Skip to content

Justin Mason's Weblog Posts

Robin Cook’s viewpoint

Robin Cook, who resigned from the UK cabinet last week:

… If you take a response to 9/11 as being a driving force of the American approach to international affairs, I would strongly argue that one of the greatest assets that came out of that was the extraordinarily rich and powerfully diverse coalition against international terrorism.’

That coalition, according to Cook, has now been shattered on the altar of pre-emptive diplomacy. America has long planned to attack Iraq and splits in the UN, Nato and in the European Union were a price worth paying.

‘Now, I’m not an American politician but if I was I would be inveighing against the extent to which the Bush administration had allowed that terrific asset to disintegrate,’ Cook said.

‘Instead the US is left embarking on military action from a position of diplomatic weakness, unable to get any major international organisation to agree with it. We are heading for a very serious risk of a big gulf between the Western and Islamic world. That seems to me to have thrown away a powerful asset for the US which relates to its number one security concern.’

Also, some history (thanks to Dan Brickley for forwarding this): Ireland as the pivot of a league of nations, written by Michael Collins in 1921, shortly after Ireland’s declaration of independence from the UK:

Into such a League might not America be willing to enter? By doing so America would be on the way to secure the world ideal of free, equal, and friendly nations on which her aspirations are so firmly fixed. Ireland’s inclusion as a free member of this League would have a powerful influence in consolidating the whole body, for Ireland is herself a mother country with world-wide influences, and it is scarcely to be doubted that were she a free partner in the League as sketched the Irish in America would surely wish America to be associated in such a combination. In that League the Irish in Ireland would be joined with the Irish in America, and they would both share in a common internationality with the people of America, England, and the other free nations of the League. Through the link of Ireland a co-operation and understanding would arise between England and America, and would render unnecessary those safeguards which England wishes to impose upon Ireland and which by preserving an element of restraint might render less satisfactory the new relations between the two countries.

It’s incredible to consider how much has changed in world politics since those words were written 82 years ago.

And finally, some humour: Power Phillips Home Page:

Powers Phillips, P.C., is a small law firm located in downtown Denver, Colorado within convenient walking distance of over fifty bars and a couple of doughnut shops. Powers Phillips also maintains a small satellite office-in-exile on the cow-covered hillsides near Carbondale, Colorado, where it puts out to pasture some of its aging attorneys.

The firm is composed of lawyers from the two major strains of the legal profession, those who litigate and those who wouldn’t be caught dead in a courtroom.

Litigation lawyers are the type who will lie, cheat and steal to win a case and who can’t complete a sentence without the words ‘I object’ or ‘I demand another extension on that filing deadline.’ Many people believe that litigation lawyers are the reason all lawyers are held in such low esteem by the public. Powers Phillips, P.C. is pleased to report that only three of its lawyers, Trish Bangert, Tom McMahon, and Tamara Vincelette are litigation lawyers, and only one of them is a man.

And it gets worse from there on.

Comments closed

The Perils of ‘Raw’ News

Mark Lawson in today’s Guardian:

This time, digital satellite viewers can even use their red interactive buttons to call the shots of the shots: zapping between battle zones and international capitals like a James Bond baddie watching the world come down on 30 TV screens in his underground bunker… We belong to a generation which has largely ceased to be surprised by television, but think about this: those who wanted to were able to watch an enemy operation live from the banks of the Tigris. This weekend’s pictures have widened the eyes like nothing since the moon landings, though with rather greater moral complications. The essential problem is that in seeming to know everything, we know nothing. There are wise old journalists who will tell you that the word ‘raw’ is usually a warning. It is unwise to eat raw meat or smell raw sewage and it may be equally foolish to consume raw news coverage.

Forwarded by Tim Chapman on the forteana list.

Kind of irrelevant to me, seeing as I’m now based in the US, and the concept of unbiased, unfiltered TV news doesn’t really seem to exist over here.

