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

July 2004 Archive


July 01, 2004

If you don't support Greece in today's Euro 2004 semi-finals, you're an evil person. The Czech team are going to win anyway.

What does it say about contemporary film scripts when rave reviwes of Shrek 2 call the film "one of the most mature movies about adult relationships ever made"? Or what does it say about relationships in the USA?

The weather is tedious. Extremely tedious.

Update: No they didn't. Greece stood up excellently against a strong Czech team for 105 minutes and shot a totally unbelievable goal in the very last minute. Thanks for your support.

However, the Shrek mystery hasn't been solved yet, and the weather still sucks.

Posted by Horst at 08:46 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)


July 02, 2004

My blogging output is so miserably poor (in terms of frequency and substance) at the moment because:

a) I can't be bothered
b) there's so much other work to do
c) I'm still busy writing my BlogTalk paper
d) I'm totally uninspired
e) my career as a poet is taking over my blogging life
f) I'm rediscovering the joy of cooking
g) my life is so boring
h) my life is so exciting
i) I'm secretly on holidays on Mauritius
j) I'm being held prisoner by the Moose Club
k) I've spent the past 4 days doing nothing but cleaning my flat
l) I've spent the past 4 days at my dentist's
m) I've spent the past 4 days working hard to be able to pay my dentist bill
n) I'm reading Ulysses again
o) I'm disquieted that 80% of Google image searches on my site look like this
p) Bill Gates is evil
q) the bread in my kitchen drawer keeps getting mouldy
r) I've become a tourist guide showing people around Vienna all day
s) my Mac has been rendered unusable by the Sasser virus
t) none of the above

First one to send in the correct answer wins a packet of shrimp-flavoured ramen noodles.

Posted by Horst at 11:56 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)


July 04, 2004

We would like to briefly break our silence about Moose Club to point out that we are not holding Horst prisoner in a dark cell, feeding him only water, elk grass and birch tree bark and preventing him from blogging regularly. These accusations are not at all true.

At Moose Club, even though we are not allowed to talk about Moose Club, we do different things. Like solving jigsaw puzzles with mooses and Swedish lakes on them. Or playing Scrabble with Devanagari tiles. Or baking moose-shaped chocolate cookies. Or making wonderfully moose-scented moose soap.

Moose Club is totally harmless. Really. We do not take prisoners. There is no need to be afraid. Trust us.

Not that there would be anything like Moose Club.

Posted by Haldur Gislufsson at 11:01 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)


July 05, 2004

One of the topics that keeps popping up during the BlogWalk meeting and the BlogTalk conference is people's insistence that weblogs may go the way of UseNet (i.e. they'll be spammed and trolled into oblivion) if no form of control is exerted over comments and trackbacks.

Specifically, Lee Bryant suggested introducing different "user levels" that would have different degrees of access to comments, and Mark Bernstein asked if comments and trackbacks weren't a substantially harmful factor.

a) But isn't that totally running counter to the idea of what weblogs are? My weblog here has only begun to feel like a real weblog once I got a regular influx of comments and trackbacks, when it turned from a mere broadcast into a broadcast that receives regular feedback, and I appreciate feedback from total strangers just as much as from regular readers or even personal friends.

b) And isn't it totrally dependent on what you are using weblog technology for? What annoys me in the weblog debate is how many people assume that weblogs are one specific thing for one specific use with one specific kind of topic. However, I think it's just another medium that can be put to a variety of uses. For my purpose it would be totally nonsensically to shgut out anyone except spammers.

So, getting rid of unrestricted comments and trackbacks can be just as harmful to weblogs as what the spammers are trying to do right now. I believe that open comments and trackbacks are vital, and whether they're rendered useless by spam or by being restructed doesn't really change the consequences for weblog readers and publishers.

And, as wikis are hailed so much, aren't they even more prone to defacement from spammers? Aren't they even less scaleable? Why should spammers stop short of defacing wikis, especially as it seems ever so much more easier to do it than with weblogs.

As I understand it, the defining thing about wikis is that everyone can contribute. Restricting access to wikis would kill the concept. Restricting access to weblog comments, for me, would kill the concept of weblogs.

Not that this would solve the spam problem. Can't we just try some sort of voodoo to get rid of them?

Update: Lee clarified that he didn't really want to get rid of unrestricted comments, but simply be able to add additional layers of security and/or restruction for purposes where they might be required. Which again reveals the strong context-dependency of weblogs as a medium.

Posted by Horst at 11:13 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

The wireless network here at the BlogTalk conference is a joke. Last time it broke down, it took my iBook (and my article-in-progress) down with it in a Kernel Panic. I only barely managed to restrain myself, or the word "F**K" would have echoed through the auditorium. Now the loudspeakers have failed, too, and Jon Hoem is mumbling something I don't understand.

Godany is blogging from somewhere in here, and she seems to be bored by the conference. And even though she should know by now that I have no memory whatsoever for faces, she is making conjectures about what I'm typing here rather than introducing herself to me. Ah well. Story of my life, I guess.

