The Aardvark Speaks : essence, effervescence, obscurity. Established 2002. A weblog by Horst Prillinger. ISSN 1726-5320

September 2003 Archive


September 01, 2003

I have received a number of comment spams lately (=people posting advertisements into the comments of my weblog). This is most annoying.

For now, I have banned and cursed the offenders so that they (hopefully) can't enter this site any longer and grow hideous warts on their faces. I am also closing comments for posts that are older than a week or so; if you notice that you can no longer write a comments, this is most likely not a mistake, but protection against spam.

I might eventually try Shelley's approach to fighting comments spam [thx Becky] when I have the time and courage to play around with my Movable Type configuration. As you have probably noticed in the number of posts lately, time is currently not something I have in abundance.

Posted by Horst at 07:36 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

I'm not sure whether it's some kind of temporary PR campaign or if the slogan is with us to stay, but employees at Vienna McDonald's are now wearing black T-shirts with the slogan "I'm lovin' it" imprinted on them.

A short aside: In my 11 years of teaching English, I've been telling my students that the progressive form is used to express an unfinished activity. Therefore, I'm not sure if it's actually possible to say "I'm loving something", just as you don't say "I'm knowing something" either, for "love", like "know", doesn't express activity.

Now whatever you think about the food at McDonald's — lovin' or not lovin' it seems to be a matter of taste as well as of ideology (and I only just noticed recently how awful McDonald's fries taste if you don't have ketchup with them) — but having the employees wear these T-shirts seems like an exercise in capitalist cynicism, because the slogan is just ambiguous enough to state that they also love their jobs.

Now talk to anyone who ever worked at a McDonald's in their student days, and I assure you, they weren't lovin' it, they were hatin' it. Ever wondered why their employees seem to be changing on an almost monthly basis? Well, they haven't been called the world leader in the exploitation of young people for no reason, and it seems the employees of the Strasbourg-St Denis branch of McDonald's in Paris, who have been on strike since March this year weren't particularly lovin' their working conditions either.

In related news, Glenn Reynolds suggests reducing the number of heat deaths in Paris by opening more branches of McDonald's, and while I'd like to enjoy a good laugh about this, I fear that he's actually being serious. (In case his argument seems to make sense to you, let me assure you that no French retiree or low-income worker would drink a small bottle of water at McD's for €1.50 when they can get a large one at the supermarket for €0.19).

Posted by Horst at 12:55 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)


September 02, 2003

A couple of webloggers are musing about whether Trackback serves any purpose. Interestingly, it's mostly Radio UserLand users who've only had the feature for a very short time, and apparently their reaction is prompted by the fact that next to nobody is pinging their weblogs. It reminds me a bit of myself, how I was thinking about turning off comments at some point in the past because nobody was writing comments.

See the problem?

My point being:

Trackback is perfectly useless if you turn it off. Like comments are perfectly useless if you turn them off.

Trackback is a form of remote comment. Basically, with a Trackback, somebody is leaving a comment not in your comments window, but on their own website. Hence you get Trackbacks only if you write stuff that prompts somebody to respond on their site. Now why would somebody respond over there rather than in your comments?

  • That person has a blog.
  • They consider the response important enough to publish a full-fledged response of their own rather than just a brief comment.
  • They consider you and themselves as part of an interconnected network of weblogs rather than single one-person blog entities.

Now there is the kind of weblog that will never generate that kind of response because

  • its readers don't have blogs of their own;
  • the content is so uncontroversial (or un-thought-provoking) that no-one will feel prompted to write a lengthy response;
  • it isn't read by the kind of people who will pull it into one of these networks by pinging it (for example because they lack software that can send pings).

Is turning off Trackback an answer to the problem? It's a bit like nailing the door shut because nobody is coming to visit. I don't see why having that door would hurt, even if nobody is using it at the moment.

Unless you really have a weblog that generates no response at all, Trackbacks, like comments, grow slowly and over time. It has taken me a year of blogging to get a decent number of comments, and I guess it'll take some more time to get a decent number of Trackbacks.

But I'm never going to get any if I turn them off. Perhaps Trackbacks are overrated. But they are an important part of network building in the blogosphere.

So the question is not really whether Trackbacks are useless or not. It's about whether you want to participate in an infrastructure that gets you connected to others or not; whether you want that extra door open or nailed shut.

Posted by Horst at 12:11 AM | Comments (0)

This is a highly technical post in response to an email from a reader who wanted to know how to get comment data, comment text, trackback data and incoming trackback pings into one's RSS feed in Movable Type.

I'm not really an expert in RSS, so I might talk nonsense here (corrections welcome), but the feeds that I cobbled together here surprisingly do validate, so I can't be all that wrong.

All of this is done according to Dave Winer's "unfunky" RSS 2.0 specs; please bear in mind that this may not work with other RSS dialects (or RSS 1.0, which is an entirely different language). One reason why I like Dave's specs is that they are almost self-explanatory, and it's fairly easy to write your own feed templates for Movable Type once you get a hang of MT's template tags. The RSS 2.0 specs can be found at http://backend.userland.com/rss. Everything I'm writing here is pieced together from there, and from the Movable Type online help.

Comment data

Adding comment data to your RSS feed is simple. All you need to do is add this code to your <item> tag:

<item>
...
<MTEntryIfAllowComments>
<comments><$MTCGIPath$><$MTCommentScript$>?entry_id=<$MTEntryID$></comments>
</MTEntryIfAllowComments>

...
</item>

This checks if comments are allowed and then adds the URL of the comments page into the <comments> tag. That's it.

Trackback data

Adding trackback data is slightly more complicated, as it isn't part of the original RSS 2.0 specs. There is, however, a so-called namespace for a trackback model that can be implemented. To do so, you need to specify that you are using it in the RSS delimiter at the beginning of the RSS file:

<rss version="2.0" xmlns:trackback="http://madskills.com/public/xml/rss/module/trackback/">

You then have to follow the specifications of the Trackback module as specified at this address. Two RSS items are provided, <trackback:ping> containing the pingable Trackback URL for this entry, and <trackback:about> containing the outgoing pings sent with this entry. In your Movable Type template, the respective code is put inside <item> and looks like this:

<item>
...
<MTEntryIfAllowPings>
<trackback:ping><$MTEntryTrackbackLink$></trackback:ping>
</MTEntryIfAllowPings>
<MTPingsSent>
<trackback:about><$MTPingsSentURL encode_xml="1"$></trackback:about>
</MTPingsSent>

...
</item>

This causes <trackback:ping> to be generated once and <trackback:about> once for every ping sent.

Comments text and incoming Trackback pings - a caveat

Even though I will be explaining how to incorporate comments and incoming pings into your RSS feed, I'd like to point out that this is not recommended; the reason is simply that with every new comment or incoming ping, the feed will be updated, and, depending on their newsreader, subscribers may receive the same news item over and over again with each new update, which, again depending on the newsreader, can be a major annoyance.

