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

October 2003 Archive


October 01, 2003

October. Start of the new academic year. Month of Hell (MoH) at work. Lots and lots and lots of people at the library today, most of them utterly clueless. Here are four dialogues from today's duty at the reference desk. Brace yourselves for moments of absurd drama that couldn't have been scripted more masterly by Samuel Beckett himself. And these were just today's highlights. I can't wait to see what the rest of the month is going to be like.

One

(Phone call)
Woman: Could you connect me to the acquisitions department?
Me: Certainly. What is this about, who would you like to speak to?
Woman: Well, I ordered this book and I want to collect it.
Me: Erm... are you sure you want to talk to Acquisitions? Sounds like you want the issue desk.
Woman: Yes, yes, the issue desk. Give me the issue desk.
Me: Uh-huh... so what's this about?
Woman: Well, I ordered this book and you sent me a note that it has arrived now and I just wanted to tell the people at the issue desk that I'm coming to collect it.
Me: Uhmm... Madam, we give out over 2500 books per day. There is no need to notify us that you are coming. If you get a notification from us, you can simply come and collect it.
Woman: Are you sure?
Me: Totally.
Woman: I see. (Pause) Could you still put me through to the lending department?
Me: Certainly.

Two

Student: Excuse me... could you tell me where I can find the cloakroom?
Me: Certainly. You turn left, then walk down the stairs, then left again, walk towards the computer terminals, and--
Student: Um, this sounds difficult.
Me: Okay... you remember the main entrance, where you came in?
Student: Yes.
Me: Okay. Just go back there and then just walk straight ahead. Don't turn right and go upstairs like you just did, simply walk straight ahead for 10 metres, and you're right inside the cloakroom.
(Funny how they always find the information desk, which is really well-hidden, but don't find the cloakroom, which is right next to the entrance.)

Three

(Student approaches reference desk with an oldish book that has a big orange dayglo sticker saying "KOPIERVERBOT" [copying prohibited] on it.)
Student: Can I make copies from this book?
Me: Certainly not.
Student: Why?
Me: (pointing to the big orange sticker) Because it says so on this sticker.
Student: Oh. I thought that was an error.

Four

(Phone call)
Me: University library, reference desk, hello?
Person: Hello?
Me: Hello? University library, reference desk.
Person: Is this the library?
Me: Yes.
Person: Do you have books?
Me: We have 2.7 million books here, yes.
Person: Oh. (Pause) That's a lot.
Me: Yes.
(Silence)
Me: Can I help you?
Person: Is it possible to read these books?
(I resist the temptation of cracking a joke à la "well, probably not all of them in a lifetime")
Me: Yes, we are a public library. You can come and read them.
Person: I would have to come to the library?
Me: Yes, it is necessary that you come to the library.
Person: (sounds really disappointed) Oh.
Me: I'm afraid there's no other way.
Person: I see. Thank you. Good bye.
(Click. This one was so bizarre that I am sure that there must have been some major misunderstanding, but I have no idea what exactly went wrong.)

Posted by Horst at 10:03 PM | Comments (3)

There's still a chance for two people one person to win prizes a prize in the "Man with beard" quiz.

Update: Sorry for the last-minute correction, but I just received a mail with the correct answer from faithful reader Nora, a Viennese expat currently living in Massachusetts. Congrats!

What's the purpose of this? Probably to illustrate that if you are looking for something, the search terms are equally, if not more important than where you search. Use the right search terms in the correct place, and the first search result will point you directly to the information you are looking for. Use slightly different search terms, and you'll find nothing.

Posted by Horst at 10:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)


October 02, 2003

Annie Mole: "it still gives me some amusement to see the 'Dogs must be carried' sign at the bottom of escalators as I do think that there will be a number of confused tourists wondering where they're going to get a dog so that they can travel up the escalator."

Luckily, at some point in history somebody invented a linguistic principle called "pragmatics", which explains why there are no dog-lending services at escalators and why asking somebody "Can you open the window?" will cause that person to open the window instead of saying "yes."

And I suppose Annie would also be amused by the signs at many Vienna underground stations pointing towards a platform and saying "Simmering". This is not a case of pragmatics though, just one of words meaning different things in different languages. Although on very hot summer days you are beginning to wonder.

Posted by Horst at 11:34 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)


October 03, 2003

Two more correct answers came in last night from Megan and Adalbert, and Megan beat Adalbert by 31 minutes. Megan didn't claim a prize or specify her search terms though, so unless she sends me another note, the prize will go to Adalbert. This should save me some postage. ;-)

One funny thing that I noticed is that the search results on some search engines have changed significantly since I started the quiz last Monday, so that it's now a lot easier to find the solution than it was a couple of days ago. No idea why this is the case.

One of my colleagues at work, Harald, also sent in a correct answer, but he was too late. Anyway, I think I'll now declare the quiz officially over and tell you the solution and how to find it.

The man is Hans Staininger (alternative spellings include Hanns Staininger or Hans Steininger), a former mayor of the Austrian town of Braunau am Inn, who supposedly died in 1567 when he stumble over his beard during a fire. The stone can be found on the northern side of the town's parish church.