Posted by Horst at 12:03 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack (1)


July 06, 2004

Ah, the joy of being a speaker at the BlogTalk conference! A further step towards fame, and therefore just perfect, because I've always wanted to be famous — minus the nastier things that come with fame of course, like stalkers, paparazzi, and cocaine addiction.

And then I noticed that for some reason or other, most weblogs that are covering the conference are ignoring my talk. They're reviewing the speakers before and after me, but I'm mysteriously left out. It's not even like they're saying "Prillinger's paper totally sucked". Which, again, is something of a consolation, I suppose.

Still, I'm beginning to feel that this virus that I have, the one that makes me totally invisible to waiters, may have mutated in some way and now makes me also invisible to conference attendees.

See, I really need to strengthen my ego, because it was under serious attack by the not insignificant number of people at the conference who asked me why Haldur hasn't come, but didn't really seem to care about me much. Which made me realize I'll never be as cute as Haldur. Must therefore continue to scan the BlogTalk page at topicexchange.com for more reviews.

Update: Ego just received a boost, as a picture from site-9 including a slide from my presentation has been declared the BlogTalk picture of the day.

Update: Received some oral feedback from a couple of people, which was really helpful. Some of the written stuff I found in the meantime would indicate that a couple of people just didn't get my point. The story of my life. Roland Tanglao did, and wrote an excellent summary. My full paper is here.

Update: Many people who wrote about the conference did not ping http://topicexchange.com/t/blogtalk_conference/, which is making it really hard to find their articles. If anyone of them is reading this, could you please send a late ping?

Anyway, I thought that since I'm still here (and obviously not a prisoner of the Moose Club), I thought I might as well write a roundup of the BlogTalk conference, now that it's almost over.

Fernando Tricas is talking about the Spanish blogosphere at the moment, but most of the audience have already gone. I'm kind of relieved that I had my talk already in the morning, speaking to a room that's two-thirds empty really sucks. It's also impolite, and could easily have been prevented by having the keynote from Bena and Mena Trott at the end of the session.

Speaking of which, earlier this morning, Ben and Mena had a funny, cute, but also somewhat fluffy and sadly not too substantial keynote that was great fun to listen to, but didn't say much other than how Mena got her banjo, and it left several people wondering how much of their routine and husband-wife interplay was real or just part of a "Ben and Mena Show". Most people thought the latter. Nobody bought the thing with the "I hate you" slide having been mischievously inserted by Ben without Mena's knowledge. It fit just too well. And, having seen them in action, I do now get the "We're cute. We're cute. We're cute" joke.

The afternoon session also had us listen to several speakers [1] [2] [3] talking about how great it is to work with weblogs in a higher education classroom situation. Funny though how my own (and also Jörg's) experiences are radically different in that we both found it fairly difficult to get students to blog about ongoing projects in various different courses we taught. It seemed a lot more easier to get people without any previous HTML knowledge whatsoever to publish decent-looking websites, but it seemed impossible to encourage them to communicate and talk about their progress via a weblog.

These presentations were somewhat disappointing in that we heard results and statistics about the success of weblogs in class, but nothing at all about the methodological approaches of the teachers, and how exactly they were embedded in the course, so I couldn't even tell if my methods were flawed or if weblogs just don't work with Austrian students.

What a contrast to Lee Bryant, who easily delivered the most professional talk of the conference, describing how his company Headshift implemented weblogs into the communications flow of a section of the British National Health Service, providing us with details of the implementation process, user response, project adaptions, and current status of acceptance of the tool. It's a true pity that my interest in weblogs is not in this particular field, or I would really have profited massively from all the information. This is what the education talks should have been like as well.

Looking back from the second day, the first day was a bit of a disappointment, as it had some very theoretical stuff that was partly hard to follow for many of the attendees that I talked to. One notable exception was Daniel Dögl, who was talking about a weblog system for children (which might also be very suitable for adults, I think). Jörg Kantel had a number of good points about weblogs as community media, which tied in very nicely with my own thoughts about weblogs as democratic mass media.

The talks about the German blogosphere by Nico Lumma and the twoday.net community by Michael Schuster were interesting if brief, but they seemed to lack some kind of conclusiveness. For example, it would have been interesting not just to hear that German-language weblogs are often anonymous, post significantly fewer articles and barely ever link to other weblogs (I noticed this myself a long time ago, it was nothing particularly new to me), but really to hear something like results from some blogger survey to shed some light on why they're like this. My own explanation is that the German-speaking blogosphere is a lot more introspective and that people are using private blogs for different purposes than in the US or the UK, but it would have been interesting to have some kind of data on this, so these otherwise pretty good presentations felt a bit empty in the end.

What was really amazing, however, was how the conference opened my eyes up to some of the possibilities of collaborative efforts in a Rendezvous network. Rendezvous is a kind of "instant network" that automatically links enabled software applications among all users in the same subnet. Using SubEthaEdit, a group of five to ten Mac users collaboratively took notes of the conference talks, which were then wikified here. They're still a bit sketchy and need some cleaning-up, but they are a great document of our collaborative effort.

