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

February 2005 Archive


February 01, 2005

How would you feel if you walked through a quiet street and then you see two policemen on the other side of the street, putting on bulletproof vests?

I assure you, there is a certain novelty factor to it. Even though you may have seen something similar countless times on TV, there is a certain urgent immediacy to it when it suddenly happens in real life, just across the street.

Especially if you suddenly catch yourself wondering whether you should be afraid now; after all, this is a dangerous situation of some sort. Even though it doesn't look dangerous.

This feeling of uncertainty may be still further reinforced when there is no obvious reason why anything should be going on. Like, it's a quiet street in a usually harmless part of the city, the street has not been cordoned off, and the policemen seem to be in no particular hurry to put on their vests; in fact, they seem to be acting rather leisurely.

But then you notice that there are quite a lot of police cars parked at that corner, and even though there are only two leisurely policemen to be seen anywhere, there must be more of them somewhere.

But then on the next day you read that there have been five robberies in Vienna on that day, only none of them anywhere near where you saw the policemen and the bulletproof vests. Left with no other choice, you just keep on wondering.

Posted by Horst at 11:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)


February 03, 2005

Urgh. 800 Trackback pings for some online pharmacy and Texas Holdem online poker (don't we all love them?). And my blacklist caught all of them. Har har.

What's more disquieting, however, is that after a year or so of only attempting to spam my recipe and anti-Microsoft blogs, they have now discovered my main weblog. Got to keep that blacklist updated. Grumble.

Posted by Horst at 10:05 AM | Comments (1)

People are complaining that ever since I went on this diet I'm no fun anymore. I more or less stopped drinking alcohol, I insist on walking long distances, I count calories, and my first reaction to one of my friends' delicious tiramisu was no longer "Yum yum", but "I can't eat this, I'm on a diet" (the second was to eat it anyway, but by then I had one more disgruntled friend).

Losing weight is no fun. The first nine kilos were no problem, but now I've been stuck there for something like three weeks, not losing any weight, no matter how little I eat, which is most frustrating. Merely holding my current weight requires a major fasting effort. I'm aiming for five additional kilos, but my current diet programme of

  • next to no meat, more vegetables
  • only one meal per day
  • no sugar
  • no alcohol
  • walk as many ways as possible, minimum is walking home from work
  • roughly count calories, and always stay below the RDA

seems to have reached its limits. Weight loss-wise and sociopathy-wise. It's amazing how much social life is centered on eating and (especially) drinking. Or my social life anyway. There must be some other solution to this. A report on weight loss diets that I read a while ago mentioned something like an average success rate of three kilos per year. Does that mean I'll have to continue to diet (and become even more unsocial) for another two years? And perhaps even longer to avoid the yo-yo effect? Sounds frightening.

Posted by Horst at 10:21 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)


February 07, 2005

If you are wondering what I've been up to all weekend, look here. After remaining unchanged for 8 years, I decided it was time for a complete redesign (and in case you were wondering: apart from the title page, the English version is still in its original state).

Update: Nice. So I slave away all weekend to find out today that the site looks great with all browsers except Internet Explorer for Windows, which chooses to ignore a few CSS standards that I'm using. And which just happens to be the browser that 70% of my visitors use. Seems like I'm going to spend more time in CSS to clean up the mess. Did I mention that I hate Internet Explorer?

Posted by Horst at 02:20 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

This comes in from Mr Deedee (Update: and ad++), who handed it on to me purely to make me violate my site's blogging manifesto. How mean of him.

However, since it's possible Mr Deedee is interested in my answers, I'm afraid I have to resort to drastic measures: I need to institute a manifesto-free zone on this weblog. Unfortunately for you, manifesto-free zones come in pretty garish colours. Read on at your own risk.

Manifesto-free blog zone

1. Total amount of music files on your computer:
Uhm, no idea. My computer won't give me a count. But if it helps, my music directory is approx. 18GB. Oddly enough, believe it or not, it's actually all legal.
2. The last CD you bought was:
The last parcel from Amazon.co.uk contained two CDs: Oh, inverted world by The Shins, and Young liars by TV On The Radio.
3. What is the song you last listened to before reading this message?
"The Tain" from The Tain by The Decemberists.
4. Write down 5 songs you often listen to or that mean a lot to you.
I don't have any songs that mean a lot to me, but there are a few that I can't seem to get tired of. For example:
 "Rain" by the Beatles.
 "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands" by Bob Dylan.
 "Did I Tell You" by Yo La Tengo.
 "Hate My Way" by Throwing Muses.
 "Abril 74" by Lluís Llach.
 "Gimme Shelter" by The Rolling Stones
5. Who are you going to pass this stick to? (3 persons) and why?
Uhm, since most people I know i.r.l. aren't exactly music buffs, I have to pass this on to readers of my weblog: So this would then be
 Ralf (because he was in the audience during the famous WotB recording),
 Mig (because I want to know what cello players listen to) and
 Gibarian (because of his occasional comments on my weblog).
Actually, since I hate chain letter schemes, I'm cheating a bit here because I'm not going to send an e-mail to these people. I'll simply trust that they read this entry.
Posted by Horst at 04:00 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack (1)


