconi is not at all unrelated to the neo-liberal demolition of the state, as it is carried out everywhere in Europe following the American example. [...]

The disagreements between [the USA] and various European countries would have deserved being perceived as disagreements for a while longer. This would have given both Europe and the US the opportunity to become aware of their interests, their fundamental differences and their common ground. Seeing how quickly the climate of foreign policy has changed back to sunshine without no-one ever having tried to go to the core of the transatlantic disturbance, the Europeans, afraid of their own independence, have lost a chance which would have been of vital importance not just for themselves, but for the entire world. [...]

The world reacted with indignation when Berlusconi presented himself on his first day in front of the European Parliament in the same way he presents himself every day in Italy. What is truly surprising is not that he answered criticism with insults, but rather that, very unprofessionally, he revealed himself as the authoritarian character that he is and to whom he owes his success. Anyone who hopes that he has thus discredited himself as EU president, is very wrong: in all the media furor the silence with which his statement has been widely accepted is very audible: from the west, where Aznar agrees with his friend in almost every detail, to the east, where the Hungarian government expressly praised Berlusconi's speech.
The full article is here (in German).
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File this under politics as comedy: Could it be that Naji Sabri al-Hadithi, Sadam Hussein's last foreign secretary is in Austria, of all countries? After all, he is a good friend of the Austrian right-wing politician Jörg Haider. Now it seems there is an Austrian mobile phone number, under which the former minister can supposedly be reached, but the authorities see no reason to investigate whether the phone is currently in Austria or not. Naji Sabri is not one of the 55 most-wanted Iraqis; in fact there are rumours that he collaborated with the US before the war and the US now want him as part of a provisional Iraqi government. Either way, the whole story is pretty ridiculous. [via Der Standard]
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Berlusconi. [streaming video; requires RealPlayer; provided by Corriere de la sera, found via a comment at Gallowglass]

Martin Roell: "Berlusconi is the president of the European council. Isn't that awful? It is awful. At least now we can wear the same T-shirts as the Americans: 'Sorry for my president. I didn't vote for him.'" [my translation, via Schockwellenreiter]

For those who haven't heard the story yet, Berlusconi had compared a German MEP with a Kapo at a Nazi concentration camp (note: most English media used the term 'commander' or 'leader', which is a faulty translation. A Kapo [short for 'Kameradschafts-Polizei'] was a in fact a prisoner who collaborated with the camp administration). Berlusconi went on to denounce the MEPs who had criticised him as turisti della democrazia (tourists of democracy).

When given the opportunity to apologize, he refused to, saying his remarks had been "ironic". So far, everybody except Berlusconi himself and his newspapers fails to see the irony.
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I have the "wanna-have" syndrome with Apple's new iSight camera. However, since I don't do videoconferencing all that much, I wonder whether you can use it for anything other than iChat? The site doesn't say...

Update: Apparently you can. [thx Adam]
Update: There's still more. [MacSlash]
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The Blogshares bot hasn't indexed my blog in more than two weeks now. If you check my visitors and link stats, you'll notice that I received lots of incoming links during that time, but as Blogshares hasn't noticed, it still shows my value as "declining". They really ought to get that bot to visit more frequently.
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Wednesday, July 2, 2003

I seriously want to test iChat, but I know nobody who uses this software (or AIM, which is also compatible). So anybody who'd like to chat with me, drop me a note via e-mail (use the little letter icon on the left), and I'll add you to my contact list.
PS. As I don't have the iSight camera, you won't be able to see me. Yet.

Update: Thanks to Greengrl and Adam, who both helped out. Turns out I needed to configure my firewall to get iChat to work (ports 5060, 5190 and 16384 through 16403 need to be open). Any iChat or AIM users wishing to add me to their buddy list, my iChat/AIM ID is the same as my e-mail address, which is listed at the bottom of this page.
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ACME Hen Grenade

Brilliant: The Illustrated Catalog Of ACME Products (as seen in Warner Bros.' famous Looney Tunes cartoons). [via Uren Dagen Nachten < things magazine]
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Sheesh. I feel like I'm turning into a raving lunatic. I fear recent blog entries might be seriously hurting my credibility. Gotta relax.
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Say no to genetically engineered foodThe European parliament has passed controversial laws that in effect lift a ban on genetically modified foods. Seems like all that was necessary was a little bit of pressure from the US...
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The US is suspending military aid to 35 countries for backing the International Criminal Court and refusing to give US citizens immunity from the tribunal. Strangely, the list of states affected also seems to include Austria, which, as a neutral state, is not receiving any kind of military aid from the US.

Seems like the US wants to soup up their list to make it look more impressive. It is, after all, the latest attempt to encourage states to conclude separate bilateral agreements with the United States, agreeing never to hand over US personnel to the ICC. In a letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell (full text here), Human Rights Watch has rightly called this "a worldwide campaign pressing small, vulnerable and often fragile democratic governments".
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John Keys recently linked to Pasta Shapes, but I can't help feeling that the page has a bit of an American slant -- some shapes are not what I expected them to be. Barilla, the famous Italian pasta manufacturer, has a great list of their own pasta shapes online (sadly, it's all one big Flash animation, so I can't link to it properly), and then there's the pasta glossary at About.com. Plus a complete whopper of a website, The World Directory of Pasta Shapes and Names (unfortunately, this seems to be under construction with many pictures and descriptions still missing).