All in all, I'd say that this year's conference was a huge step forward from last year's. The issues felt more real and realistic, the whole thing was more down to earth, and people generally seemed a lot more confident about what weblogging was sort of about and to what uses it could be put. Plus, the virtual and real-life network building seemed to have developed a level of familiarity among the attendees that made the several social outings totally relaxed, like you were talking to old friends that you just hadn't seen in a while — even if you'd never met before. I liked that a lot.

And I'm really irritated by the fact that the soap here in the Urania building smells like Almdudler lemonade.

Posted by Horst at 05:22 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack (7)


July 07, 2004

The couple of pictures I took at BlogTalk and afterwards are now online.

If you are on one of the pictures and want a larger, better-quality version, just contact me.

I'll also publish my paper and PowerPoint presentation here soon. Watch this space if you're interested.

Posted by Horst at 11:58 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack (1)


July 08, 2004

Seeing how many people in various discussions at BlogTalk denied being geeks, I kind of had to take the test [thx arved]:

I'm a 1960s Geek
You're pretty quirky and weird but we know you're smart and love you anyway!
find your geek decade at spacefem.com

Posted by Horst at 07:47 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

My paper from BlogTalk is now available to download:

N.B.: You may find that the PowerPoint presentation doesn't make much sense unless you hear me talk to it. It was designed to be that way.

Posted by Horst at 01:33 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack (3)


July 09, 2004

  • The sudden, untimely death of Austrian federal president Thomas Klestil
  • The inauguration of the new Austrian federal president Heinz Fischer
  • Greece becoming European football champions
  • Tony Blair demanding that Guantanamo be shut down

Things I did instead:

  • Talk to lots of great people
  • Show Suw, Steph, and other people around Vienna and alternately feel like a tourist guide and a tourist myself
  • Enjoy the gorgeous weather
  • Give a brief presentation at BlogTalk about how the little things in life sometimes seem to be so much more important than the big things
Posted by Horst at 12:12 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

WMD

I herewith demand that some brands of perfume be classified as chemical weapons of mass destruction and their wearers be visited by a team of UN weapons inspectors and disarmed.

Posted by Horst at 04:49 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)


July 10, 2004

Okay, I think I can finally admit it: all the time while you were reading this weblog, I was wearing Calvin Klein glasses. I'm sorry. I know that some of you may be seriously hurt by this revelation, and I'm seriously ashamed of my ungeeky behaviour, but my only excuse is that I really liked them best when I was last shopping for glasses a few years ago.

No more. I have new glasses now. I collected them only yesterday. And as an added bonus, you can choose which of the glasses you like best, and I'll be wearing exactly these glasses whenever I'll be blogging in the future. But beware: to confuse you, there's also a picture of my old glasses here, and if you're not careful, you might inadvertently end up with me wearing Calvin Klein glasses yet again.

Horst's glassesHorst's glassesHorst's glasses
ABC

Posted by Horst at 12:03 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)


July 11, 2004

First of all, I would like to thank all the kind people (e.g. here and here) who sent feedback about my BlogTalk paper on why all weblogs, not just the serious ones, are a good thing. Also thanks to the many people who inquired about me at the conference. Sadly, I had to attend an equally important symposion on elk grass horticulture and birch tree bark regeneration, so I was not able to attend BlogTalk and present it myself.

Thankfully Horst stepped in, and I think he did a pretty decent job with the presentation — even though I'm slightly cross that he put his own name on the PowerPoint presentation. But I figure that everybody who knows Horst would have a pretty good idea of who was the real author. Anyway, I promise that I will attend the next BlogTalk conference, if there will be another one, in person.

On to more serious matters — yesterday I had the unique pleasure of meeting the charming Mss baronesse and pinkNgreen and the unique Mr DeeDee, whom Horst had invited for an Indian-style blog dinner.

Blog collage by baronesse de pix

It was a very pleasant evening, and I greatly enjoyed talking to the three of them. We discussed the necessity of Tupperware-like parties for incense sticks, the musical development of Miles Davis (especially between Miles Smiles and Get up with it) and the difference between Riesling and Welschriesling wines, which despite a similar name, are not really related at all.

Horst had cooked Murgh dopiaza (chicken curry with onions), Toor dal masala (spicy yellow lentils), Seekh kefta (meat balls in tomato sauce) and Rajma ka salaad (kidney bean salad), but apart from the chicken curry, which contained lots of methi leaves, the whole thing tasted not enough of elk grass or birch tree bark for my taste. Must talk to Horst about this. Still, everybody else seemed to like what they ate.

A most enjoyable evening, even though I got slightly tipsy from the wine. Well, never mind. Must do this again.

Posted by Haldur Gislufsson at 06:23 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)


July 12, 2004

Some people spend lots of time trying to figure out the meaning of life and measuring their achievements against their expectations just so to see whether at the end they'll have achieved what they wanted and can leave this world in peace or whether they still have to plant an apple tree, father a son or write a book to be able to feel happy.

And then one day you are standing at the corner of this road and you suddenly see this car approach really fast, way too fast for it to stop in time so that it doesn't hit you. And in the split second that you have left before it hits you and the lights go dark, you realise that this is it — this is the last split second of your life. And before you can even realise the consequences, you're gone. Bang. No time to feel sad or sorry. The thing you've been afraid of all your life is suddenly a fact, and you have no time to reflect how ironic it is.

