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

December 2003 Archive

December 02, 2003

When I met Andy and Zoe recently, both were in a kind of strange mood that had apparently been caused by having to deal with a delegation of North Koreans for a prolonged period of time. To entertain them, I promised to post a North Korea quiz that I had found in one of the summer supplements of Libération. Here it is:

  1. What is the name that propaganda usually calls the "Great Leader" Kim Il-sung?
    (a) The Sun. (b) The Brain. (c) The Organs.

  2. How does propaganda refer to the "Dear Leader" Kim Jong-il?
    (a) The Sun of the 21st Century. (b) The Revolutionary Spirit. (c) The Purple Thought.

  3. According to propaganda, what event took place during the birth of Kim Jong-il?
    (a) A rainbow appeared. (b) A shooting star moved across the sky. (c) Three wise men came to Wonsan.

  4. What is Kim Jong-il's favourite movie?
    (a) Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. (b) Psycho. (c) Friday the 13th.

  5. And his favourite actress?
    (a) Sophia Loren. (b) Elizabeth Taylor. (c) His wife.

  6. Kim Il-sung was born on the same day as...
    (a) the shipwreck of the Titanic. (b) Jacques Chirac. (c) Peter Sellers.

  7. Which of the following did Kim Jong-il have kidnapped and/or arrested?
    (a) Passers-by on a Japanese beach. (b) A South Korean film director. (c) A member of the French Communist Party.

  8. How many statues of Kim Il-sung are there in North Korea?
    (a) 350. (b) 3,500. (c) 35,000.

  9. In 2002, Kim Jong-il's son Kim Jong-nam was arrested by Japanese police because he was using a counterfeit Japanese passport. What did he want to do with it?
    (a) Visit Disneyland Tokyo. (b) Buy computers in the Akihabara district. (c) Visit his mistress in Kyoto.

  10. Who (jokingly) called Philippe Séguin the "Kim Il-jong of the Vosges"?
    (a) Xavière Tiberi. (b) Gérard Depardieu. (c) Jean Tiberi.
    (See comments below for an explanation of who these people are.)

  11. The presents given to Kim Il-sung by foreign dignitaries are stored in a giant wooden house in the Korean mountains. How many of them are there?
    (a) 344. (b) 34,444. (c) 211,688.

  12. In 1987, who offered Kim Il-sung a machine gun and a rifle with a bayonet for his birthday?
    (a) Stalin. (b) Polish president Wojciech Yaruzelski. (c) Mao Tse Tung.

  13. The North Korean calendar counts the years starting with 1911. Why?
    (a) To pay homage to the Chinese revolution of Sun Yat-sen. (b) It is the birthyear of Kim Il-sung's brother. (c) It is the year in which Kim Il-sung was fathered.

  14. "Golden rice field", "Red star", "Triumphant return", "Foundation of the state". These are...
    (a) names of metro stations in Pyongyang. (b) names of North Korean army regiments. (c) brand names of North Korean-produced lorries.

  15. Which French personality allowed the construction (which never took place) of a rocket-shaped 3000-bedroom hotel in Pyongyang?
    (a) President François Mitterand. (b) The financier Roger-Patrice Pelat. (c) Communist Party leader Georges Marchais.

  16. What is the official name of North Korea's state ideology?
    (a) Kimism. (b) Koryoism. (c) The high seat.

  17. The Korean language is most closely related to...
    (a) Japanese. (b) Chinese. (c) Turkish.

Quiz by Philippe Grangereau

Feel free to post your answers guesses in the comments. I will publish the correct answers in a few days.

Posted by Horst at 11:57 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

December 03, 2003

1. What I truly hate about Apple products is their Wannahave Factor. I always thought the iPod was just another of these gimmicks that I didn't really need. Until I saw one on display at the Fnac in Brussels on Monday and touched it. I still don't need it, but now I want to have one. Arrgh!