There are various ways to find this information, but generally you'll find that

  • Google is not the only search engine, and
  • the right search terms in the correct order are vital.

The easiest way to find this is probably to do an AltaVista search on "man with long beard". I hadn't tried it before the quiz and was truly astonished that this blatantly simple search query actually worked.

In German, doing a Google search for "mann bart genick" (man beard neck) will point you to the man (an Altavista search on the same terms will direct you to a different, but equally useful page).

In English, a Google Image search for "longest beard" will also lead you to a page stating the person's name and location.

You may have come across a number of pages about bizarre deaths, listing a story like the one in the quiz, with no name or location, but with the date 1567. Accordingly, a Google search for "1567 beard" will point you to the information.

More pictures of Hans Staininger can be found here, here, here, here and here.

Thanks to everyone who participated, hope you had fun, and the next quiz will be more difficult.

Posted by Horst at 12:08 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)


October 05, 2003

Haldur on holidays

Haldur sends this picture and says he's sorry he can't write anything today. He was so tired of the dreary weather in Vienna that he boarded an aeroplane and left for an undisclosed location on Saturday. He said he'd be back next Sunday, or the Sunday after that.

He suggested that I start a new quiz, the "where is Haldur" quiz. The first clue is just this picture, and I'm not sure if this is much help. I can just about see Haldur's dolphin in the lower left corner, but apart from that I can't see much because of the bright sun.

And I'm stuck here in rainy Vienna. Grumble.

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


October 06, 2003

At the moment half of Vienna is wondering whether it's true that shoe manufacturer Nike wants to install a giant swoosh on Vienna's Karlsplatz or if the whole thing is just an elaborate hoax. Nike says they have no such plans and blames a group of Austrian online artists, who in turn say they have nothing to do with it either. The domain is registered to a guy who lives in Barcelona. Well, I guess we'll see if the swoosh materialises on January 1st or not.

Posted by Horst at 05:54 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)


October 07, 2003

6. Mary in formaldehyde in The Kingdom.

5. The 80 year-old voice of Lata Mangeshkar singing out of the mouth of 20 year-old Kajol in Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge.

4. Calista Flockhart's nonexistent body during the second season of Ally McBeal.

3. The little boy running after Joseph Cotten, shouting "Mörder! Mörder!" in The Third Man.

2. Julia Roberts' collagen-enhanced lips in Ocean's Eleven.

1. William Shatner in Star Trek: Generations.

Posted by Horst at 12:43 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Hello everybody. This is Haldur Gislufsson speaking. I'm sitting in an Internet café at a yet undisclosed location. Suffice it to say that I'm enjoying the sun, the sea, and pleasant temperatures of 29°C.

I sent Horst a picture that I took recently and he promised to upload it to this link. It contains the second of a number of hints where I am.

The first three people to send in the correct answer (i.e. the name of the village where I am) will receive an autographed fan postcard of moi, which is not available anywhere in shops, so it's a true collector's item!

I'm signing off now; more hints will be coming -- back to the beach!

Haldur's second clue

Note from Horst: a summary of all of Haldur's hints can be found here.

Posted by Haldur Gislufsson at 02:58 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)


October 08, 2003

How to tell when a relationship is over (in 90 seconds) by Tony Roche (requires QuickTime). [via vowe.net]

GM crops are harmful to the environment. Says 3-year study conducted by British scientists. [via Keys Corner]

Update: This is even better: Insurers will not cover GM farmers. Splendid.

Schwarzenegger has killed the kangaroo: Austrian embassy gets fewer calls by people wanting information about Australia.

50 reasons not to vote for Schwarzenegger. Finally a few arguments that go beyond his groping habit. [via Presurfer]

Austrian Airlines refuses to give passenger data to US Homeland Security Office. That's not why it's my preferred airline, but it's a good reason to keep using them.

Posted by Horst at 12:01 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Just wanted to tell you that yesterday's hint was not an error or a joke — it was a bona fide hint, even though you may need further information to make sense of it. Well, maybe today's hint will help you.

The people here are friendly, but something in their behaviour indicates that many of them have never seen a moose before. Also, I'm having trouble finding my staple food, elk grass. The stuff they have here (see picture 1 below) is not bad, but tastes a bit intense, so I will be looking for alternatives soon. The stuff that the locals eat (see picture 2 below) is mostly non-vegetarian, so I'm having a problem there, too. Oh well, I'll survive. See you!

Picture 1
Picture 1

Picture 2
Picture 2

Note from Horst: all of Haldur's hints can be found on this page.

Posted by Haldur Gislufsson at 09:53 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Ridiculous enough: Italy's finance minister Giulio Tremonti thinks that replacing the 1 and 2 Euro coins with bank notes is a viable way to fight inflation.
Even more ridiculous: Austria's finance minister Karl Heinz Grasser suggests replacing the 1 and 2 Euro coins with bank notes because he is "a bit sick of them" (brief English summary here).

Embarrassing enough: Arnold Schwarzenegger becomes governor of California.
Even more embarrassing: Austrian politicians start a "who is the greatest sycophant" contest in congratulating Arnold Schwarzenegger (brief English summary here).