Or perhaps, if you're lucky, you get a split second and a half, just enough to think one brief word, something pretty basic. Like "shit" or "fuck". An expression of your surprise that would come in the split half second immediately afterwards, only it'll never come.

If you had that second half split second, you'd probably realise that this is really what life was all about. Basic things that can be expressed in four letters, or half a split second. Not that it would matter a lot at that moment, though.

Posted by Horst at 12:03 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)


July 13, 2004

Just to inform those of you who haven't bought a copy of my book yet that I have now put 20 sample pages online so that you can have a look at it before you buy (the typography may look slightly distorted on screen, but don't worry, it's okay in the book).

If you feel like ordering it, you can get it from Amazon, Libri or any bookseller of your choice (Amazon and Libri both ship worldwide).

Posted by Horst at 10:55 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

I have been using my new interdental toothbrush regularly over the past few weeks now, and I must say that I find the stuff that it removes from in between my teeth rather disquieting. I don't know what it is exactly, and I don't think I even want to know, it's just the amount of it accumulating there in just one day alone that is positively frightening.

I am now beginning to understand the expression of panic on my dental hygienist's face and the sound of urgency in my dentist's voice. To think how much of this greyish-yellowish matter never got removed in the past and just what it did to my teeth is cause enough for a mild panic attack.

Posted by Horst at 11:09 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)


July 14, 2004

I'm quite amazed at the BlogTalk coverage in the larger German news media (e.g. Der Spiegel, ZDF/Heute, Heise.de), all of which seem to focus on one slide from Nico Lumma's presentation and used it to present a very distorted picture of what was said at the conference. It probably teaches Nico what can happen if you have a slide that's just too catchy and creates too much of an impact.

Anyway, most of the articles focus on Nico's point that there are not a lot of weblogs in the German-speaking world and act as if that's a terrible thing. I don't even recall Nico Lumma saying anything like it. Plus, I remember lots and lots of presentations that talked about very different things, things of greater importance and more far-reaching consequences than then number of German bloggers. In fact, and without playing down Nico's contribution, it seems to me that seeing the conference as a whole, the data from the German blogosphere was of, well, somewhat minor importance.

But why was this so blown up out of proportion?

I can understand why commercial weblogging services would be unhappy with a low number of German bloggers — after all they want to sell a service, and there's nothing worse than trying to sell something which nobody wants to buy.

However, in the larger scheme of things it doesn't make sense: as I pointed out in my BlogTalk presentation, weblogs are about the power to publish, not the obligation to publish. It's brilliant that people who want to express themselves now have a tool that they can use for it; it is, however, totally pointless to try to convince people to use this tool if they don't feel like publishing something in the first place.

This is one of the points in which I kind of disagreed with what Stefan Glänzer said in his talk about whether blogging sucks: yes, there are plenty of reasons why people stop writing, but the strongest reason for webloggers to keep writing, or even to come back after an announced resignation from weblogging (as has often happened), is not the strength of the tool, but quite simply that they are compulsive writers.

This is a personality trait that is irreconciliable with business models or principles of knowledge management. You can't turn a person who is not interested in expressing him- or herself in this manner into a weblogger. As the presenters at BlogTalk agreed, most people who got attracted to blogging by articles on weblogging in the media will stop blogging after a few days, and I venture to say that this is simply because they found out that they prefer to use different ways of expressing themselves.

Which is why I'm a bit hesitant about evangelizing weblogs too much — it simply doesn't work for everyone. I have no idea why it seems to work for more Americans than Germans, but I tend to think it's more of a cultural thing than not enough marketing.

And it's a total mystery to me why the small number of German weblogs or webloggers should be a bad thing. Just because some people think it's the greatest thing since sliced bread doesn't mean everybody else has to think the same thing.

Posted by Horst at 12:03 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack (1)

kleine Nachtmusik by Bernd Pfarr

I only just learned that Bernd Pfarr, Haldur's favourite cartoonist, died last week. Pfarr was one of the few people who were not just proof that "German humour" is not an oxymoron, but whose work pretty much defined what it's like. He'll be missed. Der Spiegel has an obituary and a few selected cartoons online (in German).

Update: Another obituary and more cartoons from the FAZ (in German).

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


July 15, 2004

My BlogTalk paper "Are you serious? - The potential and the reality of weblogs as mass media, and why they matter" is now available in a new revised version, which corrects a number of typos and hopefully clarifies some points. In addition, my PowerPoint presentation is now available in PDF format because quite a few people found the QuickTime movie too strange.

Posted by Horst at 12:50 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

DVD cover of 'Four Weird Shorts' ART IS LIFE presents four weird shorts

Rhiz, Gürtelbogen 37/38, 1080 Wien
(U6 Josefstädter Straße)

Sunday, 18 July 2004, 21:00 hrs

Finally (?), here's your chance to see the four short films I made earlier this year: Dear Mona, A Private Place, My God and Rivers Flow will be shown in their entirety, followed by an enticing musical evening with dj deedee.

PS.: for future poetry readings and other events, check out the "Readings/Events" link on the right, just below the ad for my book.