Instead, the war coverage consists of an endless array of human interest stories with the troops and whizz-bang explosion footage. There’s absolutely no interpretation, apart from what it might imply for relatives of the US servicemen involved — that’s it. As far as I can see, there is no real liberal news, or a balancing viewpoint, on TV over here.

In about 3 hours of news on TV, I think I saw one opposing viewpoint, 5 minutes with ex-senator George McGovern. That was it.

I’m finding this to be a serious culture shock. Thankfully, I’ve got the web to read and listen to the European stuff instead, so I’m doing that instead. The old Barlow line about the internet and censorship springs to mind…

Comments closed

zkjl IMPORTANT information on NOT DYING!!! kfdjsd aowopqq (fwd)

Ben notes this passage from this SFGate story:

‘(Saddam’s) generals have been getting personal messages, including e-mail and cell phone calls, urging them not to fight.’

Then speculates exactly what such a message might look like

Date: Thu, 20 Mar 2003 12:30:18 -0800
From: ben (spam-protected)
Subject: speculation

Dear friend,
This is for real!!!!!!!!!!!!1
This is a ''ONE-TIME MESSAGE'' you were randomly
selected to receive this.  There is no need to reply
to remove, you will receive no further mailings from
us.  If you have interest in this GREAT INFORMATION,
please do not click reply, use the contact information
in this message. Thank You! :-)
* Print This Now For Future Reference *
The following opportunity is one you may be interested
in taking a look at.  It can be started with VERY
LITTLE risk and the return is TREMENDOUS!!!
You are about to not get killed by the most powerful
military force in the world.
Please read the enclosed program...THEN READ IT
<>  <>  <>  <>  <>  <>  <>  <>  <>  <>  <>  <>  <>  
The enclosed information is something I almost let
slip through my fingers.Fortunately, sometime later I
re-read everything and gave some thought and study to
My name is Major Hassan al-Ramidi. Twelve years ago,
the unit I commanded at for the past twelve years was
eliminated. After unproductively wandering around in
the desert in terror for a while, I incurred many
unforeseen problems. Enormous numbers of men and
high-tech weapons surrounded me and were trying to
kill me. I truly believe it was wrong for me to be in
trouble like this.  AT THAT MOMENT something
significant happened in my life and I am writing to
share my experience in hopes that this will change
your life FOREVER!!!
In mid-December, I received this program via email.  I
had been sending away for information on various
opportunities for not dying.  All of the programs I
received, in my opinion, were not practical.  They
were either too difficult for me to comprehend or they
involved me getting killed by the US military or dying
of thirst in the desert. 
But like I was saying, in December I received this
program.  I didn't send for it, or ask for it, they
just got my name off a mailing list. THANK GOODNESS
FOR THAT!!!  After reading it several times, to
make sure I was reading it correctly, I couldn't
believe my eyes.  Here was a NOT GETTING KILLED
After I got a pencil and paper and figured it out, I
at least had a chance of not dying horribly and
painfully.  After determining that the program is

Comments closed

precision mincemeat manufacture on the JDAM bomb:

The B-2 bomber carries sixteen 2’000 lb. JDAM bombs. If all goes 100% as planned (the bomb does not fall outside of its specified margin of error of 13 meters, and the GPS guidance system is not foiled by a $50 radio jammer kit, easily purchased), then here is what one such bomb does :
  • everyone within a 120 meter radius is killed;
  • to be safe from serious shrapnel damage, a person must be at least 365
    • meters away;
  • to be really safe from all effects of fragmentation, a person must be 1000 meters away, according to Admiral Stufflebeem.

    The B-2s will be used upon targets within Baghdad.

    -Prof Marc W. Herold, IBC Project Consultant

Sounds like the perfect weapon for use in tight city streets. :(

Comments closed

blogging Dengue fever

Thank ghod this is one experience of SE Asia I missed. I came across this blog through some random blog-hopping last night; it’s two farang tourists blogging their backpacking trip through the region. All great fun until they both catch Dengue fever:

Dengue is commonly called ‘break bone fever’, and I found out why at about 2 AM on the train. I woke up with a 102 fever, in the most intense pain I can recall having in years. Everything hurt, but especially my back and legs. Harper later described the sensation as one of having someone scrape your bones with a knife, and that sounds about right.