2. So I met the famous Cartoonist, Quickos, Zoe, Quarsan and a guy called Rocky in Brussels on Monday. The Carbonade flamande was good, but Quickos wasn't too talkative that evening and decided not to travel to Vienna with me to visit Haldur. I didn't bring my camera, but Ralf and Andy did. So where are the pictures??

3. Note to self: just because transporting 10 bottles of Belgian beer in your travel bag worked fine four times doesn't mean it will work a fifth time. Hopefully, the fact that my travel bag and assorted items of clothing now smell like an English pub on an early Sunday morning will teach me a lesson: next time put it in the hand luggage, stupid! (For the record: 5 bottles survived, but I think I can't smell the stuff for a while.)

Posted by Horst at 01:07 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

They say that the villain always comes back to the scene of the crime, so in an attempt to solve the moose sausage mystery, I borrowed Horst's camera and hid it very cleverly in the kitchen, rigging it in such a way that it would go off whenever somebody opened the refrigerator. After only two nights of waiting the camera came up with some very interesting pictures last night. They're not too conclusive, but I have the feeling that they might turn out to be useful. Have a look...

Picture 1

Picture 2

Picture 3

Okay, so either all of these folks got peckish that night, or there is some other significance to their apperance. If I only knew what to make of this...

Posted by Haldur Gislufsson at 10:06 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

December 05, 2003

I suppose you can now call Donald Rumsfeld one of the most successful politicians, for he was awarded no less than two prizes last week: first, the Plain English Campaign gave him the Foot In Mouth Award for using not very plain English when talking about "unknown unknowns". And only a few days later, the newspaper European Voice gave him the Non-EU Citizen of the Year Award for his statement about "Old Europe".

The man's rhetoric is apparently so inspiring that somebody's even come up with a Talking Rumsfeld Action Figure [thx Quarsan]. Oh, to be famous!

Posted by Richard Ellenson at 08:22 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Horst sends his apologies for not posting anything, but the poor guy did not only break five bottles of Belgian beer, he also caught a nasty bug in Belgium that upset his digestive system in such a way that he's now spending considerably more time on the toilet than in front of the computer. He's also whining a lot because apparently his stomach hurts in a major way. Poor guy. And this has been going on since Wednesday. Poor me.

Anyway, back to the moose sausage mystery. I had another look at the pictures, and I wonder if you people spotted the same thing on one of the photos that I spotted. This is most interesting.

A new clue to the mystery - is this a purple elk snout?

Is this what I think it is? I mean, this looks a lot like the nose of a certain purple guy whom we all know and who has been conspicuously silent lately... Is it him? And if yes, what was he doing there?

Posted by Haldur Gislufsson at 02:39 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

December 07, 2003

From the alienation effect created by the bare theatrical setting and the odd voice-over to the didactic message, Lars Von Trier's new movie Dogville has Bertolt Brecht written all over it, and just as Brecht does, Von Trier explores human nature and human exploitation from an odd analytic distance: his Dogville is no more in the USA than Brecht's Good Person of Szechwan is set in the real China or Saint Joan of the Stockyards in the real Chicago. Rather they are all just examples of universal characters that can be found in any place.

Von Trier's moral inquiry goes one step further than Brecht (whose protagonists typically fail), when he provides a cathartic ending that somehow feels good even though it is totally inappropriate in moral terms; and immediately before it, two characters discuss the concept of arrogance, in which they apply it to totally opposite characters, and yet both are right. Even if it's true that the villagers' best was not enough, who is Grace to decide this? Once she is in a position of power, is she not just as bad as the villagers - or perhaps even worse?

What is the story about anyway? Is it about a poor fugitive who is taken advantage of in the worst possible ways and who then takes bitter revenge, or is is about a group of poor villagers who are taking revenge on a rich girl, only to be beaten back into submission?

And the pictures of poor American farmers from the 1930s juxtaposed with American homeless of the 1990s during the end credits - are they meant as criticism or excuse?

If anything, the fact that the philosopher character, who claims he can see through everybody, is the most clueless person in the film should give you a clue that there are no answers in this movie, only questions, and as soon as you think you have an answer, you notice that you have been deceived.