If you think you must include these things in your feed, here is how it goes:

Comments text

The comments are part of the item's text body; as such, they go into the entry's <description>, along with the rest of the text. If you want to format the text so that it becomes readable (it isn't if you don't), you need to encode it as CDATA. If you haven't used this before, take care to use the correct number of brackets. Here is what you need to add to the <description> of the item:

<item>
...
<description>
...
<MTEntryIfAllowComments>
<MTComments sort_order="ascend"> <![CDATA[<p><$MTCommentAuthor$> said on <$MTCommentDate format="%x, %X"$>:<br />
<$MTCommentBody convert_breaks="0"$></p>]]>
</MTComments>
</MTEntryIfAllowComments>
...
</description>
...
</item>

First, <MTEntryIfAllowComments> checks if comments are turned on for this post; if yes, <MTComments sort_order="ascend"> lists them in ascending order (first one first; last one first is also possible if you use "descending"). You then get the name of the comments author and the date, plus the text of the comment for every comment that is associated with the post (the convert_breaks attribute is needed to get rid of extra HTML which may cause problems).

If you just want to add a note how many comments have been posted without the actual comments text, this is of course also possible using the corresponding MT template tags:

<item>
...
<description>
...
<MTEntryIfAllowComments>
<![CDATA[<p><$MTEntryCommentCount$> people have commented on this so far.</p>]]>
</MTEntryIfAllowComments>
...
</description>
...
</item>

Incoming Trackback pings

Incoming Trackback pings work pretty much the same way. Like comments, they should go into the item's <description>. Again, we need CDATA as we are using HTML tags:

<item>
...
<description>
...
<MTEntryIfAllowPings>
<MTPings><![CDATA[<p>This article received a trackback ping from:<br />
<$MTPingURL$></p>]]></MTPings>
</MTEntryIfAllowPings>
...
</description>
...
</item>

As you would expect, a mere count of Trackback pings works just like the comments count:

<item>
...
<description>
...
<MTEntryIfAllowPings>
<![CDATA[<p><$MTEntryTrackbackCount$> TrackBack pings.</p>]]>
</MTEntryIfAllowPings>
...
</description>
...
</item>

The other extreme would be to include the full monty:

<item>
...
<description>
...
<MTEntryIfAllowPings>
<MTPings>
<![CDATA[<p>This article received a trackback ping from:<br />
<a href="<$MTPingURL$>"><$MTPingTitle$></a><br />
Excerpt: <$MTPingExcerpt$><br />
Weblog: <$MTPingBlogName$><br />
Tracked: <$MTPingDate$></p>]]>
</MTPings>
</MTEntryIfAllowPings>
...
</description>
...
</item>

Please be aware that, as I said above, not only will this blow up your feed to huge proportions, if somebody is subscribed to your feed, he may receive the entry over and over again every time somebody adds a new Trackback ping.

Example feeds

So anyway, to wrap it up here's a recommended feed that includes the harmless data for comments and pings, based on my template #1 from last week. It does not include comments or trackback text, just the links to the comments and trackback pages. The things I outlined in this posting are indicated in bold type:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="<$MTPublishCharset$>"?>
<rss version="2.0" xmlns:trackback="http://madskills.com/public/xml/rss/module/trackback/">

<channel>
<title><$MTBlogName remove_html="1" encode_xml="1"$></title>
<link><$MTBlogURL$></link>
<description><$MTBlogDescription remove_html="1" encode_xml="1"$></description>
<language>en</language>
<copyright>Copyright <MTEntries lastn="1"><$MTEntryDate format="%Y"$> <$MTEntryAuthor$></MTEntries></copyright>
<lastBuildDate><MTEntries lastn="1"><$MTEntryDate format="%a, %d %b %Y %H:%M:%S"$> GMT</MTEntries></lastBuildDate>
<docs>http://backend.userland.com/rss</docs>
<generator>Movable Type <$MTVersion$></generator>
<managingEditor><MTEntries lastn="1"><$MTEntryAuthorEmail spam_protect="1"$> (<$MTEntryAuthor$>)</MTEntries></managingEditor>
<webMaster><MTEntries lastn="1"><$MTEntryAuthorEmail spam_protect="1"$> (<$MTEntryAuthor$>)</MTEntries></webMaster>

<MTEntries lastn="15">
<item>
<title><$MTEntryTitle remove_html="1" encode_xml="1"$></title>
<link><$MTEntryLink encode_xml="1"$></link>
<description><$MTEntryBody encode_xml="1"$><MTEntryIfExtended><$MTEntryMore encode_xml="1"$></MTEntryIfExtended></description>
<category><$MTEntryCategory remove_html="1" encode_xml="1"$></category>
<MTEntryIfAllowComments>
<comments><$MTCGIPath$><$MTCommentScript$>?entry_id=<$MTEntryID$></comments>
</MTEntryIfAllowComments>
<MTEntryIfAllowPings>
<trackback:ping><$MTEntryTrackbackLink$></trackback:ping>
</MTEntryIfAllowPings>
<MTPingsSent>
<trackback:about><$MTPingsSentURL encode_xml="1"$></trackback:about>
</MTPingsSent>
<guid isPermaLink="true"><$MTEntryPermalink$></guid>
<pubDate><$MTEntryDate format="%a, %d %b %Y %H:%M:%S"$> GMT</pubDate>
</item>
</MTEntries>

</channel>
</rss>

And this is the killer feed that includes all comments and trackbacks in full text (not recommended). Again, the things explained in this article are highlighted in bold type:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="<$MTPublishCharset$>"?>
<rss version="2.0" xmlns:trackback="http://madskills.com/public/xml/rss/module/trackback/">

<channel>
<title><$MTBlogName remove_html="1" encode_xml="1"$></title>
<link><$MTBlogURL$></link>
<description><$MTBlogDescription remove_html="1" encode_xml="1"$></description>
<language>en</language>
<copyright>Copyright <MTEntries lastn="1"><$MTEntryDate format="%Y"$> <$MTEntryAuthor$></MTEntries></copyright>
<lastBuildDate><MTEntries lastn="1"><$MTEntryDate format="%a, %d %b %Y %H:%M:%S"$> GMT</MTEntries></lastBuildDate>
<docs>http://backend.userland.com/rss</docs>
<generator>Movable Type <$MTVersion$></generator>
<managingEditor><MTEntries lastn="1"><$MTEntryAuthorEmail spam_protect="1"$> (<$MTEntryAuthor$>)</MTEntries></managingEditor>
<webMaster><MTEntries lastn="1"><$MTEntryAuthorEmail spam_protect="1"$> (<$MTEntryAuthor$>)</MTEntries></webMaster>