Jesus. I am so thankful I missed out on that particular aspect (a mild bout of food poisoning with a fever of 104 was all I had to put up with!)

Dengue fever is endemic to many parts of the region, even Bangkok , the capital city of Thailand. It gets a lot less attention than malaria, since it’s not fatal in the vast majority of cases (unless you get the rarer haemorrhagic version), but it is excruciating by all accounts, and I’ve met quite a few travellers who’ve met someone who caught it. Unfortunately there’s not much you can do to avoid it but slather on the DEET, cover up, and hope for the best.

Comments closed

On a lighter note…

Well, despite the covert bugging of the European Council offices of 3 major EU delegations, the apparatus of some states, at least, is bringing a smile to my face. The German federal secret service, the Bundesnachrichendienstes (BND), has just published Topf Secret, their official cookbook. Really. The Guardian notes:

The book consists of recipes sent in from around the world by German spies in the field. Thus, there are two recipes from Iraq, several from central Africa, the Philippines and Scotland.

Again, more questions than answers. The Germans have spies in Scotland? Do they really eat haggis? (‘Attention: fill only 2/3 of the stomach since the oat flour will expand. If the stomach is too full it can explode while cooking!’) Do the two recipes from Iraq – for fattousch and tabouleh – have to be so boring (use only crunchy lettuce leaves for the fattousch)? Why are there German agents in Iraq? What are they doing in the US as well, and do they like that nation’s recipe for pumpkin pie?

Comments closed

The Beeb via the ‘net

wow, the Beeb fed 29,200 simultaneous RealMedia streams at one point today; that breaks down to 18,400 listeners in the UK, 12,800 elsewhere in the world.

Since getting back to bandwidth, I’ve been listening to a lot of Radio 4, waking up to the Today programme in particular. Definitely recommended; nothing like a few clipped RP tones to fill you in on all the details.

Also recommended: the Beeb’s live streams collection, featuring all the FM and digital-radio stations streamed with excellent quality. Who needs Napster when you’ve got internet radio ;)

Comments closed

Maximum turd length standardized by NASA

for your delectation, I present the NASA standard for acceptable turds in space: ‘c) The fecal collector shall accommodate a maximum BOLUS length of 330 mm (13 in).’

My favourite bit: ‘d) Quantities in excess of these amounts shall not result in an unrecoverable condition.’ I should hope not!

Thanks to James Rogers on the FoRK list for this fine source of bits…

Comments closed

St. Patrick’s day

My parents, sister, and her husband Luke, just rang to wish lá féile Padraig shona againn. Thanks guys!

But, as part of the deal, I had to promise to impart some google-juice to my Dad’s website; he’s an architectural photographer in Dublin, Ireland, who also does a nice sideline in stock photography, especially where his holiday snaps are involved. So he’s now on the sidebar ;)

Comments closed

The second coming — as a fish

The Guardian reports that ‘an obscure Jewish sect in New York has been gripped in awe by what it believes to be a mystical visitation by a 20lb carp that was heard shouting in Hebrew, i n what many Jews worldwide are hailing as a modern miracle.’ … ‘According to two fish-cutters at the New Square Fish Market, the carp was about to be slaughtered and made into gefilte fish for Sabbath dinner when it sudden ly began shouting apocalyptic warnings in Hebrew.’

Date: Sun, 16 Mar 2003 10:14:20 +0000
From: “Dohrn List” (spam-protected)
To: (spam-protected)
Subject: God reveals himself as a fish

Word is made flesh as God reveals himself… as a fish

Edward Helmore New York Sunday March 16, 2003 The Observer

An obscure Jewish sect in New York has been gripped in awe by what it believes to be a mystical visitation by a 20lb carp that was heard shouting in Hebrew, i n what many Jews worldwide are hailing as a modern miracle.