In the end it all falls back to the question of arrogance that is discussed at the climax of the movie - but who exactly is it that's arrogant? Is it Grace, the gangster boss, the villagers, or is it you, the viewer?

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

I am sorry to say that Horst is still ill; his stomach is slightly better, but now he has a full-blown cold and a voice like Lurch of Addams Family fame (his "You rang?" impression is, well, impressive).

Anyway, since no new guesses for the Korean trivia quiz have come in lately, he asked me to post the correct answers. So click here and scroll down to the end of the comments to find out if you guessed right.

Posted by Haldur Gislufsson at 09:34 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

December 08, 2003

The 8th of December is a public holiday in Austria. It's the Catholic holiday of the Immaculate Conception (Anna's conception of Mary, by the way, not Mary's conception of Jesus), and up until a few years ago this meant that all shops were closed, and only a few people (like doctors, railwaymen or firemen) had to work.

As Christmas is only 16 days away, soon shop owners began to complain about the millions of money lost on that day because people couldn't do any shopping. They claimed that everybody would travel to neighbouring countries and spend all their money there (which is as ridiculous as it sounds, but, being a large lobby, they repeated it so often that finally people believed them).

A few years ago, they finally managed to change the law that regulates shop opening hours, which in Austria equals working hours for shop employees. As a result shops could open on December 8th, so that everybody can go shopping now to their heart's delight (well, that is except the people who have to work in the shops, of course).

Every year, a couple of Austrian industrialist lobbyists keep saying that Austria has too many public holidays and that some of them will have to be abolished. They are never talking about the 8th of December though, and the reason is obvious: it's already been dealt with. A few have to work so that many can spend money. If they abolish this holiday, everybody will have to work, meaning that nobody can go shopping any more. It only works because a two-class society has been created in which some are forced to work, while some are free to do what they like.

This is the principle of our consumerist society: Profit through exploitation. A minority has to work to make the majority spend their money which flows to the people who came up with this clever scheme. Equality is bad for business. Greed is good. Make your fellow man work hard so you can shove your money up a capitalist's arse as fast as possible.

Now think on a global scale: The example of December 8th in Austria is only a small-scale model of what global corporations are doing to developing countries so that money keeps flowing in the rest of the world. Profit through exploitation. Keep the poor poor to make the rich richer.

It is a truly disgusting spectacle.

Posted by Richard Ellenson at 10:20 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (1)

December 09, 2003

Who says all weird news originates in the USA? When a Viennese couple had a fight yesterday and the man left the house to end it, his wife opened a window on the second* floor of the house, shouted "you forgot something" and hurled his dog at him. The poor pooch had to be operated, but is well.

*) Note: This is British English. US readers read "third floor". The dog fell down two storeys.

Posted by The Duck at 09:16 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Let me just say here that I think six days of painful cramps in the stomach (especially at night) and five days of diarrhea are more than enough. Could this infection stop now? Please?

Plus, many thanks to Richard, The Duck and Haldur for keeping this weblog going while I'm suffering.

Posted by Horst at 02:54 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)

December 11, 2003

It seems my stomach is very slowly (very slowly) getting better, but I now have a middle ear inflammation. I reckon this is a major bug conspiracy against me. I have so enough of this.

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

December 12, 2003

1. Apparently I am ill because it's not cold enough outside. Sounds like a paradoxon?

It's true — according to some health program on cable TV (watching these things is, sadly, a side-effect of being sick) you're much less likely to catch a cold when it's really cold, i.e. below 0°C, whereas bugs really thrive, spread and multiply under the present conditions, i.e. between 5 and 10°C and really really humid.

2. S. recently said that she's not surprised everyone in the streets is coughing and sneezing, because all the supermarkets are full of oranges and other citrus fruit, and people are buying them like mad. Sounds like a paradoxon?