Posted by Horst at 04:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)


July 16, 2004

Finally whoever is responsible for this awful weather has succeeded in getting me ill: my throat is sore, my nose is swelling up, I have a headache and my limbs are feeling disproportionately heavy. Of course this would happen immediately before the weekend, so it looks like I'm going to spend it in bed rather than bask around in the sunshine pouring rain.

Also, my presence at the DVD presentation on Sunday will most likely be brief.

But now that whoever wanted to get me ill has finally succeeded, what about some nice weather once this cold is gone? Just to be sure that I have been understood correctly, that would be "once this cold is gone", not "while I'm in bed with a cold". However, with my luck I have a faint idea of what will be happening.

Posted by Horst at 11:43 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)


July 17, 2004

Nose now dripping rather intensely. Forgot to buy paper tissues earlier today. Now weekend. All shops closed until Monday. Will probably drown in snot. Waagh!

Posted by Horst at 07:22 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

Austria is currently witnessing a fierce debate on allegedly sexist traffic signs. And they're not talking about the fact that the humanoid symbols on most traffic signs seem to be male, but rather whether the German word for "cyclists" should be spelled "Radfahrer" (which is of masculine gender, but traditionally accepted to signify both male and female cyclists) or "RadfahrerInnen" (which is a technically nonexistent compound made up of the masculine and feminine gender words for "cyclists", the masculine being "Radfahrer" and the feminine being "Radfahrerinnen").

The whole thing was sparked off by councillor Jürgen Himmelbauer from the city of Linz, who said he would replace the sexist "Radfahrer" with the neutral "RadfahrerInnen" on all traffic signs, which caused quite an uproar among citizens and politicians alike.

In a pointless debate that, if anything, signifies that our politicians don't have much else to do at the moment, even the Viennese city councillor for traffic and the Federal Transport Minister have joined the debate, the former saying that changing the signs to "RadfahrerInnen" was well worth thinking about, the latter saying that not only would the traffic laws have to be changed to implement this, it would also be way too expensive to change all existing signs.

The whole thing is so pointless because there have been non-sexist signs all over Vienna for quite a while now, but apparently neither the Viennese traffic councillor nor the federal transport minister are using their bicycles often enough to notice, and interestingly, the non-sexist traffic signs in Vienna use neither "Radfahrer" nor "RadfahrerInnen".

ausgenommen Fahrraeder

Deceptively simple, isn't it? Possibly too simple for those highly-developed, truly complex politicians' brains.

By the way, I sent a friendly e-mail with this photograph to Mr. Himmelbauer and Mr. Schicker. If I get a reply, I'll post the answers.

Posted by Horst at 07:38 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)


July 18, 2004

Hm, I wonder whether this kind of moose assertiveness training could also be useful in the kind of situation where I want cookies, but Horst tells me I can't have any.

Posted by Haldur Gislufsson at 12:18 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)


July 19, 2004

As there is currently something like an international craze for rubber duck races, of course the city of Vienna didn't want to be left out, so a big duck race took place on the Danube Canal yesterday. Or was supposed to take place yesterday. Haldur and I bought our rubber ducks — nos. 13060 and 13803 respectively, two of 20,000 ducks to participate — and entered them in the contest. And that's the last we ever heard of them.

duck race start at Heiligenstädter Brücke
Fig. 1: Duck race start, people waiting, no ducks.

The race was supposed to start here, at Heiligenstädter Brücke, yesterday at 6 pm. Two lorries containing the ducks were parked on the bridge, ready to dump them into the water. But for all we know they never did.

Five minutes to six, a man with a megaphone appeared on the bridge, and produced a variety of croaking and totally unintelligible sounds. Miraculously, some of the other people sitting there semed to understand him. Apparently, a ship was scheduled to sail down the Danube Canal in ten minutes or so, and they had to let it pass through before they could start the race. They expected to start the race at 6:15.

At 6:15, there was no sign of any ship, but the croaking megaphone man reappeared and said something about a delay of ten more minutes.

At 6:25 the ship still had not appeared, but the megaphone voice enthusiastically reported that the ship was due any minute now, and the duck race would start in five minutes.

Fifteen (!) minutes later, there was still no ship, and the megaphone man had also disappeared. Haldur got increasingly more grumpy, so I packed him on my bicycle, and we left. For some reason, while I was cycling back, I had this melody (AAC, 4.1 MB) stuck in my head, only the lyrics seemed to have changed to "no ducks", where they used to be something else.

So instead of posting pictures of the duck race on the Danube Canal, all I can offer you is pictures of the Danube Canal without ducks and pictures of people waiting for the ducks.

garbage incinerator and Danube Canal without ducks
Fig. 2: Municipial garbage incinerator, no ducks.

people waiting for duck race to start
Fig. 3: People waiting, no ducks.

people on bridge waiting for duck race
Fig. 4: People waiting on the Döbling footbridge, no ducks.

Whatever happened to ducks no. 13060 and 13803 I don't know. I don't even know who won the prizes, for the official duck race home page still has no results. Perhaps the race didn't even take place, even though there are fairly blurry (probably photoshopped) pictures of it on the Radio Wien website.

Update: The blurry pictures have now been replaced with better ones. They could still be photoshopped though.