February 08, 2005

It could be that these manifesto-free zones are kind of addictive. Or I've merely been too uptight lately and need some kind of emotional release for my inner tensions. Anyway, I simply had to do this:

Manifesto-free blog zone


tomato soup
Posted by Horst at 10:40 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)


February 09, 2005

Strange how the eye gets used to things. Only two days ago I thought that my manifesto-free blog zone was a veritable eyesore that would cause your eyes to pop out of their sockets (or at least give you a serious headache). Now, two days later, the two zones look remarkably, well, not that bad anymore. The colours are still pretty garish, but much to my surprise I find that it's actually possible to get used to them.

Which explains why people in the 1980s were able to wear the strangest clothes without seeming to mind just what they looked like, and it was probably because everybody else was wearing the same stuff. Or why groups like Haysi Fantayzee were not partcular oddities then, but seemed to come straight out of a freak show when I saw them recently in some retrospctive show on BBC Prime (jeez, I had totally forgotten that things like that had existed in the 80s).

Just imagine all websites made generous use of strong colours. Actually, it's possible that they actually did at some point, because all so-called "web-safe" colours are so strong and intense that you would never use them voluntarily on any website that you'd want people to visit (rather than shy away from). Anyway, if all websites were like that, it's possible that we wouldn't even notice it anymore, and my manifesto-free blog zone would have to be a stark white with black text on it.

Posted by Horst at 11:48 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

It has arrived. Excuse me while I go and play a bit.

Posted by Horst at 11:52 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)


February 10, 2005

According to my site statistics, 2% of my visitors are using Netscape 3.0 to access my heavily stylesheet-dependent Vienna Metro website. Since Netscape 3 doesn't support about half the tags and stylesheets I'm using there, I wonder what just exactly they might be seeing. At any rate, 2% of Netscape 3 users seems an awful lot. Makes you wonder who they are, where they are, and why they are still using it when it can't display most current pages.

On a related note, I'm not sure if "Vienna Metro" is a good name for the site. I wonder what word people are using to search information on an underground railway in English, but I fear that it's probably not "metro". That, and the fear that I might at some point be sued by the Metro Group for using the word "metro" (they think they are owning the word — even though recent law suits would indicate otherwise — and almost closed down Robert Schwandl's site when it was still at www.metropla.net) made me think about whether I shouldn't use a different word instead.

Problem: "subway" and "underground" both mean very different things depending on whether they are used in British or American English. And "metro" is kind of correct in the case of Vienna, as the first underground railway was called "Stadtbahn" (="metropolitan railway"). So if any native speakers would enlighten me whether "metro" is a good or bad choice of word, I'd be very thankful.

Posted by Horst at 10:30 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)


February 11, 2005

It seems they (and I'm not quite sure who "they" are, but I have a rough idea) are seriously hyping podcasting — you know the hype is on when articles start appearing in daily newspapers.

That's quite surprising given that the more or less official podcasting site contains very little useable information on what podcasting is and how it works — seems the folks who invented it have such a clear idea about these things that they don't deem it necessary to explain it properly (fortunately, some other people do).

As with audioblogging, of which podcasting is an obvious derivative, I'm not sure what uses it can be put to. Much as I'd appreciate having my own pseudo radio show ("The Aardvark Talks"?), these things seem pretty pointless if you have nothing to talk about. And as I'm currently having something of a dry blogging spell (you may have noticed) and often don't even know what to write about, I'm not sure if starting a podcast now would be such a great idea.

But then as the owner of a new iPod I feel almost compelled to do it. Not listen to other people's podcasts, mind you — can't really be bothered — but really unleash my own worthless audio material on the world out there and wonder if other people can be bothered to listen to it. It might be worth a try.