Well, according to traditional Chinese medicine there are few things that are worse for your health than eating citrus fruit when it's cold outside. That's because citrus fruit have an extreme cooling effect on the body, which is what you'd want least when you're already freezing. So while you may be ingesting Vitamin C, which might in other circumstances help you fight colds, the cooling effect will actually weaken your immune system and make you more likely to catch a cold.

Posted by Horst at 04:05 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

December 13, 2003


So the latest news from Iraq is that not only are the USA keeping over 10,000 Iraqi prisoners (and one US officer admitted mistreating them), they are also shutting out countries that opposed the war from rebuilding contracts — contracts, by the way, which have gone to companies like Halliburton, which currently stands accused of overcharging the US government by as much as $120 million.

None of this should come as a surprise. One would expect an administration that is running a Gulag like Guantanamo to set up similar facilities in Iraq; actually, given the current rate of attacks against US forces it would be strange if they did not arrest anyone who's only mildly suspicious. And as for treating prisoners, just as in Guantanamo, the Geneva convention does not necessarily apply here either.

Given how some countries were coerced into joining the "coalition" with economic threats, and given the authoritarian self-understanding of the neocons, who will punish misbehaving children like good parents are supposed to, the decision to shut out anti-war (equals anti-American) countries seems only consequent.

Besides, it's good for the economy. Every contract awarded to a US company shows up on the American GDP, which is in such bad shape that it needs some boosting. Even the $120 million charged too much by Halliburton boost the US GDP by $120 million. So it can't be bad for the American economy, right?

Posted by Horst at 07:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Haldur with a huge Manner pack

Haldur Gislufsson moved in with me almost exactly 4 years ago (on December 6th, 1999, to be precise). As Haldur loves Manner wafers, I celebrated the occasion and gave him a giant pack of wafers — it looks exactly like the normal wafer packs, but it's much, much larger (the equivalent of 18 regular packs, to be precise). Quite a treat. Now I imagine there'll be wafer crumbs all over the flat for the next few days...

Posted by Horst at 09:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The Austrian Verein zur Förderung freier Software has issued a form (pdf file) which Austrian customers can use to make sure they can bring any audio CDs that don't play on their CD player because of copy protection back to their dealer and have their money refunded.

Theoretically, it's a good idea. I'm just wondering how many dealers will actually be willing to sign this form. And I also wonder how many of them will be impressed by the numerous typos and spelling mistakes on the form.

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

December 14, 2003

Haldur and Manner wafers

This is so nice! To celebrate my 4th anniversary of moving in with Horst, he gave me a giant pack of Manner wafers. Yum yum yum! He already posted a photo of me and the wafers yesterday, but to demonstrate just how huge this pack actually is, I thought I'd take this picture, where you can see a regular pack on the left and my giant pack on the right. And-- hey, what is Hans doing behind my wafer pack?!?

Posted by Haldur Gislufsson at 11:06 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

The bad thing about my middle ear inflammation is not the fact that my hearing is currently mostly monaural; it's the fact that, surprisingly, a blocked ear feels pretty much like a blocked nose (except that I can breathe normally) and even causes the same kind of headache. Probably explains why ear and nose illnesses are dealt with by the same doctor.

Posted by Horst at 06:01 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Saddam Hussein capturedIs this man:

Anyway, just about everybody is delighted. Let's see if this capture has an effect on the rate at which US soldiers are killed in Iraq.

Posted by Horst at 09:00 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

December 16, 2003

On this day last year, I had a lot of links to number radio stations and bemoaned the possible impending death of Radio Austria International (ROI), the official Austrian shortwave radio station. The number stations are still broadcasting, but ROI is now dead. In its place, you can now listen to Radio Ö1, a domestic programme, via an Internet stream, but only if you're dumb enough to have Windows Media Player installed.

Also on this weblog last year: This Is Finland. Still a good laugh.

Posted by Horst at 01:15 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Hans carrying away Haldur's Manner box

I had suspected Hans was up to something when I saw him hiding behind my box of wafers on Sunday. So I kept a close eye on him, and voilà, I caught him trying to steal my wafers! He's most certainly a ruthless villain! Now I'm pretty convinced he is also behind the moose sausage scheme, and I will most certainly interrogate him later today, as soon as his lawyer is here.