If anybody finds out something about the whereabouts of our ducks, please inform us.

Posted by Horst at 02:22 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack (1)


July 20, 2004

In a sock drawer in a pretty darkish room there are about 40 socks of five different shades of blackish gray. There is no way to see the exact colour of the socks unless you leave the room.

Question:
How often do you have to leave the room to make sure you have a matching pair?

Answer:
Only once, if I finally got that f**king sock drawer organized. Or not at all, if I finally got decent lighting installed.

Posted by Horst at 11:59 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)


July 21, 2004

It is interesting to see how weblogging seems to be stuck somewhere in the middle between being something of a grassroots movement and serious business, with an endless number of intermediate shades of gray.

It's interesting in that it creates financial opportunities for some bloggers who'd never thought about it, but it can also create serious conflict if the business side of weblogs imposes itself (or is imposed) too harshly on a community of unsuspecting, non-business-oriented webloggers.

Steph's story about U-blog, a French weblogging platform, is a good example of the slow transformation of a community platform into a commercial enterprise, and it's well worth a read.

The question here is not really as to how much Loïc Le Meur is to blame (actually, I don't think he is, as far as I can see he is merely acting like a businessman), but rather how comfortable we feel about the fact that weblogging is turning from a community phenomenon into a business.

Loïc didn't do anything he wasn't supposed to do — he bought the company, and it's his right to change the terms of use. The interesting thing in the reactions of the webloggers at U-blog really is how they seem to feel that it is them who actually own the company, and how they feel betrayed by the person officially in charge.

But then, they may be forming the community, but they don't own the business. In their perception, however, they were degraded from active citizens to passive customers. They could switch to a new weblogging host, but instead of merely becoming customers of another business, it seems to feel like emigrating from their former home country to some unknown territory.

Which is odd in some way. After all, weblogs are just, well, chunks of code on some computer. And then again, they're obviously not. Which is why it's time to think about how the commercialisation of weblogs affect us and in what ways we want it to develop.

Update: Similar developments taking place in Germany: 20six buys MyBlog.de — the second-largest weblogging host in Germany, a company with offices in Germany, the Netherlands, the UK and France, buys the largest weblogging host, a one-man project run by a student. [thx SWR]

Posted by Horst at 05:48 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (2)


July 22, 2004

From Steven Frank comes Spamusement, "poorly-drawn cartoons inspired by actual spam subject lines". Brilliant!

Update: The Register brings Spam Poetry. Of limited poetic or economic value. Are these spammers really trying to sell anything?

Posted by Horst at 10:28 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

A tale of tech and terror. You've probably heard something like it before, so I won't mind if you don't read all of it, even though it concerns me and not some arbitrary office clerk, and it's the terrifying tale of how I lost two hours of my life. And I swear that all of it is true. And for once, neither Microsoft nor Windows are to blame.

My colleague with whom I'm sharing the office is preparing an exhibition on Francesco Petrarca. To this avail, she wanted me to print out a few pictures on my colour inkjet printer, as hers does only black and white. I was slightly wary because I hadn't used the office inkjet printer in ages and suspected that the cartridge might be dried out and/or the print head clogged, but anyway, I switched on the printer and decided to give it a go.

The first printout I produced was Petrarca in dayglo yellow, apparently because all the jets other than the yellow and the black ones were clogged:

Petrarca, first try

I aborted and pressed the "clean print head" button for the first time on this afternoon. I did not know yet how often I would be pressing it again in the two hours that were to come.

A test page printout revealed that the printer had trouble with the magenta ink; the jets looked clogged, so I pressed the "Clean" button again.

Everybody who has ever owned an Epson printer knows about the somewhat idiosynchratic cleaning procedures of these printers. I always feel that the funny sounds they are making during the cleaning procedure are something of an unsuccessful surrogate entertainment programme to make the 90 seconds that the cleaning process takes somewhat less boring. I was not particularly entertained.

The test page looked promising. However, the next printout of the Petrarca picture was somewhat psychedelic:

Petrarca, second try

I'm not sure what was wrong with the dyes, but it was obvious they were not being used in the correct combination. Another use of the "Clean" button. Things did not necessarily improve, though. With each cleaning process, the magenta ink seemed to become weaker, until it was almost gone.

Petrarca, third try

I was not sure whether the ink was slowly being used up due to all the cleaning processes or whether it was just that the print head was clogged beyond belief because sometimes the colours would reappear, only to disappear again later. The printer itself claimed that the ink cartridge was still full, even though he seemed to be slowly losing the capability to print in yellow:

Petrarca, fourth try

Two or three cleaning processes later, the cyan ink also seemed to be gone, and even the black ink was showing signs of coming to an end, but still the printer claimed that both cartridges were full, and thus it would not let me replace the cartridges with new ones.

Petrarca, fifth try

I finally decided that the cartridges were to blame after all, and that I had to use force to replace them. I cut the power during a printout — the only way I could gain access to them — and replaced the cartridges. I hit the "Clean" button yet again. The result was not too promising. There were next to no colours and not even any black. Only a few ghosts on an otherwise empty sheet of paper.

[No picture here because there was really not much to see.]