<MTEntries lastn="15">
<item>
<title><$MTEntryTitle remove_html="1" encode_xml="1"$></title>
<link><$MTEntryLink encode_xml="1"$></link>
<description>
<$MTEntryBody encode_xml="1"$>
<MTEntryIfExtended><$MTEntryMore encode_xml="1"$></MTEntryIfExtended>
<MTEntryIfAllowComments>
<![CDATA[<p><b><$MTEntryCommentCount$> comments, listed in ascending order (if any)</b></p>]]>
<MTComments sort_order="ascend">
<![CDATA[<p><$MTCommentAuthor$> said on <$MTCommentDate format="%x, %X"$>:<br />
<$MTCommentBody convert_breaks="0"$></p>]]>
</MTComments>
</MTEntryIfAllowComments>
<MTEntryIfAllowPings>
<![CDATA[<p><b><$MTEntryTrackbackCount$> Trackback pings</b></p>]]>
<MTPings>
<![CDATA[<p>This article received a trackback ping from:<br />
<a href="<$MTPingURL$>"><$MTPingTitle$></a><br />
Excerpt: <$MTPingExcerpt$><br />
Weblog: <$MTPingBlogName$><br />
Tracked: <$MTPingDate$></p>]]>
</MTPings>
</MTEntryIfAllowPings>
</description>

<category><$MTEntryCategory remove_html="1" encode_xml="1"$></category>
<MTEntryIfAllowComments>
<comments><$MTCGIPath$><$MTCommentScript$>?entry_id=<$MTEntryID$></comments>
</MTEntryIfAllowComments>
<MTEntryIfAllowPings>
<trackback:ping><$MTEntryTrackbackLink$></trackback:ping>
<MTPingsSent>
<trackback:about><$MTPingsSentURL encode_xml="1"$></trackback:about>
</MTPingsSent>
</MTEntryIfAllowPings>
<guid isPermaLink="true"><$MTEntryPermalink$></guid>
<pubDate><$MTEntryDate format="%a, %d %b %Y %H:%M:%S"$> GMT</pubDate>
</item>
</MTEntries>

</channel>
</rss>

As I said, all of this is "unfunky" RSS 2.0 and it validated when I last checked it. The code does not work as part of an RSS 1.0 feed, which uses an entirely different model.

Posted by Horst at 01:00 PM | Comments (2)

Hm

Past

IngIng - Fertility, successful conclusion to issue or situation, ending one cycle and beginning another.

Present

LagazLagaz - Intuition, imagination, success in studies, creativity, vitality and passion (especially for women).

Future

DaegDaeg - Increase and expansion, prosperity, growth, major turning points in life, turning in new directions.

I wonder what'll happen next. This sounds promising. Check out your own future with the Rune Caster. [via Greengrl]

Posted by Horst at 04:01 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)


September 03, 2003

How else could you explain this?

Yes it's true — I actually went and bought all Led Zeppelin albums in the vinyl replica CD edition. The fact that they cost a mere €7.99 each was a major contributing factor, but the really crucial thing is that I actually seem to like the music. I don't remember liking them all that much in the past; actually I had a profound dislike for hard rock in the past.

I suppose it's something that must have happened at some point between my 35th and 36th birthday, but it's a fact that Led Zeppelin rocks. How utterly frightening. Even though it's kind of okay, I guess. I mean, I really hope I won't ever be listening to Heino when I grow older.

Posted by Horst at 12:00 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

With money running out and its military personnel apparently under more pressure than it can bear, the US administration is now considering a new UN resolution that would "elaborate the UN's mandate" in an attempt to get other nations to send soldiers to Iraq. Were it not for the millions of people affected by the chaos resulting from the US intervention in Iraq, I'd strictly oppose any UN involvement in Iraq. After all, the US declared that the UN was "irrelevant" only six months ago. Let them clean up their own mess, I'd say. Only it's no longer their own mess. They messed up the lives of millions, and I fear not even the UN can clean it up again. [links by courtesy of CalPundit]

Update: Here's a comment from Daily Kos.

In not really related news, it seems that the British are now preparing to clean up a different kind of American mess that may well cause an environmental disaster.

George Monbiot: "The world is beginning to look like France, a few years before the Revolution. [...] The wealthiest 5% of the world's people now earn 114 times as much as the poorest 5%. The 500 richest people on earth now own $1.54 trillion - more than the entire gross domestic product of Africa, or the combined annual incomes of the poorest half of humanity." [via iMakeContent]

Posted by Horst at 10:12 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (2)

Perhaps I should point out that it was not my intention to draw a comparison between Jimmy Page and that king of German oompah music, Heino, in my posting earlier today. I was just voicing, um, inner fears.

Even though Heino actually seems to be considered cool among some of the US alternative crowd. Imagine my surprise when a couple of years ago I found a feature (excerpt here) on the most-hated Schlager singer of my youth in one of the volumes of RE/Search Publications' Incredibly Strange Music (Amazon.co.uk: [1] [2]), a series of books dedicated to "one-of-a-kind gems that will delight and surprise".

Heino a "one-of-a-kind gem". Uh-huh. Well, he is, in a way.

Posted by Horst at 07:09 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)


September 04, 2003

Elevator Moods changes your perspective (requires Flash). [via jenett]
Robert Kagan on the US-European relationship. [via Rollberg]
Hetty asks: Does the US now own China, too?
Ralf's Finnegans Wake illustrations are now online. Haldur loves the Mookse.
Creepy: Termite.com's spider identification chart [via Presurfer]

And finally, words of wisdom deduced from the Columbia Accident Investigation Board: "Engineers are trained to ask 'what could possibly go wrong?'. Managers are, too, but they use the phrase with a completely different intonation." [via megnut]

Posted by Horst at 11:10 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

I made a terrible discovery. Using the Gematriculator that I mentioned last week or so, I visited the websites of a number of computer and software vendors today (Hetty did the same with some political sites a while ago), and found to my horror that it seems I have been using evil products for a while.

Even more surprising was the realisation that apparently the Evil Empire isn't all that evil; actually it is much less evil than my own site about it — or their website is just particularly deceptive. Anyway, here are the astonishing results:

Selected hardware vendors:
Okay, so I am kind of using the right brand of computer.

VendorGoodEvil
Apple
http://www.apple.com/
57%43%
Dell
http://www.dell.com/
50%50%
HP
http://www.hp.com/
34%66%

CPU manufacturers:
Having a computer based on Motorola's G4 processor doesn't seem to be a particularly good idea. Must switch to a G5 soon.

VendorGoodEvil
IBM (manufacturer of the G5)
http://www.ibm.com/
72%28%
AMD
http://www.amd.com/
67%33%
Intel
http://www.intel.com/
55%45%
Motorola (manufacturer of the G4)
http://www.motorola.com/
20%80%

The old rivalry
Would you believe that Apple is supposed to be more evil than Microsoft?

VendorGoodEvil
Microsoft
http://www.microsoft.com/
89%11%
Apple
http://www.apple.com/
57%43%

The battle of the OSes:
At least it's official now that Windows is evil, whereas OS X is not, but the distance is closer than you might think.