Posted by Haldur Gislufsson at 01:29 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

December 18, 2003

If horoscopes from illustrated magazines can be trusted, 2004 is going to be an interesting year for me. At least that's what I deduct from the Bunte Love Horoscope for 2004, which I read today while waiting for my turn at the Ear, Nose & Throat doctor. The horoscope promised me lots of love adventures as Taurus, Cancer and Capricorn women seem to be pursuing me like crazy next year. I could have no less than four passionate love affairs — quite a radical change from the status quo. Perhaps even more promising is the prediction that I will "indulge in bizarre fantasies" [sic!] with a Taurus woman in January and/or February. Whew. Looks like a busy year. Let's see how it turns out.

Posted by Horst at 11:52 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

December 19, 2003

So I had everything set up — Hans was there, his lawyer was there, and everything seemed to be quite clear. I asked Hans about the stolen wafers and the moose sausage, and despite the fact that I had caught him red-handed with my wafers, he claimed that he couldn't remember a thing, and he just found himself with my wafers on his back like he was awaking from some trance. Then he suddenly got all sleepy and promptly started hibernating, right there on the table:

Bjørn-Hugo and Haldur, Hans hibernating on the table

So what is wrong with Hans — does he have a split personality, or is he the victim of some terrible conspiracy? Is he possibly under someone's hypnotic control? I fear we won't find out until spring...

Posted by Haldur Gislufsson at 09:44 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Via Annie's blog I found the web site of the Tiroler Hut, an Austrian restaurant in London, which looks somewhat like a bizarre fantasy to me, but not the kind I'd like to indulge in with a Taurus woman.

The most astounding fact about this place — apart from the great photographs — is, I guess, the menu, which has a remarkably low number of typical Tyrolean dishes on it (one, to be precise). Interestingly, I'm a regular visitor of Khan's, which is practically next door, and it'd be interesting to know if Indian nationals would rant about the authenticity of Khan's as much as I would about the Tiroler Hut. It doesn't seem even half as bizarre, though.

Posted by Horst at 10:15 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Was Madeleine Albright joking or not? And can we still talk about "conspiracy theories" when we are faced with a president who has been lying and misleading everybody so consistently that he has lost all credibility? There's no "conspiracy" about total lack of trust.

Posted by Horst at 10:20 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (2)

Received an e-mail today: "Good news — there are signs that Vienna University Library might after all be allowed to keep its name and keep calling itself 'Vienna University Library'."

Yep, they are thinking about the dissolution of the library as an organisational unit. Just a small example to illustrate how far the current restructuring of Vienna University is going.

Posted by Horst at 10:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

December 20, 2003

Elk gameThrowing snowballs at mooses is a mean thing to do, even if you do it under the pretext of keeping them fit that way. Still, some of you humans may enjoy doing this sort of thing (requires Flash). Which just proves that you're heartless creatures. [thx vowe]

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

December 22, 2003

Somebody has asked me why I usually wish people "Schöne Weihnachten" instead of "Frohe Weihnachten", like everybody else. I'm told this says something about me. Only I don't know what. Probably I'm just not a merry person, or I believe that you can have a great Christmas without all that merriment. Or whatever.

Posted by Horst at 10:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

As I haven't had one of these personality quizzes in a long time, I thought it's time for What Muppet are you? [thx nico]. My result:

You are Kermit the Frog. You are reliable, responsible and caring. And you have a habit of waving your arms about maniacally.
FAVORITE EXPRESSIONS: "Hi ho!" "Yaaay!" and "Sheesh!"
FAVORITE MOVIE: "How Green Was My Mother"
LAST BOOK READ: "Surfin' the Webfoot: A Frog's Guide to the Internet"
HOBBIES: Sitting in the swamp playing banjo.
QUOTE: "Hmm, my banjo is wet."

I so recognize myself.