Posted by Horst at 09:46 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)


February 14, 2005

A recent spam mailSebadoh/Harmacy album cover

But I still won't buy anything from a "p. harm aaaacy" because it sounds like it'll cause pain in a very delicate place. Plus, my name is neither Nicholas nor Friedrich anyway.

Posted by Horst at 09:33 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)


February 15, 2005

One of my students at the teacher training college had used this Wikipedia entry on Imperialism as the basis for a history lesson on imperialism that he taught in a practice class. His supervisor (not me, by the way) failed him, not for his teaching method, but for giving a completely distorted, largely incorrect explanation of the subject.

If you read the article, you'll find that it's pretty obvious why the student was failed. In addition to this, relying on just one source is bad enough already, no matter what that source is. If the information in that resource is, as in this case, incorrect, it is a recipe for disaster. The problem was further confounded by the fact that he had taken the already bad article and further condensed it, arriving at a text that was factually and ideologically more than questionable.

Since October, when the student copied the article from Wikipedia, the article has been altered and corrected more than 70 times, and it's possible that in a year, and a further 70-140 corrections from now, it will actually be a useful resource (at the moment, it is still flawed). However, that does not really help my student, who has to repeat his class because he had trusted Wikipedia to offer him a correct, reliable article back in October.

The student's explanation for why he chose the Wikipedia article was, by the way, "there was a very positive article on Wikipedia in profil [an Austrian news magazine], and besides, Wikipedia always shows up among the first search results on Google". He also said he never once doubted that anything inside Wikipedia could be false.

Posted by Horst at 12:42 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack (0)


February 17, 2005

I've been asked what I'm doing since I don't seem to be blogging a lot lately. Weird thing is, I don't seem to know myself.

I'm still dieting, and I'm at minus 11 kilos now, and I'm still ten kilos heavier than I want to be and five kilos heavier than I realistically aspire to be, and I'm still not much fun.

Oh, and teaching the same 45-minute phonetics class three times in a row today wasn't much fun either.

And I'm considering buying a long long cable so that I can connect my stereo to my computer and digitize some of my vinyl LPs so I can listen to them on my iPod.

I'm also considering getting a life, but I have no idea where to look.

Posted by Horst at 10:40 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack (2)


February 18, 2005

I got a long long cable today. This is so cool. I feel exhilarated.

I'm pretty pathetic, ain't I?

Posted by Horst at 11:25 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

I did what every teacher can't wait to do at the end of the semester — correct term papers. They were the remnants of the literature seminar I taught at the teacher training college last semester, and I had a look at what these students who will be working as teachers a year from now were willing to offer me.

Well. Of the 28 students who attended this class, 10 12 did not submit any written work at all. At least not within the extended extended deadline, which was the extended deadline plus a week (the extended deadline was the deadline plus two weeks).

Of the 18 16 papers that were submitted, 2 4 were more or less original work. Two were cobbled together from various Internet sources without much original writing, but at least with some editorial work and proper references.

The remaining 14 10 papers were copied and pasted from the Internet. And by "copied and pasted" I mean just that — no or next to no words actually written by the students themselves, usually just one source, which was copied in its entirety with no editing whatsoever, not even cutting down the text to meet length requirements. Interestingly, most of the papers contained a bibliography of used sources (this was required), but the sources from which they copied their papers were mysteriously missing from these bibliographies.

Update: Prompted by a comment from Armin, I did a more precise recount and corrected the numbers above.

I did tell them at some point what I do when I'm not teaching, but I think they might have a very wrong idea what a librarian does these days. Otherwise it would seem inconceivable how they would even consider trying to fool me with stuff copied off the Internet.

No, I don't feel offended because they think I'm a fool, and that's mostly because they're the bigger fools thinking they can fool me so easily. Also, simply rejecting a paper is much less work than actually having to correct it. Still, the times when correcting papers could be done without Internet search engines did have a certain innocent appeal.

Posted by Horst at 11:55 PM | Comments (15) | TrackBack (0)


February 21, 2005

Still totally dumbfounded and in shock, Mr deedee and Ms pinkNgreen yesterday told me about a rock concert they had gone to the other night, expecting an audience of thirtysomethings like you and me, only to find themselves in a crowd of 16 year-old teenagers, mostly female, who were screaming like, uh, teenagers, transpiring hormones so madly that breathing normally would give a man an estrogen overdose, and even fighting over the band's discarded water drinking bottles.

Ah, youth.