ProductGoodEvil
Apple Mac OS X
http://www.apple.com/macosx/
52%48%
Microsoft Windows
http://www.microsoft.com/windows/default.mspx
44%56%

The browser war:
Again, of all the available browsers, I'm using the most evil one.

ProductGoodEvil
Internet Explorer (Win), a.k.a. The Security Leak
http://www.microsoft.com/windows/ie/default.asp
82%18%
Safari
http://www.apple.com/safari/
79%21%
Internet Explorer (Mac)
http://www.microsoft.com/mac/products/internetexplorer/internetexplorer.aspx
59%41%
Mozilla
http://www.mozilla.org/
46%54%

Email clients:
It seems that spreading worms and viruses is now good, whereas blocking spam is evil.
O tempora, o mores!

ProductGoodEvil
Outlook Express (Win), a.k.a. The Security Leak
http://www.microsoft.com/windows/oe/
81%19%
Outlook, a.k.a. The Giant Security Leak
http://www.microsoft.com/office/outlook/
79%21%
Outlook Express (Mac)
http://www.microsoft.com/mac/otherproducts/outlookexpress/outlookexpress.aspx
71%29%
Eudora
http://www.eudora.com/
49%51%
Apple Mail, a.k.a. The Spam Blocker
http://www.apple.com/macosx/jaguar/mail.html
32%68%

Play your music:
It must be that "brushed metal" look.

ProductGoodEvil
Winamp
http://www.winamp.com/
79%21%
iTunes
http://www.apple.com/itunes/
46%54%

The MP3 player of your choice:
I don't have one, of course, but it seems it's a pretty good product:

VendorGoodEvil
Apple iPod
http://www.apple.com/ipod/
84%16%

Posted by Horst at 01:07 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)


September 05, 2003

According to the BBC, France and Germany have rejected a US draft text for a new UN resolution on Iraq. Daily Kos summarizes the reasons better than I could do it.

International (i.e. non-US) press commentaries seem to agree that the US should clean up their own mess, and Gudrun Harrer in today's Der Standard writes about the UN's sudden regained relevance — as a means to cause multinational, rather than just American deaths.

Posted by Horst at 12:29 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

I don't believe this: Annie Mole of Going Underground fame actually has a weblog. Turns out she's had it since January, which, even though I read her website religiously (having an underground website myself), I knew nothing about. See, I had to read Ralf's blog to find out about it. And the worst bit is that Ralf actually met her and they seem to have had a great night out. Unfair!

Posted by Horst at 10:36 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)


September 06, 2003


Since a few people have been wondering how I met Haldur Gislufsson and how we became friends, I guess now is as good a time as any to tell you the story. Don't expect anything out of the ordinary though, it's all fairly prosaic.

It was a dark and stormy day when I decided I needed some stuff from the local Ikea. As I pushed my shopping cart, which was quickly filling up with all kinds of cool stuff with funny names, through the aisles, I noticed a group of moose sitting in the plants department, nibbling on the ferns.

We started to talk, and it turned out they were Haldur Gislufsson and six of his cousins, who had been lured to Vienna under false pretense and were now employed by Ikea to entertain the customers by day and move around heavy furniture boxes at night.

Haldur in particular complained that he was bored out of his wits and wanted to get out. He suggested attaching a barcode label to his posterior, keeping perfectly still and pretending to be a fluffy toy so I could get him past the cash registers. Would I play along?

"Okay," I said, "but where are you going to live? Being homeless is no fun, you know."

Haldur agreed and asked if he could live at my place, temporarily, until he'd find a permanent place to stay. He reassured me that having a moose as a flatmate never failed to impress the ladies as it was "very macho" (I'm not sure about this so far, though). Plus, he said, having a moose was a perfect way to boost the reader ratings of my weblog.

I was convinced. I slapped some barcode label on his bum (it said "Taggig" or something like that), he said goodbye to his cousins, and I carried him out of Ikea, both of us pretending he was a fluffy toy. The rest is, as they say, history.

Posted by Horst at 12:23 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)


September 07, 2003

It seems Horst posted an entry yesterday about the two of us met. That's all very nice, but I'm afraid he has taken a bit of a poetic licence. The point is, things didn't exactly happen that way. So, to set the record straight, here is the real story:

It was indeed a dark and stormy day when not Horst, but I drove to the local Ikea to get some stuff. As I pushed my shopping cart through the aisles, I noticed a funny guy sitting on one of the shelves.

I approached him. "Are you for sale or are you just sitting there?" I asked him.

"Um, gee," said the guy, "actually, I don't know. They just put me here two weeks ago. I really don't have a clue. I guess I must be for sale."

Turns out his name was Horst, and he was not only great at cataloguing and shelving books, fixing Apple Macs and cooking excellent curries, the price tag was also really moderate, and, fairly unusually for Ikea, no assembly was required.

I told him to climb into my shopping cart, paid for him at the cash desk and took him home to my apartment. The rest, as they say, is history.

Posted by Haldur Gislufsson at 07:52 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

Making FiendsMaking Fiends is an excellent series of animated cartoons by Amy Winfrey, in which she shows the adventures of Charlotte, who's making friends, and Vendetta, who's making fiends. I particularly like the 6 ft hamster (pictured left). Amy has also created Muffin Films, which are all about muffins. Yum! (requires Flash)

Posted by Haldur Gislufsson at 11:13 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (1)


September 08, 2003

I'm currently thinking about pursuing an alternative career, and I may have come up with an idea. I would find some beach, not too touristy, not too tourist-free; then I would prop myself on a sunchair with an empty sunchair next to myself, both preferably under a shady palm tree or a similar contraption. A sign on the beach would invite everyone to come and have a seat on the second sunchair, giving them the opportunity to lie down and talk to a total stranger and tell him (i.e. me) what they always wanted to tell a total stranger.

We would just lie there. The person would talk, and I would listen, sometimes give genuine advice (if it's something I know something about), sometimes play cryptic oracle (if I don't have a clue what to say) or simply remain silent (if it looks like the most clever thing to do).

I think there's a market for this. If you look at people, some of them seem desperate to say something, and I think the idea of lying on a sunchair with the soothing sound of the waves in the background and having someone listen to them would appeal to a lot of people. Hell, it would appeal to me if I'd find somebody who'd listen to me. I'm not writing this weblog for no reason.

The crucial point about this plan is, as usual, money. I'd have to make enough money so that I could stay in this warm, pleasant country all year, have all my expenses paid and can make it through the winter when there are no tourists. And I'd have to come up with a plan to keep the second sunchair free of freaks. But other than that, it's oddly appealing.

Posted by Horst at 12:33 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)


September 09, 2003

Today, for about the first time, I wish that this was an anonymous weblog. Because I really want to share a piece of wisdom with the world, and I'd be very interested in what my regular readers have to say about it. Only there are one or two people whom I wouldn't want to read it. And you know Murphy's law of weblogs: The people who are most unlikely to ever read your weblog will start reading it on the very day you write something that they shouldn't read. And no, I can't just have Haldur write it. Believe me, it wouldn't work.