Posted by Horst at 11:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

December 23, 2003

Here you can find a list of all current RSS/XML feeds for The Aardvark Speaks. RSS feeds allow you to subscribe to everything publish on this site so that you don't have to visit the page in order to find out what's new.

RSS 2.0 Full Posts
If in doubt, use this feed. This is the most standardized format, and you'll get the full content of each posting. N.B.: Images are only shown if your newsreader supports xml:base, otherwise you'll just see blank spaces.

RDF (RSS 1.0) Excerpts
If your newsreader doesn't like RSS 2.0, use RDF instead. Also use this if you don't want the full posts, but only excerpts.

Atom is a newly emerging, highly extensible standard. It's not widely supported yet. Use it if you feel adventurous.

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

K. Klein about the Code Orange Terror Alert in the U.S.:

"We can conclude that whoever wants to inflict harm on the USA, its economy and its society has found a cheap, certain and reliable way to do it: send a couple of threatening messages through the Internet or to Arabian TV programmes, then lean back and watch as Tom Ridge immediately shuts down the lives of at least the more fearful Americans."

Sidenote: the OED defines "terrorist" as "a person who tries to awaken or spread a feeling of fear or alarm; an alarmist, a scaremonger". Does that make some people in the Bush administration terrorists?

Posted by Horst at 05:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

On this weblog last year, I bought a new ergonomic mouse, cooked some purple rice and found out that I'm not supposed to be a Catholic.

Today I can announce that I'm still using the ergonomic mouse and that I've finally grown used to it; I still have some of the purple rice left because it's just too strange to eat the stuff, and I haven't converted to Sikhism or Quakerism, nor am I planning to do it in the foreseeable future.

On a not really related note, this year's Christmas shopping has turned out to be the most uninspiring I've ever had. I only barely managed to get a few presents for a handful of close friends, none of which I find really exciting (the presents, not the friends), and there's now some salmon and shrimp in the fridge for Xmas dinner (check out The Aardvark Cooks tomorrow for the recipes). And a Christmas tree, which I haggled down from €20 to €15. I hate haggling, by the way.

In case somebody's interested, my left ear still hasn't healed completely.

Also, the last episode of the Harald Schmidt Show is broadcast today. What a disastrous day for German television.

Posted by Horst at 06:02 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Research published in the UK today says a higher proportion of the UK's population dies as a result of the cold than in either Finland or Russia. As many as 50,000 people could die "unnecessarily" in the UK this winter. On Monday it emerged that an elderly couple in south London died a few weeks after their gas was cut off due to non-payment of a £140 bill. [Source: BBC]

Never mind Finland, which is in many ways more progressiv than many other European countries, but the fact that more people will freeze to death in the UK than in Russia is somewhat frightening. But then there is an appalling level of poverty in the UK, which is only too easily ignored, as if the benefits of capitalism would outweigh the suffering of the poor. But capitalism creates poverty for some, as it creates wealth for others. When water was privatised in the UK in the early 1990s and the water companies shut down the water supplies of poor people who couldn't pay their bills, the UK had the highest rate of typhoid in Europe. That's progress or you.

Posted by Richard Ellenson at 11:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

December 24, 2003

Movable Type users should upgrade to version 2.65. This free update fixes two security issues. [thx Haiko]

Posted by Horst at 12:31 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Usually, the typical after-midnight commercial on German or Austrian cable TV is for some kind of sex hotline. So imagine my surprise when, presumably as an expression of the Christmas spirit, I saw an advertisement selling a Pope John Paul II Rosary Gift Box, including a wooden rosary, a signed picture of the pope and a CD edition of the pope praying the rosary "in full length" (as if there was an alternative — perhaps "The Shorter Rosary"? "Rosary Light"? Or even "The Readers' Digest Rosary"?). Anyway, it all comes in an attractive package for only €49.

So what exactly is this? An attempt to sell rosaries to the masses? Makes you wonder just what kind of customer they want to reach with rosaries placed in between sex hotline ads.