Oddly, I don't ever remember obsessing over any rock star to this degree. And even though I was a major Beatles fan at one time, I never quite understood the crowds of screaming teenage girls at their concerts. But then I'm under the influence of different hormones, and it kind of was, like, 20 years later.

But it is interesting in so far as only a week back, sitting in a café with Mr deedee and Ms pinkNgreen (and Ms depix), we spent a whole evening compiling lists in a High Fidelity fashion, one of which was "Top 5 Recording Artists We'd Like To Have Sex With". And Mr deedee and I agreed that this list was really difficult because all women whose music we really liked just seemed to be crazy in a creepy, insane kind of way — in short, we were afraid they'd just freak us out in bed (or kill us with some hidden icepick). And clearly, there wasn't much of an incentive to have sex with a woman whose music we didn't like. In short, we were unable to come up with a list of 5 Female Recording Artists To Have Sex With. And we agreed that we were pathetic cowards.

How much easier life seems to be for 16 year-old teenage girls. Like, they're fingering used water bottles without even thinking about Herpes.

Posted by Horst at 07:46 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)


February 23, 2005

Acquisitions of the past 2-3 months, most recent first. The usual recommendations. All links point to the official websites. Brief reviews on my music page, as usual.

The Decemberists: Castaways and cutouts Rogue Wave: Out of the shadow Lou Barlow: Emoh Bob Dylan: Blonde on blonde (2-SACD remaster) The Arcade Fire: Funeral Lester Young: laughin' to keep from cryin' The Fall: Hex Enduction Hour (expanded 2-CD reissue) Talking Heads: The name of this band is Talking Heads TV on the Radio: Young liars The Shins: Oh, inverted world The Decemberists: The Tain The Shins: Chutes too narrow Garden State: Music from the motion picture TV on the Radio: Desperate youth, blood thirsty babes Johnny Cash: The man comes around The Decemberists: Her Majesty Brian Wilson: Smile Joanna Newsom: The Milk-Eyed Mender

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


February 24, 2005

So I got this long long cable a few days ago, you remember, the one I got really enthusiastic about because it would allow me to digitize my vinyl LPs without actually having to carry either my stereo or my computer all around my flat.

There is such a thing as Murphy's Law of Cables. It states that no matter which cable you buy, it will always be 10cm (approx. 4") too short. It applies for almost every cable — in fact the only cable I ever came across that it did not apply to was the power cable of my old vacuum cleaner, but then I got a new one a few months ago, and this one has a shorter power cable, one that is exactly 10cm (approx. 4") too short to reach one of the far corners of my living room without an extension.

I have often wondered why cables come in lengths of like 2 metres or 5 metres when obviously the average apartment size would dictate they should really come in lengths of 2.1 or 5.1 metres. And then I realized that the companies that make cables are in many cases also the companies that make cable extensions, and suddenly everything seemed to fit into place.

Anyway, this cable that I bought was a 5 metre cable, which was my rough estimate of how long it would need to be to reach from my stereo to my computer. And it turns out that the distance between my amplifier and the sound input connector of my computer is exactly 5.1 metres.

So I guess it's a good thing that I never planned to connect the cable that way. Instead, I'm connecting it to the cable that connects the amplifier to my MiniDisc recorder, which, due to another short cable problem, is about 20cm closer to the computer, so that the 5 metre cable fits perfectly without any danger of me tripping over it.

Of course I tripped over it twice already, but the feeling of satisfaction of having defied Murphy's Law of Cables was ample compensation for the pain.

Posted by Horst at 09:10 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)


February 26, 2005

I just spent the past 3 hours reading Mark Haddon's Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (a brilliant book by the way, but sadly, three hours is all it takes to read it), and in this novel, the main character proves a point by this puzzle:

Suppose you're a candidate on a game show, and in the finale, the game show host gives you the choice of three doors: behind one door is a car; behind the others, goats. You want the car. So you pick a door, and the host, who knows what's behind the other doors, opens a different door, and you see a goat. He then says to you, 'Do you want to keep the door that you chose or do you want to switch?' So unless you have a really strong hunch that you are correct, should you
  1. switch
  2. not switch
  3. either; it doesn't really matter

Your answers in the comments, please. If you already know the puzzle, have read the book, or have used Google to find the answer, you are disqualified.

Posted by Horst at 09:51 PM | Comments (16) | TrackBack (0)


February 28, 2005

Okay, so I've spent all day building two weblogs for internal use at the office, and so I don't really feel like blogging privately today. Deal with it. The solution for Saturday's puzzle will be posted tomorrow.

Posted by Horst at 10:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)



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