Sickening enough: Dieter Bohlen totally dominates the Austrian news bickering with his ex-wives and former co-singer for most of September and early October.
Even more sickening: News of Dieter Bohlen is replaced on a 1:1 basis by news of Roy Horn learning the hard way that tigers are more dangerous than cats.

Posted by Horst at 03:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)


October 09, 2003

Note: as usual, this and all previous hints can be found on this page for quick reference.

As I grew a bit sick of the local herbs, I had pizza today, which was a bit of a disappointment, probably because it's not an indigenous dish. But what am I telling you — if you are quick-witted and good with search tools, you have by now pinpointed my location to an area not larger than 300 kilometres in diameter anyway, and you know this already. If you have a very twisted way of thinking, today's picture might result in just a handful of places where I could be.

This guy lives here

But then again, it might not. Remember: this is a puzzle. Some people will have an idea of the picture on the puzzle fairly soon, whereas other people will see what's on it only very briefly before it's finished, so don't despair. There are not yet enough hints to know the name of the village where I am (although there are now enough to make a wild guess).

Next hint tomorrow. See you!

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

I'm usually firmly against the quote of the day routine, but today I just can't resist, because it shows the full degree of insight that one particular man has. If it's true, that is. I doubt it because it's almost too perfect. Anyway, here we go:

See, free nations are peaceful nations. Free nations don't attack each other. Free nations don't develop weapons of mass destruction.

Said George W. Bush, Milwaukee, Wis., Oct. 3, 2003. [via Schockwellenreiter]

Posted by Horst at 01:03 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)


October 10, 2003

Note: as usual, this and all previous hints can be found you know where for quick reference.

First of all I'd like to let you know that the animal on yesterday's picture is not a capricorn, but an animal that only lives in this area. Second, there's today's picture of a very peculiar fountain — something as unique as yesterday's animal and something that Roy would most likely rather not see at the moment. It's located in a small town that's less than 30 minutes (by car) away from where I'm staying.

Fountain

If you think that you already have a pretty safe guess (you can't know the exact location yet), feel free to e-mail it to Horst via the mailto link at the bottom of this page. Please write from which hints you drew your conclusion.

See you tomorrow with the next hint!

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

Thank God there's Haldur. It's still the Month of Hell for me, and I barely have time for anything private, least of all blogging. If it weren't for Haldur and his quiz, these pages would have been totally void of content for the past few days. So if you're already bored by the quiz, consider the alternative.

Just one small thought for today: it's odd that no-one has so far pointed out the exquisite irony that all of today's best-selling cookbooks seem to be written by Brits. Who'd have thought that one day it'd be the English who'd teach the rest of the world how to cook. Fightening, isn't it?

On the plus side of today's news, the Nobel Peace Prize seems to have arrived in good hands. Better hands than the Pope's anyway, and I say that as a Catholic.

Posted by Horst at 02:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)


October 11, 2003

Haldur just sent a picture today, without any comment.

nice view

All hints can be found on the hints page, as usual.

Posted by Horst at 12:02 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)


October 12, 2003

local musicianIf I ever become an artist, I sure want to look like the guy on today's picture. He has that suffering artist's expression, the kind that Horst gets sometimes when it's a rainy day and the curry he ordered at the Indian restaurant is too mild. The man on the poster is a famous local musician, and I wanted to go to the concert that is announced here, only to find out that it was already one month ago. If only I understood this strange language!

More music by the man can be found on his official website.

If you think that you know my exact location (i.e. the name of the village), mail it to Horst via the mailto link at the bottom of this page. Please note that submissions must include an explanation of how you drew your conclusions from my hints. Starting today, every participant has only two guesses, so be careful what you write and be sure it's well researched.

By now there have been enough hints so that you can find out the name of the village. There will be two more hints, so if you're not entirely sure, you can wait some more.

The the list of all the hints is still there if you need further help.

Posted by Haldur Gislufsson at 12:09 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

Why is it that every time I feel bad I have the urge to sell all my books and CDs and take down my website? I mean, I can understand the part about taking down my website, but why would I want to get rid of my books and records?

Posted by Horst at 11:29 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)


October 13, 2003

Rented a car today and drove around this island. Boy, speeding along these narrow mountain roads sure is fun!! I never knew that a Fiat Panda could go this fast, but then what do you expect from a car that's rented from a company named after an Italian race course... and these people look at me as if they've never seen a moose drive a car. Odd.

landscape

If you think that you know my exact location (i.e. the name of the village), mail it to Horst via the mailto link at the bottom of this page. Please note that submissions must include an explanation of how you drew your conclusions from my hints. Between October 12th and October 17th, 23:59 hrs CET DST, every participant has only two guesses, so be careful what you write and be sure it's well researched.

By now there have been more than enough hints so that you can find out the name of the village. There will be one more hint, so if you're not entirely sure, you can wait one more day.

The the list of all the hints is still there if you need further help.

Posted by Haldur Gislufsson at 12:59 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)


October 15, 2003

Funny how none of the Austrian newspapers reported anything about this back in March: seventy years ago, on March 4, 1933, chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss shut down the Austrian parliament and began the Austro-Fascist dictatorship that was to last until the anschluss in 1938. Funny enough, today, the Wiener Zeitung has an excellent article on the beginning of Austro-Fascism. Why they are publishing it today is beyond me; I guess it's a good sign that they are publishing an article about it at all, even if its seven months late.