So was it just the print head that was to blame? There was no way to tell. Still, after yet another cleaning procedure, it seemed that the colours were back. I got a seomewhat decent Petrarca printout, but it was much too light, because the black was obviously missing, but at least I got all the colours for a change. Or so I thought.

At that moment, the printer complained that the cartridges were empty and refused to print anything unless I would replace them. Never mind that I had replaced them only five minutes before and they were obviously new and full.

All I could do was take the cartridges out and put them in again. When I had done that, all the colours were gone again on the test printout. Probably some air had gotten into the print head. Yet another cleaning procedure.

The next Petrarca printout was pretty much like the previous one: no black. I printed other test pages: no black.

I pulled the plug on the printer again and had another look at the black cartridge. It seemed to have some transparent plastic stuff on it that wasn't on the old one. It turned out that the plastic tape that you have to pull off the cartridge before use had disintegrated during storage and hadn't come off properly. I managed to remove all of it with a scissors and a drawing pin.

Then another cleaning process. I think I can recite the sound pattern of it in my sleep now. Finally, Petrarca as he was supposed to look like in the first place.

Petrarca, finally!

Two hours for one bloody printout. This is how modern technology makes our lives easier.

Posted by Horst at 05:24 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)


July 24, 2004

Weisswurst

I think I may be dealing with an old childhood trauma of mine. This trauma involves Weisswurst, a peculiar kind of Bavarian sausage. The town where I grew up is pretty close to the Austrian-Bavarian border (actually, it used to be part of Bavaria until the late 17th century), so the local cuisine goes back to Austrian and Bavarian origins. This has its advantages — the local Brezeln (pretzels) are excellent — but also its disadvantages, such as the weisswurst, which was ubiquitous, and which I really hated as a child.

Come to think of it, one of the advantages of moving to Vienna was to increase the distance between myself and the weisswurst (unfortunately, this also put me out of reach of decent pretzels, or Zimtschnecken, or Bosna [no, I'm not going to tell you what they are — see if you can find it out via Google or Wikipedia]).

However, the weisswurst came to Vienna to haunt me. In recent years, more and more restaurants put them on the menu, they started to appear at local butchers' and supermarkets, and at the moment they seem to be something of the latest craze — you can even get the special sweetish mustard that is usually served with it (on the up side, they also started selling somewhat decent pretzels in Vienna last year).

A while ago, I decided to confront my childhood trauma and actually try the weisswurst, and it turned out that either the ones I got in my childhood were particularly bad, or my sense of taste had changed significantly. They weren't bad at all. In fact, I kind of liked them. Which is bad, as they're not particularly healthy and I don't want them on my menu on a regular basis.

Still, I feel this strange craving for them right now...

Posted by Horst at 07:56 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)


July 25, 2004

If you ever find yourself in a truly dire situation, fear not — some people have found out that the presence of a moose can help you overcome a traumatic event.

Posted by Haldur Gislufsson at 08:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)


July 26, 2004

William Shatner is singing (MOV, 1.2 MB) again. They ought to pass a law against this. On the other hand, I never liked Pulp's "Common People", which was, let's admit it, mostly overhyped and pompous. Shatner's version may actually be an improvement of sorts. The original was merely gruesome, but Shatner's version is probably the most bizarre thing you've ever heard (that is not counting Shatner's first album, of course). Suw has more details.

And just in case you need some relief after this, here's reason #78 why The Fall are the greatest: (Birtwistle's) Girl in Shop (MP3, 3.6 MB). William Shatner is just silly. The Fall can be silly and totally brilliant at the same time. Not to mention their exquisit brand of cacophony.

Posted by Horst at 10:04 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack (1)


July 27, 2004

Insight #473: You know you can't touch-type if you want to type "bad" and end up typing "das".

I just found a quote that shows that Vladimir Nabokov knew what Joyce's Ulysses is all about: "I once gave a student a C-minus, or perhaps a D-plus, just for applying to its [Ulysses'] chapters the titles borrowed from Homer while not even noticing the comings and goings of the man in the brown mackintosh. He didn't even know who the man in the brown mackintosh was."

I am currently carrying out my third attempt to grow a beard. Previous attempts were aborted (the last one almost ten years ago) due to insufficient density of facial hair. The current attempt may be aborted due to unsupportive feedback from my environment.

Posted by Horst at 11:18 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)


July 28, 2004

An alarming article in The Independent reports on what they call an "epidemic of self-harm": in the UK, over 170,000 people a year — mostly teenagers and young adults — seek hospital treatment after deliberately hurting themselves.

Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of the mental health charity Sane, said: "This really has become an epidemic [...]. The problem is spreading. We are not just talking about young girls cutting themselves any more: we have heard of young men gauging their flesh, drinking acid, removing genitalia."

Coming from a country with one of the highest suicide rates of the EU-15 (Austria ranks third after Finland and Hungary — there is even an Austrian suicide weblog), I have always seen Austria as an example of a country where many people suppress their aggression and turn it against themselves (often in conjunction with alcohol). The UK, with its infinitely higher number of acts of vandalism, hooliganism and violence in general, but a much lower suicide rate, seemed to be the opposite example of a country where aggressions are directed towards others rather than towards oneself.