Posted by Horst at 12:02 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

I've been watching a lot of people lately (don't ask, it's grown into some sort of habit), and I've come to notice that most of them seem to be broken. I mean "broken" in the sense of both pysically and/or mentally broken. You can't help but notice that something seems to be eating away on most people. It shows. They're just not whole.

Funny also how this seems to start at a certain age. Children are, mostly, not affected. By their mid-thirties, pretty much everybody seems to be incomplete, defective, whetever you may call it. Men are affected sooner than women.

It's not age, mind you. I saw a sixty year-old man today, and he seemed pretty whole. It's something else. I'm pretty sure it's because life is not fun, and I mean not just not fun, but that it's actually wearing away people.

Come to think of it, they even put this in the bible and came up with the oddest explanation of them all for it: original sin. I wonder if life would be more fun if the thing with Adam, Eve and the apple hadn't happened, or if they'd simply have invented another story to explain why life, basically, sucks.

And the truly scary thing is, while I was watching all those people and calculating their brokenness factor, I couldn't actually see myself and I have no clue as to how broken I am myself. I might fall apart within the next few days. Now that is a truly scary thought.

Posted by Horst at 12:57 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)


September 10, 2003

It seems that Dorothea received some flak recently for complaining (moderately) about small children. I must say that I find that reaction somewhat exaggerated. After all, as I see it, small children were designed by nature to be a major nuisance. Let's admit it: if they didn't demand adults' attention every single second, they'd never have survived evolution. I read somewhere recently that for every child, parents can subtract four years from their projected life expectancy. That's a lot of energy those youngsters are burning. Think about it.

In this village where I stayed recently, the nights are really quiet. You can hear nothing — the sea perhaps, at times, and perhaps a braying donkey (more about this later) — but then there was this penetrating scream one night. Yes, you guessed it, it was the scream of a small child, demanding attention.

You know, I believe they were designed that way (and what Konrad Lorenz wrote about grey geese would confirm this). I'm pretty sure at some point during evolution there were small children who didn't scream in that terrible way that makes parents go and try to silence them at almost all costs. These more silent children were probably eaten by some kind of stone age tiger because they didn't scream loud enough. Come to think of it — Neanderthals. I'm convinced the Neanderthals died out because their children screamed below pain level. Sounds convincing enough.

Why some small children still think that any random adult approaching them is a dangerous stone age tiger and scream accordingly is beyond me. Perhaps they just don't want to repeat the mistakes of the Neanderthals.

Posted by Horst at 12:33 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)


September 11, 2003

One of the languages that I don't have a clue about is Greek. It seems to be a fairly straightforward Indo-European language, but there must be something very different about its rhetoric or use of metaphor because texts translated from Greek seem to have a tendency of being, well, odd. For example, I have this Greek cookbook which seems to have been translated very literally from Greek to German, and as a result it sounds as if it has been written by a very strict schoolmaster. It gives me a bad conscience and a sense of failure every time I cook something from it because it gives such strict instructions.

And then there's this tourist brochure I brought home from my last holiday in Crete. It advertises day trips in southern Crete, but I'd call the language, well, peculiar. Here's an excerpt of the German text:

Wenn Zeit ist, fahren wir in ein verlassenes Dorf. Die Stille beruhigt den Geist und bringt uns wieder mit uns selbst in Kontakt. Die Seelen der Leute spürt man noch in den verfallenen Häusern. Nun haben wir alle Hunger. In einer kleinen Taverne werden wir zum Mittagessen bleiben. Hier können Sie auch duschen und sich umziehen. Auf dem kleinen Spaziergang am Rande der Kotsifou Schlucht wird als einziges Geräusch das Geläute der Ziegenglocken und das Schluchzen eines einsamen Esels zu hören sein. Hier wollen Sie nie mehr weg.

The English text is not quite as strange, but it's not too bad either:

If there is time, we will visit a deserted village. Here at the little church of the Pende Pantheon it is easy to go back in time simply by walking in and out of the neolithic caves. The spirit of the people has remained. By now we are getting hungry. The taverna where we stop for lunch also has showers and changing facilities. All you will hear on our short walk to Kotsifou Gorge are the bells of the goats and the lamenting of a lonely donkey. You will not want to leave from here.

Guess what — I actually heard the lonely donkey. He sounded very lonely indeed. Why his "lamenting" (actually I prefer the German "schluchzen", which translates as "weeping passionately") should compel me to stay there is beyond me, though. As for the rest of the brochure, I'd really like to know if it makes more sense in Greek, but I fear my complete lack of knowledge of Greek will leave me as clueless about the Greek original as I am about the translation.

Posted by Horst at 12:29 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

No

No, you're not going to get a 9/11-related post from me today. No chance. As far as I'm concerned, the event is overrated enough already.

More significant, and apparently just as shrouded in mystery as the still unsolved murder of Olof Palme in 1986, is yesterday's assassination of Swedish foreign minister Anna Lindh. In the Palme case, it's still not entirely clear if the police were covering up their own incompetence or the tracks to the murderer, who is believed to have been part of a right-wing network that was opposed to Palme's Europe-friendly politics. Lindh was another strong proponent of stronger Swedish EU integration. Frightening.

Posted by Horst at 06:07 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)


September 12, 2003

Something strange is taking place in Vienna's most important shopping street, Mariahilferstrasse. What seems to happen here is an odd proliferation of one-legged beggars. There used to be two regular beggars on this street, one was lame and had a yellow printed sign in front of him which asked for money. The other one appears occasionally and plays a Bontempi organ (pretty badly, as a matter of fact). And there's of course the red-headed bald guy who's either screaming insults at everything that moves or kneeling on the pavement, looking extremely miserable.

Last week I suddenly noticed a one-legged beggar, complete with wheelchair an everything. Two days later, there were already three of them, regularly distributed over the length of the street, and apparently having fun moving their footless stumps. They even look somewhat related. Last time I checked there were five of them.

Now going from zero to five in less than a week is a bit much. It just doesn't look like a coincidence. It rather looks looks as if one of the organized begging networks that operate all over Europe is currently testing the business feasibility of one-legged beggars in Vienna.

Posted by Horst at 06:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)


September 14, 2003

Jack Lynch's Moose Resource Page has been around for ages, and I have no idea when it was last updated, but I think it deserves an honorable mention in the world of mooses. Mickey Moose also has a handful of moose links, and guess what, there is even a moose webring. How cool!

Posted by Haldur Gislufsson at 12:04 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Haldur G. - Don't believe his lies

I just found this polaroid among Horst's things. I wonder if this is about something I said last week, or whether there is reason to be genuinely concerned.