Posted by Horst at 10:38 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

A few people demanded one more hint. Well, I hope this clarifies a few things.

all hints in one picture

As usual, all hints are on the hints page.

If you know where I am, mail it to Horst, along with an explanation how you extracted this from my hints. The deadline for submissions is October 17th, 23:59 hrs CET DST.

Posted by Haldur Gislufsson at 11:07 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)


October 16, 2003

Just read in today's paper that the hostel for homeless men in Vienna's Meldemannstrasse will be closed later this month.

This is tough. Not because the homeless men will be without a home — a new, larger hostel will be opened in the neighbouring 21st district — but because it's like the end of an era, like an important part of Vienna will be gone forever.

The Meldemannstrasse hostel has been around for 97 years, and it's pretty well-known; it's not just synonymous with, but in fact a symbol of homelessness on one hand and Viennese seediness on the other. Nobody could risk to live in this street without being confronted with jokes about their address all the time.

And let's not forget that a young, homeless painter named Adolf Hitler lived in the Meldemannstrasse hostel from 1910 to 1913 while he was trying to gain admittance to the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts. Sadly, his paintings were so bad that he was not admitted and went into politics instead. George Tabori's play "Mein Kampf (farce)" about those years of Hitler's biography is also set in Meldemannstrasse.

An important part of Viennese history will be gone by November.

Posted by Horst at 10:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

49 percent of US troops in Iraq say their morale is low.
Electronic voting may mean the end of American democracy. [via Heli]
US tries very hard to get support from the Iraqi people. [via Craig]
US finally manages to render the UN irrelevant.
Official: 9/11 is the work of Satan, not bin Laden. [via Greengrl]

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


October 17, 2003

If you want to participate in Haldur's quiz, please remember that you have less than 24 hours left to send in your answer/guess. So far there has been only one correct answer, and two more autographed Haldur Gislufsson fan postcards are waiting for the lucky winners!

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

Shamelessly copied from the IFLA website, via Library Mistress:

  • When 60% of your book order is back-ordered, you can safely bet that 90% of the back-orders are out of print.
  • A "missing" encyclopedia will remain missing until the replacement you ordered is placed on the shelf.
  • When a teacher recommends a library book to a student, you can be certain that the teacher has checked out the only copy and has lent it to a friend in Peru.
  • If you have lost one issue of a magazine there will be 35 students who will require that issue.
  • If it's a good book, it's out of stock. If it's an excellent book, it's out of print.
  • No matter how many books you have on a subject the student always thinks they're all "too big".

More here...

Posted by Horst at 12:38 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)


October 18, 2003

I suppose Haldur's quiz was either too hard or nobody had the time for 20-30 minutes of research. At any rate, only one correct answer came in, but I do hope all the other people had some fun too.

Anyway, apart from the fact that this quiz came in really handy to fill my weblog with content at a time when I was much too busy to write proper content, one of the things it illustrates nicely is how the Internet empowers you to find out things like a person's location from a handful of obscure, seemingly unconnected pictures and remarks. Only ten years ago, this would not have been possible without a lot of effort and a lot of time. With the technical possibilities of today, finding out Haldur's location is possible in less than 20 minutes — that's a big step.

Well, without much further ado,

Hope you had fun. Haldur will return from Crete later today and congratulate the winner.

Posted by Horst at 12:04 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

For several weeks now, a couple of people have been working like crazy in our house, mostly drilling holes and breaking out bricks. A couple of months ago, we were told that they would be replacing the water pipes, but oddly enough they started by removing all sorts of electric wiring. At the moment it's quite unclear what they doing, but evidence seems to mount that at some point I might be finding myself in a house modeled after some version of Brazil. Just have a look at the evidence below, and you'll see what I mean.

Pipes

More pipes

This is rather disquieting, I tell you.

Posted by Horst at 11:14 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)


October 19, 2003

One year after the first famous Interview, Haldur Gislufsson (left), who has just returned from his holiday in Crete, is once again interviewing Yours Truly (right) about blogging, life, the universe, and everything.

Haldur interviews Horst

Haldur: Ah, you know, it's good to be back.
Horst: It's good to have you back. And you got quite a tan! You look great!

Haldur: Yes, Crete was lovely. And I hear we have one winner in our quiz...
Horst: Yes, only one, I'm afraid. The others probably didn't have the time to do the necessary research. Our winner is Nora, who is also one of our winners in the man-with-the-beard quiz. Congratulations!

Haldur: Congratulations, Nora!
Horst: Your autographed Haldur fan postcard will be in the mail soon!

Haldur: But now on to more serious matters...
Horst: Ah yes. Blogging.

Haldur: When we were talking last year, you had just entered the Top 100 Radio weblogs. These days you're not just in the Top 30 every day, you're also currently number 62 in the all-time Top 100. How does that feel?
Horst: Well, it sure boosts my ego. I'll have to drink much less of this stuff in the future...