Posted by Horst at 01:24 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Jesus is born

As last year, I will take a few days off over Christmas. Expect the next posting from me sometime in early January, but maybe Haldur, Richard or The Duck will entertain you until then. In the meantime, peace to all of you.

Posted by Horst at 11:13 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

December 25, 2003

Haldur wishes you a merry Christmas

I'd also like to wish all readers of this weblog a very merry Christmas!

Posted by Haldur Gislufsson at 12:08 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

December 26, 2003

To get you into the Christmas spirit, here's one of my favourite Christmas poems. This can give you an idea about what people thought about computers in 1968. How far have we progressed from there?

The Computer's First Christmas Card


Edwin Morgan, 1968. Reprinted with permission.

Posted by The Duck at 01:01 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

December 29, 2003

One year after the start of the public-private partnership (PPP) on London Underground, the first figures are in, and they don't look good: the private companies responsible for London Underground infrastructure have so far been fined £32 million for failing to hit service benchmarks.

The leader of the pack is Tube Lines, a consortium formed by Bechtel, Amey and Jarvis, responsible for the Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly Lines — they alone have been fined £16.8 million. Bechtel, as you remember, is one of the companies with close ties to the White House that was awarded huge reconstruction contracts for Iraq despite being implicated in a corruption scandal. Jarvis is still being investigated over its role in the Potters Bar train crash and recently lost its contract for British railway infrastructure repairs.

One wonders who is to blame for the "worst service ever" that London Underground customers had to put up with this year: the companies or the people who awarded them the contracts.

Posted by Richard Ellenson at 01:37 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Could somebody who can read Japanese please tell me whether I should be proud, bemused or ashamed to be listed one notch above William Shatner on this strange list?

Or, if you don't want to pass value judgements, could you just tell me what the heading says? Thank you.

obscure Japanese list

Posted by Horst at 04:09 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack (1)

December 30, 2003

Whereas divorce is a comparatively simple matter in Islam, Catholics have no such luck; divorce is not an option, and the only possibility to get re-married with the church's blessings is to have the first marriage annulled, i.e. it is declared null and void right back from when it started. Such an annulment is possible if it can be proved that one of two parties was not willing of the commitment to faith and love that is fundamental in the Catholic concept of marriage, or that there was no consent to the marriage from both partners. The third option is if one or both of the parties lacked capability for unconditional commitment to a community of love due to insanity or mental illness.

I'm bringing this up because Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the Austrian minister for foreign affairs, most likely Conservative presidential candidate and a very devout Catholic, just had her Catholic marriage ceremony after having been legally married for several years. The Catholic ceremony had been delayed for several years because her first marriage had to be annulled first — a procedure "as likely as achieving sainthood", according to the Süddeutsche Zeitung.

For the sake of Ms. Ferrero-Waldner and the Austrian state, it is to be sincerely hoped that the annulment took place because of the Austrian Conservative Party's close ties to the Catholic church, and not because she herself or her first husband (who seems to be fairly embarrassed by the whole affair) are incapable of commitment or because one of them is mad.

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

December 31, 2003

If you live in the USA, don't buy an almanac because somebody might think you're a terrorist and report you to the FBI.

It seems Cuba is finally speaking up; it has called Guantanamo "an attack on human dignity".

A radical privatisation of Iraqi assets is under way. Companies from coalition force countries, especially those with close ties to the White House, can rejoice. Iraqi property is handed to them at low, low prices.

Posted by The Duck at 03:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thanks to everyone who wrote to wish me good luck for 2004. I have this habit of not writing Happy Xmas and Happy New Year emails, but rest assured that I do wish you all the best for this coming year.

Darkness over Vienna

Speaking in terms of daylight, it's pretty dark and dim in Vienna at the moment, but experience tells me it'll be getting brighter in the new year. Not speaking in terms of daylight, it's a lot darker and dimmer in other parts of the world, and experience would suggest it could get even darker. Let's see and hope for the best.

Posted by Horst at 04:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Cartoon by Lewis Trondheim

The genius of Lewis Trondheim. More here. And here.

Posted by Horst at 05:28 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

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