Posted by Haldur Gislufsson at 07:50 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)


September 15, 2003

Great industrial photography from Haiko Hebig. [via hebig.org/blog]
The most depressing book cover of the year. [via Antipixel]
Hm, interesting web design. [via Davezilla]
Where Ikea gets the names (also in German). [via PapaScott]

Today's round of personality quizzes revealed that I'm a trendsetter duck who's really intellectual, which is kind of interesting as I also have an an inner child aged one. Plus, I'm also Morpheus (the god, not the guy from The Matrix). [via Baronesse, Presurfer and Greengrl]

Posted by Horst at 12:00 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

I guess at every university the students of one faculty will invariably harbour animosities against the students of one particular other faculty. We EngLit students (along with most other Arts & Humanities students) used to hate Economics Business Administration students. They always embodied the up-and-coming capitalists who would put on slick suits, sell their souls to Mammon and get rich by exploiting the working poor, without ever noticing that there's a life beyond numbers and bank accounts.

Part of our animosity was certainly based on the fact that once they had their degrees they were indeed making big bucks while we were looking for badly-paid, measly temp jobs. Still, once in a while there are those moments of utter satisfaction, when the big guys, sometimes even the global guys, fail.

Seven years ago, somebody decided it was time bring Pizza Hut restaurants to Austria. They opened five restaurants in Vienna and announced that they would have 50 restaurants all over Austria within a few years. Guess what — they never opened a sixth restaurant. As it happens, they started closing restaurants after a while because they had no customers, not even at tourist hotspots as Karlsplatz underground station* or Schwedenplatz. Last week, the last Pizza Hut restaurant in Vienna closed and journalists trying to reach the company for inquiries only found that the telephones had been disconnected.

*) Expect a fairly intense rant about the architectural crime they committed there within the next few days.

Now anybody who has ever been to Vienna could have guessed that Pizza Hut would be doomed here. There are Italian restaurants and pizzerias at every street corner, and they sell big, tasty pizzas for around €6, while somebody at Pizza Hut thought they could charge €9 and more for their measly, greasy pizzas. This might work in cities where people can't tell a Cardinale from a Capricciosa or a Provinciale. Only in Vienna they can, and they don't like ham-and-pineapple pizza either.

Only the Pizza Hut guys probably never bothered to check. From a friend who works as a journalist, I heard that they remote-controlled the whole thing from Germany. In typical global player arrogance, they thought that the numbers would work out as projected and that the customers had probably only been waiting for them anyway.

It's good to see that the mighty can fall once in a while.

Posted by Horst at 09:20 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)


September 16, 2003

Italian consumer associations are calling for a shopping strike (German article here) to protest against price increases of up to 160 percent following the euro conversion.

The US House of Representatives' canteen is considering renaming its Freedom Fries to French Fries as a "sign of good will" to gain French support for a UN resolution on Iraq. No, I'm not kidding.

The Church of Fear is now conducting its first event in Germany with a new pole-sitting event. Be afraid.

Posted by Horst at 07:10 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Hmm, interesting selection on the shortlist this year:

Posted by Horst at 08:06 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)


September 17, 2003

Lately, I have these weird dreams involving elevators. This may have to do with the fact that we have a lot of elevators where I work, and they seem to be out of order most of the time.

Anyway, in this dream, which is set somewhere similar to where I work, I and some colleagues are trying to get this elevator to take us somewhere where we need to go for some reason, but it's like it's either possessed by ghosts or controlled by some sinister power, because it never takes us where we want to go. In one case we end up on the wrong floor in a part of the building that is still under construction, with no walls or floors or anything, in another case it takes us to some really spooky basement. It seems all the time we are pressing buttons, but not getting anywhere.

At some point we are outside the elevator, waiting for it to arrive, and lo and behold, the elevator does arrive from below, and it also looks brand new. As the door opens, we notice it's also brand new inside (white and dark bluish, sort of). It is then that we see there's a young man lying on the floor, mid-twenties, blond. He looks like he's asleep, but soon it becomes clear that he is actually dead.

I hear somebody say, "Poor guy, he couldn't take the pressure. He went up too fast." Somebody else keeps saying, "He doesn't belong here. Send him down. It's not our elevator either, it doesn't belong here, send it down", repeating the sentence with greater and greater urgency, as if something terrible were to happen if we didn't send it down again.

So I step in, push the button, and jump out before the door closes again. We all watch the elevator go down. As it disappears, everybody seems to be very, very relieved.

Posted by Horst at 11:55 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)


September 18, 2003


There are a couple of food shops and bakeries in the underground tram station near Vienna university, and they're making a lot of business from passers-by, especially during lunchtime, when just about everybody working in the vicinity goes there for some kind of sandwich or whatever.

Today, when business was at its busiest and customers queuing like mad, I noticed that one of the shops was closed. A notice on the shop window informed people that the shop would be closed between 11am and 3pm because the shop assistants were attending the funeral of their shop manager, who had unexpectedly died a few days ago.

It was a rare, touching display of humanity. You had to see the dark, empty shop in the midst of all the bustle. It was hard not to see the symbolism of it all.

Posted by Horst at 04:04 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)


September 19, 2003

Experience the thrill and excitement of America's economy with Mark Fiore's Econo-Eyes!
Could it be that the tide is turning against Tony Blair?
What's the chance that catastrophes like this will make the US administration rethink their stance on the Kyoto protocol?
Andrew Greeley writes about the big lie.
Edward Kennedy: the case for the Iraq War was a fraud made up in Texas.

Posted by Horst at 02:02 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)


September 21, 2003

ParaplueschThe mental hospital for mistreated fluffy toy animals by Martin Kittsteiner is a truly cute Flash/Shockwave animation, in which you can try to cure neurotic or psychotic toy animals with all sorts of therapy. It's not completely finished yet, so for now you can only cure the little crocodile, whose history, once you found it out, is a terrible tragedy. I'm really looking forward to helping the little hippo and sheep, too. [found via warteschlange]

Posted by Haldur Gislufsson at 12:01 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

I was kissed by a butterfly today. I was sitting in a beer garden with Horst, to enjoy what must have been one of the last truly warm late summer days, when suddenly a butterfly flew past, landed for split second on my arm, then flew off again. It was a truly elevating, almost poetic experience.

Posted by Haldur Gislufsson at 08:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)


September 22, 2003

It has been common knowledge for some time now that cats are hosts for a parasite called toxoplasma gondii. These single-celled organisms live in the cat's intestines, where they do little harm. Most cats have them.

The problem arises when you don't wash your hands after cleaning the kitty litter box; toxoplasma gondii can be transferred to humans. For humans with a weak immune system, such as those who have undergone a bone marrow transplant or those suffering from AIDS, the parasite causes the deadly toxoplasmosis. In pregnant women, toxoplasma gondii can cause miscarriages or children with severe disabilities. In normal, healthy humans, toxoplasma gondii has so far been considered harmless.

Now a group of international scientists did some research on the parasite, which in humans lives in the brain, and found out that, while not causing any kind of direct illness, the parasite can apparently alter people's personalities. As the Sunday Times reports, the study shows that up to half of Britain's human population carry the parasite in their brains and that infected people may undergo slow but crucial changes in their behaviour.