Haldur: No, seriously...
Horst: It's a good thing and a bad thing. It feels good to have so many people — 500 and more — visiting my weblog every day. But that's also quite stressful. I feel like I'm more and more obliged to write clever stuff, and I just can't do that on a daily basis. And while I want to give a truthful, personal view of things, I don't really want to become, you know, public.

Haldur: You feel you're becoming public?
Horst: In my referrer logs, I see that there's a number of people who come to my site after searching for my name in Google. I find that disquieting. While I don't care what people who don't know me think about me, I do care what people who might meet me think about me. And I certainly feel these people should not read my weblog.

Haldur interviews Horst

Haldur: Now why is that?
Horst: Because when it comes to professional things, like my teaching or other occasional jobs that I do, I want to keep at a professional distance from my students or my customers. And I don't want them to have preconceptions. I guess I didn't think about that when I started to blog. Now I'm not just thinking about it, I'm beginning to worry about it.

Haldur: You did a relaunch of sorts in August. Did that have something to do with it?
Horst: Partly. Mostly, I was getting sick of all the stuff I was writing about. I wanted to publish more fictional stuff, more original stuff. I didn't want to be the umpteenth person to hand on yet another meme. And I was really getting fed up with writing about American politics, much as I felt it was necessary. I actually considered deleting the old archive, perhaps not even archive the new stuff. But I didn't do that.

Haldur: Why?
Horst: This is actually pretty embarrassing. Most of my hits are via Google search results to my archive. No more archive, no more hits. I'm a sucker for hits, apparently. I'm pretty ashamed of it.

Haldur: Well, I suppose it's hard to let go of 500 daily hits once you've got them.
Horst: It sure is.

Haldur: So did the relaunch work out as expected?
Horst: Well, sort of. I have certainly published more original stuff since then. But I didn't expect how exhausting that would be. You know, collecting ten links per day and commenting them, as I did before, takes up a lot of time, but not a lot of creative energy. Anybody with too much time on their hands can do it. But trying to write an original story day after day, that's an entirely different thing. It may take you only five minutes to write it, but you need to have an idea first. And ideas don't just appear like that, at least the good ones don't. Point is, I'm running out of ideas, either because I'm writing too often or because I have too much other work to do, so right now I'm at the point where I'm seriously considering either taking a lengthy break, or publishing much less frequently, or giving up the blog altogether.

Haldur: You want to stop blogging?
Horst: Yes. Very much so. At least temporarily. But it may turn out to be permanent.

Haldur: But... you can't do that!
Horst: Oh, I most certainly can. A huge number of blogs stopped during the past year. Remember Susannah Breslin? She was totally famous last year, I even cracked a joke about her not being a woman, and now she's disappeared without so much as a trace.

Haldur interviews Horst

Haldur: But... you're not...
Horst: I'm losing interest. I'm reading fewer and fewer other weblogs, and I'm doing it less and less often. I feel that many other bloggers have very little to say, and, sadly, I noticed that so do I. Blog content is becoming more and more repetitive, as many people are only repeating what others are already saying. If I find WorldWideKlein's list of tragic computer deaths funny, does that mean I have to publish it on my blog, or isn't it sufficient if it's just on his site? Actually, I think the blogosphere is a more interesting place if it's just on his site and I write about other things.
The other thing is that I'm becoming more critical, and I'm getting the feeling that my weblog is beginning to suffer from the cat urine syndrome — it's becoming more banal. For example, I have this half-finished story about extra-hot ketchup, and I was almost going to publish it when I thought, "hey, wait a moment — who in their right minds would be seriously interested in a story about extra-hot ketchup?" This has been happening a lot lately. I want my writing to be interesting, and I doubt whether it can remain that way.

Haldur: And the reason for your doubts is...?
Horst: I said last year I would stop blogging "as soon as I feel I've run out of ideas or as soon as I feel obliged to do it rather than wanting to do it". Those were my words. And right now I'm running out of ideas, I'm publishing weak stuff because I feel obliged to publish something, and I'm losing interest in the whole concept.

Haldur: There are people, you know, who find your present stuff more interesting than what you wrote up until August.
Horst: Yes, I know. And that makes it even more difficult to continue. Because it's these people who expect (and deserve) quality, and I feel less and less able to deliver that quality.

Haldur: So... you're going to stop blogging now, just like that?
Horst: I don't know. Probably not. I have this problem letting go of things. I might blog on for a while, but I think I'll let go eventually... as it happens, there are a few other things in my life at the moment that I should probably just let go of. I'm spending a lot of time thinking about that sort of thing lately. In more than one way, I think it's time to move on.

Haldur: Um... you haven't talked about life, the universe and everything yet...
Horst: Oh, that's easy. Just step outside on a clear night with someone you love, and have a look at the stars together. If you are lucky, if there are at least 42 stars visible, and if you love each other, then you will realize what it's all about, and you'll be surprised by the simplicity of it.

Haldur: You know, this is actually a piece of old moose wisdom.
Horst: I'm not surprised. After all, you folks have been around much longer than us humans.

Haldur: Still, um, how do we continue blog-wise?
Horst: We'll see. I think we'll continue by stopping this interview and just see what will happen next.