It seems my theory needs a major revision. Either aggression towards oneself does not mean a lower level of aggression towards others (and vice versa), or the aggression, frustration, emptiness and/or mental problems of young people in the UK are reaching new and dangerous heights. What it is I don't know, but it sure sounds frightening. Definitely a sign that something is very wrong.

Posted by Horst at 11:37 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)


July 29, 2004

Hamburger Morgenpost.
Irene | Praschl | Irene (2).
Epitaph | Conscience | Feelings.
(Everything in German, sorry.)

What can you do? — Not much.
Who is to blame? — We'll never know.
Something special? — No, these things happen every day.
Painful? — Yes.

Posted by Horst at 09:46 AM | TrackBack (0)

Phishing, the criminal activity where scammers send you fake e-mails to direct you to a web page where they want you to tell them your credit card number, social security number and/or other personal details, is on the rise.

To find out whether you are likely victim of a phishing scam, take the Phishing IQ Test.

[Found at, and freely translated from WorldWideKlein]

Posted by Horst at 11:04 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)


July 30, 2004

The city of New York has come up with a new idea to create some revenue for its mass transit system: corporate sponsorship for station and route names, so the Times Square Shuttle could soon be the Delta Times Square Shuttle and Tarrytown station could soon be IBM Tarrytown station [link via ad++, see also orf.at (in German)].

I'm trying to think this through for Vienna. Obviously, Praterstern station is destined to become Billa Praterstern (for a supermarket that is located there, one of the few in Vienna that are open on Sundays) and Landstraße will most likely end up as McDonald's Landstraße (for the fast food restaurant in the station). Also, line U3 is probably destined to become the Zielpunkt line (after a very orange supermarket chain) and line U4 will most likely become the Palmers line (after a very green lingerie store chain).

The possibilities are endless and positively sickening. Just as if corporations hadn't taken over our lives enough already, their insidious marketing techniques are seeping into more and more aspects of our lives, making it almost impossible to escape them. I suppose there will be a time when companies will have bought the rights to using certain words and you can't say a straight Pepsi-sentence without McDonalds-having some brand Nike-name Marlboro-attached to every other Microsoft-word. Or, as one irate NYT reader put it, "In a few years you'll be able to get a $20 rebate on your taxes if you allow the government to tattoo a corporate logo on your forehead".

On a lighter note, you might want to check out my spoof translations of the Vienna and London Underground maps — especially if you've been directed here via BoingBoing (welcome!) and kind of lost your way on my somewhat sprawling site. These maps are probably significantly funnier than my whiny cultural pessimism.

Posted by Horst at 09:18 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)


July 31, 2004

I am not sure whether this is where the famous BoingBoing got its name from, but being BoingBoinged is an interesting experience that is very different from being linked to by other weblogs.

In addition to getting thousands of hits from thousands of BoingBoing readers, you also get lots and lots of bonus hits from other weblogs who are re-publishing BoingBoing content on their website (and there's quite a lot of them it seems), and you get still more hits from readers who have BoingBoing syndicated to a news aggregator page (like in Bloglines or LiveJournal friends pages).

It's like the hits are ping pong balls that are indeed boinboinging (or pingponging) to and fro and at some point ending up on my website. This is an amazing (and, for me as a blog author, most gratifying) experience, as I can see my silly underground map translations being snowballed around the blogosphere. Brilliant. I should write better stuff so that this happens to me more often.

Posted by Horst at 12:17 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

Trying to got hold of a copy of the new annotated German translation of Joyce's Ulysses, which I wanted to buy as a present for a friend, turned out to be a veritable odyssey itself.

That's because the book, which was published in anticipation of the 100th Bloomsday, is pretty much sold out everywhere in Vienna, and that's less than two months after its publication (it's also sold out at Amazon, in case you were wondering).

Typically, whenever I entered a bookshop and asked for it, the bookseller would direct me to the "last copy" he had left, and it was obvious that this one had also been the first copy: in various bookshops, I saw various "last copies" that must have gone through thousands of hands, with varying amounts of dirt on them, in varying stages of disintegration, and with book covers that had sustained varying, but invariably serious, amounts of damage. Nothing that you'd spend €50 on, at any rate.

In one bookshop that had a poster with the top 10 bestselling books in Austria pinned to a wall, I saw that the annotated edition of Ulysses is actually ranked fifth after some Swedish crime novels and some weird self-help book.

Which is most interesting as it's not exactly anything like a bestseller. You know, bestsellers are books that you buy at the airport, read on the plane, and leave on the plane, something that's quite impossible to do with Ulysses. I find myself wondering about people's motives when they buy this book. Why buy it now — because they always wanted it, because of the media hype or because they think that the annotations might finally help them understand it? How many of them are seriously thinking about reading it, rather than just owning it? How many will finish it? How many will enjoy reading it, and how many will just feel as if they're lost in some weird literary odyssey?

One thing I'm sure of is that anybody who read and enjoyed it will return to it over and over again. If they can get hold of a copy in the first place. Apparently even the publisher hadn't expected that it would be such a success.

Posted by Horst at 02:02 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)



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