One of the researchers went so far as to say that toxoplasma infection could represent a serious and highly underestimated economic and public health problem.

Good thing that I don't have a cat.

On the other hand, during the past few months I noticed a number of changes in my own personality. I'm a lot crankier and a lot sloppier than I used to be, I lost all interest in a lot of things that I used to be very interested in and I'm suddenly listening a lot to Hindi music. All this started about the time when I was staying for a week at a friend's who has two cats. I'm now wondering whether I should be worried and if I should take anti-toxoplasma medication.

[link via A Welsh View]

Update: Hmm, apparently this is an old story. I found several references on Google, dating back to about 1999. I wonder whether there have been any new findings or whether this is just recycled stuff. Sadly, there aren't any references to any sources in this article.

Another update: As only people in the UK and Eire seem to be able to access the Times article, here's a link to a summary of a November 2002 New Scientist article. More links here.

Posted by Horst at 07:15 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)


September 23, 2003

There are those moments that I truly dread because they are potentially embarrassing due to some ambiguity which is really harmless, but could easily be misconstrued as something else.

Let me explain:

Yesterday I received a notification that I should collect a recorded delivery parcel from the post office. Now this parcel is perfectly harmless, and the sender is a totally bona fide mail order company, which just happens to have a somewhat ambiguous name that really makes me feel uncomfortable about having to collect the parcel later today. They are called Eros International. See the point?

It's just a totally normal Bollywood movie on DVD, which, like all Bollywood movies is so chaste that the actors don't even kiss on screen, but "Eros International" makes it sound, well, different.

Never mind that real erotic stuff is usually sent in discreet packages with no sender on it; I still feel uncomfortable about this. I wonder if "eros" means something substantially different, significantly more harmless in Hindi.

The movie? Dil Se. Watch it if you come across it somewhere.

Posted by Horst at 02:45 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

There's a nasty bug in the newly released Mac OS X 10.2.8 update's Ethernet driver, which causes some computers to be totally disconnected from any network (and thus, of course, also the Internet) after installing the update.

My advice is not to install the update until this bug has been fixed.

For those who already installed it and who are now disconnected (and can still read this due to some miracle), a workaround has been posted over at the Apple discussion forum.

Update (8pm GMT): The 10.2.8 Update no longer shows up in my iBook's Software Update control panel, so I guess Apple pulled it from their server. It is still available on Apple's website, though.

Another update (10pm GMT): It has now also been pulled from the website. A note says: "This update is temporarily unavailable. Please check back later."

Yet another update (25 Sep): Apple now provides a support document explaining the issue, which lists a number of workarounds, but wrongly states that only dual 450 MHz and dual 500 MHz computers are affected. As my Sawtooth G4/400 was also disconnected from the network, the problem is more widespread than they are acknowledging.

Posted by Horst at 04:42 PM | Comments (5)


September 24, 2003

In a scathing op/ed in yesterday's Der Standard, Hans Rauscher writes about Bush's Fiasco and points out the results of the US administration's incompetence. Here are a few translated excerpts:

Far from being able to improve supplies or stop crime, the US troops are hiding in camps or shooting uncontrollably at patrols (like Iraqi police). [...]

The Americans are unable to offer at least those Iraqis who were happy about the end of Saddam's regime of terror a more or less acceptable life. In the Sunni region, a guerilla war is starting; no money can be made from oil as pipelines are constantly being blown up; and humanitarian organisations leave the country because the occupation forces cannot guarantee their safety. [...] In the Shia south, radicals are already establishing a fundamentalist religious state.

The "democratisation of Iraq as a model for the whole Middle East" is not happening and presumably already dead. On the contrary: fundamentalist terrorists, who hadn't been there before, are now attracted to Iraq in large numbers because they see it as the battlefield where they want to win the fight against the western world. [...]

It is this catastrophic result of his arbitrary war that George W. Bush is defending before the UN assembly, trying to persuade other nations to send in their troops. He won't be successful. No politician can be mad enough [...] to invest their citizens' lives and money into Bush's Iraq fiasco. [...]

It may well be that George W. Bush is the president who started the downfall of the USA as a superpower.

Full article in German here.

In the meantime, Bush is apparently happy in his belief that the world is a better place without Saddam, but it seems like other people disagree. Plus, the American way of winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people (sorry about the sarcasm, this is no laughing matter) needs some major revision.

Posted by Horst at 07:58 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

What's going on here? First, it hit northeastern America, then London, and now there was a huge blackout in Denmark and southern Sweden. All this after decades without problems? Coincidence?

Oh my. The world's best pizza baker is Japanese, and the world barbecue champions are Austrian.

Speaking of which: New recipes over at The Aardvark Cooks: Bifteki yemistó and another Chicken Vindaloo variation.

And thanks to the bug in the Mac OS X 10.2.8 update and my site being linked to by macsurfer.com, I can proudly announce a new record. Yesss!

Posted by Horst at 10:08 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)


September 25, 2003

Via Pascale, I found this interesting quiz from the BBC: What kind of thinker are you? Turns out I'm a linguistic, spatial, and intrapersonal thinker. Wow, that's a variety. I wasn't aware that I was thinking this much.

According to the quiz, I should pursue a career as "Journalist, Librarian, Salesperson, Proof-reader, Translator, Poet, Lyricist, Mechanic, Photographer, Artist, Architect, Engineer, Builder, Set designer, Psychologist, Teacher, Pilot, Child care worker, Explorer, or Drama therapist". Well, I am working in two of these jobs, but now I finally understand why I feel mentally so totally under-challenged in both of them. Maybe I should just get a few extra jobs to keep my mind occupied with different things. So many jobs, so little time...

There's a lot more quizzes on the BBC website, by the way.

Posted by Horst at 07:28 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)


September 26, 2003

Awful Plastic surgery, a weblog chronicling celebrity plastic surgery that has gone awry. This is strong stuff. Makes you wonder if plastic surgery can actually improve things. [via Presurfer]

Why the weather always seems to be bad on weekends. It's not Murphy's Law. It's pollution. [via BoingBoing]

Ewald Nowotny, a leading Austrian economics expert and former vice president of the European Investment Bank, has an explanation for the increasing number of power blackouts in Europe: it's privatisation. And apparently Enron played a key role in all of it.

For the first time in history, an underground station in Vienna will be closed today. Last chance for trainspotters to jump into their anoraks and take pictures.

And finally, here's what the world has been waiting for: Calendars of roundabouts. Love them. [via Ministry of Propaganda]

Posted by Horst at 07:19 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

What is wrong with people's immune systems? There's one cool day after a hot summer, and as a result everyone — and I mean everyone &mdash, here in Vienna seems to have a cold. Except me. As of yet.

Everywhere I go, I'm being sneezed or coughed at. And of course nobody bothers to cover their noses and mouths when they sneeze and cough. The trams and underground trains are littered with used paper tissues that signal "stay away from me or catch cold" in stark, white, fluffy letters.