Haldur: And if nothing happens?
Horst: I'm afraid that's the risk we'll have to take.

Haldur interviews Horst

Posted by Haldur Gislufsson at 11:57 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack (1)


October 22, 2003

I can't believe it — some online spammers seem to have taken over the old URL of the official 'The Fall' website, so instead of music info and M. E. Smith anecdotes you're now being asked if you think your penis is long enough.

Thankfully, the official Fall website does still exist — now at http://www.visi.com/fall/. And the long awaited new Fall album is finally out next Monday! Yesss!

Posted by Richard Ellenson at 12:09 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

I'd like to welcome Richard Ellenson aboard this blog as a new temporary guestblogger. Richard will write the occasional article now and again and may also publish some of his fiction here. As The Aardvark Speaks now has three authors — Richard, Haldur and myself —, the RSS feed now includes an <author> tag for each entry so that your RSS news aggregator will show who wrote what (if it supports this feature).

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

You'll never guess on which site I just found The Aardvark Speaks listed alongside William Gibson and Jason Kottke. I'm seriously flattered. Thanks, Mark!

Posted by Horst at 11:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)


October 23, 2003

Austria's biggest daily newspaper is waging a veritable war against the European Union after a local shop owner was sued for selling a jar of Marmelade made from apricots. The problem was that EU regulations state that the German term Marmelade must not be used for products made from anything other than citrus fruit, similar to "marmalade" in English. Everything else must be called Konfitüre (jam).

The problem is that the word Konfitüre does not exist in spoken Austrian German at all; only Marmelade is used for that kind of thing, no matter what it's made of. And while the Greek and Danish governments were granted exceptions from the EU naming directive, Austrian politicians were apparently too busy with other things and forgot about this, so that Austrian customers are now force-fed German German whenever they go shopping for groceries.

After the newspaper had anti-Konfitüre headlines for a few days straight, now the Austrian Federal President, the Foreign Minister, and Austria's EU commissioner have all promised to intervene.

In the meantime, state pensions are cut, the railways are fragmented into bankruptcy, profitable state industries are sold off at low prices, the supreme court has annulled several recently passed laws because they violated the constitution, and the finance minister, who has been accused of tax evasion and who has not declared his rather impressive stock portfolio, does not feel this is a reason to resign, nor will he face prosecution.

Thank God the government cares about the things that are really important: the president has said that preserving our national identity is of vital importance to him, so we will be getting our Marmelade jars back.

Posted by Richard Ellenson at 11:53 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

We, the signatories of this blogging manfesto, herewith promise

  • that we will be blogging to the best of our abilities, adhering to the Weblog Ethics as outlined by Rebecca Blood whenever possible;

  • that the weblog will not contain superficial action;

  • that we will rather shut up and not write anything than write things that we deem common knowledge, banal, inconsequential, boring, too widely blogged or for any other reason not worthy of our attention;

  • that there will always be original content in our postings, even if we are publishing links or quoting other articles;

  • that we will continue to fling sarcasm, satire and irony at those who deserve it;

  • that we will write on location, with no sound effects, no artificial lighting, no props and sets other than those already present, and with a computer that is hand-held;

  • that we will not blog using a computer which is running operating system software by Microsoft Corp.;

  • that we will never publish the following content on this weblog:

    • Cat pictures
    • Dog pictures
    • Celebrity pictures
    • The Friday Five
    • Song lyrics
    • Military secrets
    • Tomato soup
    • Eminem
    • Full frontal nudity
    • Penis enlargement tips
  • that we are doing this for the fun of it and only when (and if) we derive fun from it.

If changes to this manifesto become necessary, an agreement must be reached by the current editorial board and the corrected manifesto be re-published on the weblog.

Signed 23/10/2003,
H. Prillinger, H. Gislufsson, R. Ellenson

Note: Guestbloggers who wish to join the editorial board are required to sign and abide by this manifesto.

Posted by Horst at 01:07 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack (1)

Four years ago they abolished spring; since then it's like temperatures are rising from 5°C to 25°C more or less over night on some day in March. This year, they have also abolished autumn. The first snow is falling in Vienna right now, and it's not even November yet.

Posted by Horst at 09:48 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)


October 24, 2003

tomato soup

Thank God we eliminated this from the list of unbloggable items in time. More over at The Aardvark Cooks.

More recipes coming to at The Aardvark Cooks later today: Moong Dhal and Potato & pumpkin curry.

Posted by Horst at 08:52 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

In the UK, railway infrastructure company Network Rail

formally announced today that it was taking charge of maintenance work itself in the biggest shake-up of the railways since they were privatised. [...] "We've decided that the most efficient way to do the maintenance is to bring it in-house," said the Network Rail chairman, Ian McAllister. [The Guardian]

While the British are collecting the shards of their former railway and slowly piecing them together again, the Austrian government is preparing to split the Austrian railways into a number of smaller companies, even though examples from several other countries have shown that this is the direct road to disaster.

Just shows that the whole thing is not about efficiency, but about short-term profits, and they are playing this game with the citizens' property. This is so disgusting. And if all the union has to offer is anti-government e-cards, it's pretty pathetic.