But now, without further ado, here's my favourite pasta recipe, and a fairly simple one at that. Serves 4, I think.
  • 500g Penne Rigate
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small or medium-sized onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 can peeled tomatoes
  • 3 peperoncini or dried red chilies
  • salt
  • optional: 50g smoked bacon
  • optional: finely grated parmesan cheese
Bring a pot of well-salted water plus one tablespoon olive oil to the boil, add pasta and cook until al dente (usually, you'll find cooking times on the pasta box).

Option: if you like your pasta with meat, roast the bacon in a pan, then cut into tiny cubes.

In a pot, heat one tablespoon olive oil (careful, not too hot, or it will become bitter!). Add the chopped onion and fry until transparent; then add the chopped clove garlic and fry until the onion is yellowish.

Put the peeled tomatoes, peperoncini, fried onion and garlic in a blender and whizz until smooth. Put the sauce back into the pot and let simmer for at least ten minutes. Salt to taste.

When the pasta is cooked, strain in a sieve, then add to the sauce. Add the bacon if you wish (I prefer my penne meatless). Stir well, mixing sauce and pasta.

Serve immediately. Penne all'arrabiata is usually NOT served with basil or oregano, but parmesan cheese is okay if you like it.
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Tuesday, July 1, 2003

Tom is doing it. Gary is thinking about doing it.

It's summer, so from now on, I'll be doing it more frequently, too: Switch off. Expect updates to be highly irregular over the next few weeks.
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German
What language are you supposed to speak?
brought to you by Quizilla

Did I mention I am slightly disappointed by the result? [via Greengrl]
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Two reasons why the USA must be stopped: [1] [2]. Other countries should seriously invest in their weapons programmes now before it's too late to stop US global domination. [Guardian Unlimited / BBC News]

And as if their weapons of mass destruction weren't bad enough, they're also planning to bombard the rest of the world with genetically modified food (article in German). [via Schockwellenreiter]
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Here are two totally unrelated links that came in via netbib weblog:

First, there's a robots.txt generator that lets you lock out pesky search robots from all or parts of your website. And then there's a music critic bot that will generate a piece of scathing criticism about your favourite band or album, or whatever you choose to enter.

And lo and behold, eight months after I blogged about it, Boing Boing has discovered the coolest chain store in the world, Muji.
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As of today, Austria's new copyright law is in place, and experts are already confused about its consequences. The new law asserts the right to making a copy for "personal use", while at the same time it also legalizes copy protection (which contradicts the right to a private copy) and makes cracking the copy protection illegal, although it is unclear whether the mere act of passing on information about where to find cracking instructions is illegal or not. Also the change of terms from "private" to "personal" use could make it illegal for your wife to listen to a copy that you made.

One particularly problematic part is also the section on Zurverfügungstellen ("granting access to") copyrighted material, which is now also illegal. As Zurverfügungstellen is not defined in detail, the whole thing is very much open to discussion. The section clearly targets online piracy, but, if taken very literally, it would also outlaw a lot of things that libraries do.

In Germany, where a similar law has been passed, the music industry has already announced that it will now start a crackdown on P2P networks and online music exchange services. In Austria, the music industry association IFPI says it'll just "wait and see" for a while if the laws are followed before taking any legal steps.

Plus, at the moment it's not clear how much it can do, as the passage in the Austrian law is so vague that experts have already interpreted it in both ways: some say that downloading music from the Internet is illegal as it can be assumed it comes from illegal sources; others say that the right of possessing a copy for personal use is not in any way connected to whether that copy comes from a legal or an illegal source. [via ORF Futurezone].
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And here's yet another reason (in German) not to travel to the USA anytime soon. [via Schockwellenreiter]

Here's what the White House says (not much, as you may have guessed), and here's the EU's official FAQ (also pretty blah blah). However, closer inspection reveals that there is cause for concern, and it's about time that the natives were getting restless.

Campaign against the illegal transfer of European travellers' data to the USA
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Martina Schloffer is an Austrian who works as an aide for the International Red Cross in Baghdad. She is writing a diary for the Austrian daily Der Standard. Here are excerpts from today's entry (my translation):
A total blackout in all of Baghdad and the breakdown of the drinking water supply that came along with it led to great unrest last week. All of a sudden, the entire city was without power. It was as if somebody had pulled a giant plug -- until today, no-one knows why it happened. Some think there is a connection with the sabotaged pipeline. There are rumours that this is how the coalition forces are punishing the population for the attacks.

Baghdad is 30 metres above sea level, so when the power is gone, the water is gone as well, as it has to be pumped into the pipes. This means that at temperatures of 45°C [113°F] there was no cooling and no water. [...]

We [the Red Cross] had 18 trucks to supply the population with water. While we were distributing the water, we noticed how angry the people are. There is a growing impatience with the occupying forces. [...] The people don't understand why there are no goods and why everything works worse than before the war. [...]

The generators we [the Red Cross] installed kept about 40 percent of the water supply going; this means there was was water for about two million people. [...] Our teams are also constantly out in the countryside, where they have repaired 49 pumping stations to secure water for 3.5 million people. [...]

Security on the streets is changing. There are increased attacks on the coalition forces, so we make sure we never come close to military personnel. On the other hand, the shops are now open longer in the evenings, there are fewer lootings, and it's possible to go to a restaurant [...].
Am I missing something or does this sound as if the Red Cross is doing all the reconstruction work? So what exactly is the US administration doing, other than making sorry excuses? And looking at recent events, it doesn't look as if the war is going to be over anytime soon. - Ms. Schloffer's full report in German is here, and there are also links to earlier entries.

And while I'm at it, here are Ten Appalling Lies We Were Told About Iraq [via Godany]
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