Many of the 7,000-member Skver sect of Hasidim in New Square, 30 miles north of

Manhattan, believe God has revealed himself in fish form. 

According to two fish-cutters at the New Square Fish Market, the carp was about

to be slaughtered and made into gefilte fish for Sabbath dinner when it sudden

ly began shouting apocalyptic warnings in Hebrew.

Many believe the carp was channelling the troubled soul of a revered community elder who recently died; others say it was God. The only witnesses to the mysti cal show were Zalmen Rosen, a 57-year-old Hasid with 11 children, and his co-wo rker, Luis Nivelo. They say that on 28 January at 4pm they were about to club t he carp on the head when it began yelling.

Nivelo, a Gentile who does not understand Hebrew, was so shocked at the sight o f a fish talking in any language that he fell over. He ran into the front of th e store screaming: ‘It’s the Devil! The Devil is here!’ Then the shop owner hea rd it shouting warnings and commands too.

‘It said “Tzaruch shemirah” and “Hasof bah”,’ he told the New York Times, ‘whic h essentially means that everyone needs to account for themselves because the e nd is near.’

The animated carp commanded Rosen to pray and study the Torah. Rosen tried to k ill the fish but injured himself. It was finally butchered by Nivelo and sold.

However, word spread far and wide and Nivelo complains he has been plagued by p hone calls from as far away as London and Israel. The story has since been ampl ified by repetition and some now believe the fish’s outburst was a warning abou t the dangers of the impending war in Iraq.

Some say they fear the born-again President Bush believes he is preparing the w orld for the Second Coming of Christ, and war in Iraq is just the opening salvo

in the battle of Armageddon. 

Local resident Abraham Spitz said: ‘Two men do not dream the same dream. It is very rare that God reminds people he exists in this modern world. But when he d oes, you cannot ignore it.’

Others in New Square discount the apocalyptic reading altogether and suggest th e notion of a talking fish is as fictional as Tony Soprano’s talking-fish dream

in an episode of The Sopranos . 

Stand-up comedians have already incorporated the carp into their comedy routine s at weddings. One gefilte company has considered changing it’s slogan to: ‘Our

fish speaks for itself.' 

Still, the shouting carp corresponds with the belief of some Hasidic sects that

righteous people can be reincarnated as fish. They say that Nivelo may have be

en selected because he is not Jewish, but a weary Nivelo told the New York Time s : ‘I wish I never said anything about it. I’m getting so many calls every day , I’ve stopped answering. Israel, London, Miami, Brooklyn. They all want to hea r about the talking fish.’

A devout Christian, he still thinks the carp was the Devil. ‘I don’t believe an y of this Jewish stuff. But I heard that fish talk.’

He’s grown tired of the whole thing. ‘It’s just a big headache for me,’ he adde

  1. ‘I pull my phone out of the wall at night. I don’t sleep and I’ve lost weigh


Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2003

Comments closed

Peter Kay’s Observations of Life

About time I posted this — everyone who’s read ’em agrees vehemently with at least 5 of these; and a quick Google ™ reveals that this list hasn’t ever had a page to itself out there on the interweb. So here it is.