Posted by Richard Ellenson at 06:33 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)


October 25, 2003

The most surprising thing about the reactions to Haldur's interview with me last Sunday was not how many people wrote urging me to continue writing or how many wrote urging me to ignore those who are urging me to continue writing, but rather how many bloggers wrote telling me that they were feeling very similarly about their own weblogs.

There seems to be a growing dissatisfaction with the weblogs that we read and write, and I fear it is this dissatisfaction that is both the cause and the effect of the fact that some of us are losing interest in reading and writing weblogs. Could it be that personal weblogs may be reaching a dead end, a saturation point where the latest meme or the umpteenth repetition of some news item is no longer sufficient to keep us going?

I think many of us are currently searching for a sense of purpose, i.e. what we want from our writing. It started out as fun, but now we want more, and the point is, no weblog can survive without a sense of purpose. No matter whether you are dead serious or pretty relaxed about blogging, in the end you write because you have a reason to write. If you lose that reason, you lose, essentially, the weblog.

An article on ORF has recently likened weblogs to Karl Kraus' Die Fackel, and hundreds of webloggers blogged about it. I wonder how many of them have actually read Die Fackel. Apart from parallels in content or publication mode, what makes Die Fackel so compelling is that it had something that I miss very much in many weblogs: highly original content, a totally unmistakeable voice, and the most ardent sense of purpose imaginable.

Posted by Horst at 12:45 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

Being assembled

Not here yet. Grumble. How much assembly does an operating system require?

Posted by Horst at 04:31 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (1)


October 26, 2003

Horst has been kind of nervous lately. He seems to be anxiously waiting for some panther, or at least that's what he's mumbling about most of the time. Now according to my encyclopedia, a panther is just what I thought it was, "a black-colored variation of a species of big cat", which can be either a black leopard, jaguar, or puma.

Now I'm not sure what to make of this. I certainly don't like the prospect of living with a leopard, jaguar or puma. And why on earth would Horst want a big black cat? Does he want to start a Siegfried & Roy kind of routine, only with a black panther instead of a white tiger? Besides, we all know how that ended, don't we. And I'm sure that panthers eat moose if they're hungry. Given how often Horst forgets to water his plants, I don't like this. I don't like this at all.

Posted by Haldur Gislufsson at 08:47 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)


October 27, 2003

Why on earth did Apple move the system-wide Internet settings from the System Preferences app into Safari? This is not only illogical, it's also one of the worst examples of copying bad ideas from Windows. Yuk.

Posted by Horst at 12:27 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

I was going to write a lengthy rant about how we are inundated by advertisements from early morning to late night every day as if the sole purpose of our measly lives was to constantly buy things, and I was going to write that surely, these days it was worse than ever before. Then I found this picture of a London underground station, circa 1920 (click to enlarge):

London underground station with advertisements

So things don't seem to have changed all that much, it seems; the noise-to-signal ratio of advertisements vs. actual information in this station of 1920 is just about as bad as that of spam vs. genuine e-mail in 2003 (and much higher than in present-day underground stations). Or can you easily spot the name of this station?

And I still don't get it why it should be good for me to spend money that I don't have on things that I neither want nor need. It's not religion that is opium for the masses, it's consumerism. The happiness gained from the average consumer product is pretty hollow and temporary; but you notice that only if you lose one of the things (usually people) that really made you happy.

Posted by Horst at 01:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

You can now buy peace® at selected shops in Vienna for only €1.

Peace - out now!

The whole thing is an initiative by the art collective Alltag, who have gone so far as to place a giant peace® box on Vienna's Siebensternplatz.

Posted by Richard Ellenson at 01:37 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)


October 28, 2003

Being assembledJack Miller has an explanation why, unlike many other people, I still have not received my Panther update:

In their previous lives, Guy A [who has already received his copy of Panther] obviously spent most of his time donating food and clothing to orphanages, whereas Guy B [who hasn't] invented telemarketing. Karma takes care of the rest. [AtAT]

It's pretty tough having to suffer for crimes in past lives, but the realisation that I might be responsible for something as vile as telemarketing is even tougher. Ouch.

Posted by Horst at 10:46 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (1)

This entry is actually three days late, as it harks back to the Austrian National holiday, which was last Sunday. On that day, the chancellor and the federal president both held speeches. And they turned out to be quite interesting.

The chancellor said we needed an "Austrian spirit" and that a "reform" (which these days is no more than a euphemism for "reduction") of social services had to take place at all costs. The president countered that "sustainable policy cannot be made without consultation of, or against the will of the population". Whereupon the chancellor replied that "you cannot call somebody who won 43% of the votes in last year's election heartless." [1] [2]

One interesting thing is the term "Austrian spirit", which, I suppose, includes tax evasion, undeclared stock portfolios, not taking laws too seriously and seeing to it that clueless friends get ahead and qualified critics don't. (N.B.: I am not talking about recent allegations against the government, which, for all I know, are completely unfounded; I am talking about the current "Austrian spirit" as reflected by recent newspaper headlines.)

What doesn't make much sense is the chancellor's statement that no government leader that was elected by 43% can be called heartless. Unless, of course, you read "can" as "may", which would then cater for those government leaders who won significantly more than 43% of the votes and whom history considers very heartless indeed.