I went to a cinema this week, and the whole audience was sniffing, sneezing and/or coughing for the full 90 minutes. As I sank deeper and deeper into my seat, in my mind the room mutated into one huge virus and germ breeding laboratory.

I've had five colds so far this year, and I have absolutely no ambition to catch a sixth one. It's just that my fellow citizens won't let me get away so easily. In their minds, which have probably been darkened by sinuister viruses and clogged noses, they want to make me share their suffering. Like the zombies and vampires in bad 1970s horror movies they're out to get those who haven't been infected yet. Talk about mind-altering illnesses: probably the cold virus causes some personality change in infected people that makes them go out and cough and sneeze at everyone they see.

I'm ingesting huge doses of Metavirulent and Echinacea, but I fear it might be in vain. All I can do is hide in my anxiety closet and hope nobody sneezes through the keyhole.

Update: Funny that I should write this article and then find this over at Pascale's weblog.

Posted by Horst at 12:15 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)


September 27, 2003

Get your deck of cards of the 52 Most Dangerous American Dignitaries. While French polemicist Thierry Meyssan wants to make the point that "arresting people is not a game", I'm sure the right-wing Francophobes in the US are going to love this. [via Kurier]

In the meantime, failing to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the US is now looking for whisky of mass destruction on a tiny Scottish island.

Posted by Horst at 10:50 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (1)


September 28, 2003

Today, Horst and I returned to the beer garden where we had been last week. Back then, it had seemed like the last day of summer, today it was like the Truly Last Day of Summer. Horst said that the weather was kind of strange, sunny and mild, yet somehow odd. Yes, I said, this is the weather that doesn't yet say "autumn is coming", but it says "summer is leaving".

Sadly, last week's butterfly didn't return; either he didn't recognize me, or he was already hibernating. Also, and that was a somewhat depressing thing, there were no sparrows. Usually this is one of the very few places in Vienna where there are still sparrows, but they were conspicuously absent today.

I like sparrows; they may be simple folks, and I don't understand their habit of taking dust baths (surely everybody knows that mud baths are much superior), but they're good fun to discuss football with. However, they seem to be leaving the city in huge numbers. There were myriads of them in Vienna only ten years ago; now they're almost gone. If you talk to them and ask them about the reason why they're leaving, they come up with things like "you know, neoliberalism, globalisation, it's just no fun anymore", and you can't help but think that this is some kind of cheap excuse for something they don't want to talk about.

Horst told me that when he was in Paris earlier this year, there were lots of sparrows there. I asked him if he had asked them if they knew why their folks were deserting cities all over the world, and he said he had forgotten to ask them. Sounds like yet another cheap excuse to me.

Posted by Haldur Gislufsson at 11:57 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

I found nothing this week. Absolutely nothing. Sorry.

Posted by Haldur Gislufsson at 11:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)


September 29, 2003

Power blackout in Italy. All of Italy. Apparently caused by one tree. This is getting spooky.
Can this page really trap spambots in a deadly loop or is it just some advertising gimmick?
Provincial elections in Upper Austria and the Tyrol. Strongest party in the Tyrol was the Party of Non-Voters, which beat the Conservative Party by almost 50,000 votes.
The world's oldest man died aged 114. The world's oldest woman, aged 116, is still alive and well.
Seven quick tips for a spam-free blog. [via Vowe.net]

Posted by Horst at 09:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Right. To pep up this weblog, which has become slightly boring over the past few days, I decided to host one big huge whopper of a quiz. There will be fabulous prizes (ahem, well, some discarded videos and CDs I wanted to get rid of anyway), and you will have the chance to prove that you are a master investigator.

Librarians are in particular encouraged to participate in this quiz, for this is the perfect chance to prove their superior research skills. Feel free to tell others about this quiz.

All you need to do is answer the following question:

Update: Five people sent in correct answers, so the quiz has been declared officially over. Thanks to everyone who participated. You can find the solution here.

Who is this man?

Who is this man, and where is this stone with his likeness on it?

Sounds difficult? It's actually easier than you might think. The answer can be found fairly easily on the Internet, both in English and in the language spoken in the European country where the stone is located.

As can be easily seen by the way he is dressed, he lived in the 16th century. Sources seem to agree that he held an important office in the city or town in question, but they don't agree which office it was; however, they do agree that he died when he stumbled over his beard when fleeing a fire, and in the process broke his neck.

The rules:

  • To participate in the quiz, send me an e-mail via the mail link on this weblog's front page, using the subject line "Man with beard quiz". Write the man's name, the name of the city or town, and details about how you found this out (i.e. resources that you consulted, search terms that you used, etc.).
  • Include your full name and postal address, so that I can mail your prize to you. State if you prefer VHS video, audio CD or book. You don't need to tell me if you don't want the prize sent to you. It'll save me the postage.
  • The deadline for submissions is Sunday, October 5th, 2003, 23:59 hrs CET. The correct answer and the name(s) of the winner(s) will be posted on this weblog on the following day.
  • The first three people to send in the correct answer will receive prizes. There will be no correspondence about this quiz, and no legal claims can be made.
  • You are not allowed to participate in this quiz if you are or ever were a resident of the city or town where the stone is located.
  • You are not allowed to participate in this quiz if I told you about the man at some point in the past.
Posted by Horst at 09:43 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)


September 30, 2003

They are now installing new ticket punching machines in Vienna's underground stations, and these new punching machines are positively evil.

You see, whenever you want to enter an underground station, you must slide your ticket into a blue box-shaped machine, which will promptly go 'pling' and place a date and time stamp on your ticket.

The new machines are still blue, but they also have this bright green light on the front, which makes it look as if it gave you the evil eye. The slot for inserting the ticket is no longer lined with plastic, but it's a metal mouth into which you slide your ticket. And the sound is no longer a melodic 'pling'. It's more of a brutal, metallic, loud 'CHOMP'.

It sounds as if sharp, metallic, robotic teeth are biting off a piece of your ticket; it certainly does not sound like a soft rubber stamp. Actually, if these things weren't blue, and if the light was red rather than green, you might well think these evil boxes were manufactured by none other than the Cylons from Battlestar Galactica.

Good thing these things are fastened to metal rails, unable to move. This way they can only eat the tickets that you feed them and they won't be able to destroy the world.

Posted by Horst at 07:28 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Whoa! The first correct answer for my "man with the beard quiz" is already in! Reader Andrew from Essex says it took him no more than five minutes on the web to find the answer. Congrats, Andrew! Now two more people are eligible for prizes if you mail me the correct answer before the deadline on October 5th. Where are all the investigative librarians?

Frightening article (in German) from Telepolis: a British scientist says that the proliferation of toxic substances in our environment is making us stupid. Apparently IQs are falling rapidly in the civilised world. Explains a lot. [via Schockwellenreiter]

It seems that in the future, we will no longer freeze books that have been damaged by water; instead we will put them in diapers. [via Boingboing]

Posted by Horst at 07:40 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)



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