My personal favourites: 6, 8, 15, 20, 33, and best of all, 28…

  • 1) Triangular sandwiches taste better than square ones.
  • 2) At the end of every party there is always a girl crying.
  • 3) One of the most awkward things that can happen in a pub is when your pint-to-toilet cycle gets synchronised with a complete stranger.
  • 4) You’ve never quite sure whether it’s ok to eat green crisps.
  • 5) Everyone who grew up in the 80’s has entered the digits 55378008 into a calculator.
  • 6) Reading when you’re drunk is horrible.
  • 7) Sharpening a pencil with a knife makes you feel really manly.
  • 8) You’re never quite sure whether it’s against the law or not to have a fire in your back garden.
  • 9) Nobody ever dares make cup-a-soup in a bowl.
  • 10) You never know where to look when eating a banana.
  • 11) Its impossible to describe the smell of a wet cat.
  • 12) Prodding a fire with a stick makes you feel manly.
  • 13) Rummaging in an overgrown garden will always turn up a bouncy ball.
  • 14) You always feel a bit scared when stroking horses.
  • 15) Everyone always remembers the day a dog ran into your school.
  • 16) The most embarrassing thing you can do as schoolchild is to call your teacher mum or dad.
  • 17) The smaller the monkey the more it looks like it would kill you at the first given opportunity.
  • 18) Some days you see lots of people on crutches.
  • 19) Every bloke has at some stage while taking a pee flushed half way through and then raced against the flush.
  • 20) Old women with mobile phones look wrong!
  • 21) Its impossible to look cool whilst picking up a Frisbee.
  • 22) Driving through a tunnel makes you feel excited.
  • 23) You never ever run out of salt.
  • 24) Old ladies can eat more than you think.
  • 25) You can’t respect a man who carries a dog.
  • 26) There’s no panic like the panic you momentarily feel when you’ve got your hand or head stuck in something.
  • 27) No one knows the origins of their metal coat hangers.
  • 28) Despite constant warning, you have never met anybody who has had their arm broken by a swan.
  • 29) The most painful household incident is wearing socks and stepping on an upturned plug.
  • 30) People who don’t drive slam car doors too hard
  • 31) You’ve turned into your dad the day you put aside a thin piece of wood specifically to stir paint with.
  • 32) Everyone had an uncle who tried to steal their nose.
  • 33) Bricks are horrible to carry.
  • 34) In every plate of chips there is a bad chip.
Comments closed

laugh and you’re dead

Humour:Guardian: The joke’s on Saddam: In northern Iraq, they’re laughing at Saddam Hussein. Luke Harding meets two comedians who have dared to cock a snook at the ruthless dictator – and annoyed him so much that he ordered their assassination.

The film was screened on Kurdish television; and after decades of official repression, it was a huge hit. Saddam’s vigilant agents dispatched a CD copy to Baghdad. The Iraqi president was not amused. His response, when it came, was predictable: he sent several assassins to northern Iraq to kill the entire cast. ‘Fortunately the guys were all arrested (by the Kurdish authorities),’ Hassan recalls. ‘They were found carrying a list. All our names were on it.’
Comments closed

With your fetlocks flowing in the… wind

Life imitates Father Ted. It seems the Irish Eurovision entry sounds very similar to the Danish entry from 2000, which, if true, is almost exactly the subject of a classic episode of cult comedy TV show Father Ted, My Lovely Horse.

Dougal: ‘So we wouldn’t be stealing the song then?’ Ted: ‘No, it’d be more like we were keeping their memory alive.’ Dougal: ‘So if we won we could give the prize money to their relatives?’ Ted: ‘Yeah, we’ll play that by ear.’

The full low-down on the episode is here. Classic…

Anyway, I’m now in sunny SoCal, set up with more bandwidth than I’ve had in over a year. In fact, I’m swimming in bandwidth. Plus a decent pair of speakers for the ol’ MP3 collection, at last (my last set are in storage and have been for 3 months)… happy happy joy joy.

Myself and my cat had a 16-hour flight, and somehow or other, he seems satisfied. Well, I suppose as long as the catfood and lots of petting is forthcoming, life is grass for this fella. Easily satisfied!

Date: Tue, 11 Mar 2003 17:09:01 +0000
From: Joe McNally (spam-protected)
To: Yahoogroups Forteana (spam-protected)
Subject: My Lovely Horse

Real life repeat of Father Ted feared

By Staff reporter

IRELAND’S Eurovision hope Mickey Joe Harte has rubbished claims that his song bears a close resemblance to Denmark’s winning entry of 2000.

Eurovision fans were complaining of deja vu yesterday when listening to We’ve Got the World, which will be sung by the Lifford father-of-two. The song – written by Mark Brannigan and Keith Molloy

  • is said to sound eerily like Fly on the Wings of Love, sung by the

Danish Olsen Brothers three years ago.