Anyway, as the chancellor's party has just announced that they are preparing a motion to seriously curtail the president's rights, we won't have debates like this in the future anyway.

Posted by Richard Ellenson at 04:51 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)


October 29, 2003

You may be aware of the fact that I like hot and spicy food. One of my problems is that I live in a country where the majority of people don't like hot and spicy food. The blander the better is the rule, and unfortunately this is having its effects even on Indian restaurants, where, with only two or three exceptions, you simply can't get a decent hot curry.

An Indian restaurant owner recently almost apologized to me for his lunch buffet, which, he said, is made according to the lowest common denominator. If I wanted hotter and spicier, I should always say so in advance. But what should I say? If I order my curry "very hot", I usually get a mild curry. If I order it "very, very hot", I get a slightly hot curry. If I order it "really very very hot", I feel profoundly silly.

I suppose it's what you have to expect when every time you sit in an Indian restaurant here in Vienna, you overhear that other people's orders always seem to contain the words "it's not hot, is it?". I mean, what do these people want? It's Indian food for Pete's sake, so it's supposed to be hot. As a friend of mine rightly commented, why do these people go to Indian restaurants when they don't want to eat spicy food? It's like going to the Schnitzelwirt and complaining that they only have schnitzels.

Currently, presumably to participate in the Halloween business, supermarkets are selling "Hellfire Ketchup", which is supposed to be "extra hot". Mind you, any "mild tomato and chili sauce" from the Asian food shop around the corner is hotter than "Hellfire Ketchup".

The epitome of just how not hot Austrians want their food is an order I recently overheard in a local Japanese restaurant: "I'd like the chili salmon please, but not hot." Uh-huh. Chili salmon, not hot. And it was said so naturally that it was obvious that the speaker was neither aware of the paradox nor of the oxymoron. I guess in a few years somewhere someone will be growing genetically modified chilies that are not hot, exclusively for the Austrian market.

Posted by Horst at 07:43 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack (1)


October 30, 2003

Being assembledEven though I am quite sure you're not really interested in this, I just thought I'd keep you informed about the current state of my karma.

Not that I think this would accomplish anything.

And to update you on the state of my "no quibbles" quibble with Amazon.co.uk, this matter is apparently also still being assembled. I have now written them an e-mail that I am no longer willing to correspond with the customer services department and have asked that they send me a contact e-mail address of some member of the management. Let's see if this gets me my £20 back.

Posted by Horst at 07:37 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (1)

A new chapter has been written in the Book of Famous Austrian Exports to the US of A: first we exported Arnold Schwarzenegger, now we are exporting disposable toilet brushes. Schwarzenegger is available at a cinema near you, the toilet brushes can be bought at any WalMart.

Less luck for American imports: the mayor of the small Austrian town of Wolfurt has passed a decree against Halloween: because Halloween is "absolutely not a local custom" and has "developed into a downright nuisance", families have been warned that any tricks played by trick-or-treaters will be reported to the police and that parents or children may face criminal charges or have to pay damages for any harm done.

Posted by Richard Ellenson at 01:01 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)


October 31, 2003

From late September to late March there are myriads of hot chestnut (Maroni) stands all over Vienna, which usually sell hot chestnuts and hot potatoes. However, between last March and this October, a curious change seems to have taken place.

Up to March, the typical order for hot potatoes at one of these stands was:

"Einmal Kartoffel bitte."

This season, however, the typical hot potato order seems to be:

"Einmal Wetsches bitte."

Never mind that about ten years ago, it was:

"Einmal Erdäpfel bitte."

We are being assimilated.

Posted by Horst at 12:50 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

Not just the mayor of Wolfurt (see yesterday's entry) is criticising Halloween. New criticism comes from the Vienna Archdiocese, where Cardinal Schönborn's press speaker says that this "holiday" is not holy at all, but purely about business (interestingly, his own website contradicts him on this). Anyway, there will be a special mass with the motto "Holy saints instead of hollow heads" at 8pm in St Stephen's Cathedral tonight.

Meanwhile, Jacqueline Godany is threatening to throw pumpkins at anyone who so much as mentions Halloween in her presence. Nice.

Posted by Richard Ellenson at 01:12 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Work has been highly inspiring lately, so here are six haikus that I wrote:

shushing sound is heard —
librarian in action
mobile phone silenced

reading room — no food,
and drinks aren't allowed either
— please don't feed the books.

dream of mis-shelved books
carrying them to and fro
— library nightmare

overdue item —
hidden somewhere, unknown place —
lonely, suffering

this book is on loan
it's not in the library
it's really not here

pages turned slowly
reader leaves subtle traces
— history will tell

If you want to hear more, I'll be reading some of my stuff at the Café Kafka in Capistrangasse 8 in Vienna's 6th district on Friday, November 7th, 8:30pm as part of the monthly Labyrinth poetry open mic.

Posted by Horst at 02:15 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)



© Copyright 2002-2003 Horst Prillinger, 

Most of the stuff on this page is fiction. Everything else is my private opinion. Please read the disclaimer.

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