Mickey Joe last night said he ‘honestly couldn’t see the similarity’, but added that the first line of the chorus could be said to resemble the Danish entry.

Phil Coulter, one of the judges who watched thousands of young hopefuls perform in RTE’s You’re a Star talent show – which Mickey Joe won on Sunday night – also insisted any similarity between the two songs was purely coincidental.

But RTE’s Joe Duffy radio programme was inundated with calls from listeners who were terrified that Ireland was setting itself up for a Father Ted-like fiasco.

Listener Frank O’Reilly told Duffy that his daughter Claire, a Eurovision fanatic, spotted the similarity immediately and revealed that the words of one song could be sung over the melody of the second.

A second listener, called Margaret, also said she and her children had started singing the Danish song in their sitting room on the first night they heard We’ve Got the World.

Ironically, an episode of the hit Channel 4 comedy Father Ted featured the title character, played by Dermot Morgan, and his sidekick Fr Dougal, bidding for Eurovision glory with a ‘borrowed’ song from another Scandinavian country in a previous year.

Phil Coulter admitted that the Irish song was reminiscent of the Olsen ditty, but insisted there ‘was nothing intrinsically original’ about the Danish song.

‘There is no question that there is going to be any kind of objection and there is no question that any objection would be upheld,’ he added. — Joe McNally :: Flaneur at Large ::

Comments closed

More on SCO v IBM

LWN on the case. An excellent commentary, and features this lovely user-posted comment as well:

‘Without access to such equipment, facilities, sophisticated methods, concepts and coordinated know-how, it would be difficult or impossible for the Linux development community to create a grade of Linux adequate for enterprise use.’

Alan Cox wrote the first SMP version of Linux. Do you know who bought Alan the hardware? It was Caldera :-)

Not IBM, after all, but Caldera — who are now part of the SCO group. This usenet posting from 1995 backs that up, as does the Caldera-badged Linux SMP page.

Comments closed

‘Prestigious Non-Accredited Degree’ sites shut down

The BBC reports that trading standards officials from the UK and US have successfully shut down an Israeli/Romanian/US-based fake-degree spam operation. Or maybe they’ve just shut down 3 websites, which is all I can see in that report — that’s not going to make a whole lot of difference, so let’s hope not.

Date: Fri, 07 Mar 2003 14:09:32 +0000
From: “Tim Chapman” (spam-protected)
To: forteana (spam-protected)
Subject: Bogus degree sites shut down

Last Updated:  Friday, 7 March, 2003, 12:19 GMT Bogus degree sites shut down

Several websites offering fake British degrees for up to £1,000 each have been closed down following a joint operation in the UK and US.

The certificates, from 14 made-up institutions, were used by hundreds of unqualified people, mainly in North America, to gain jobs in areas such as teaching, computing and childcare.

The operation, which employed 30 staff in Romania, targeted millions of people every day with circular e-mails.

Trading standards officers in Enfield, north London, worked with their US counterparts for four years before the US District Court ordered the closure of the sites.

Investigator Tony Allen said: “It was a difficult operation to crack. The problem was that the people sending out the e-mails weren’t conning anyone.


“Those people who bought the degrees knew exactly what they were doing. The complaints we received were actually from colleagues of those who got jobs by lying.

“It’s worrying that they got into such important and responsible positions using the fake degrees.”

Among the institutions created for the websites were the University of Palmers Green, the University of Wexford and Harrington University. The operation, run by a man and a woman, both Israeli, was based at offices in Israel, Romania and the US. It is thought to have made millions of pounds.

The bogus institutions used a drop box in Green Lanes, London, as a postal address.

Under the Education Reform Act of 1988 it is an offence to supply a degree unless approved to do so by the Education Secretary.

Higher education minister Margaret Hodge said: “Many overseas organisations use the UK’s name and higher education reputation to offer their own ‘degrees’ over the internet, so I welcome this action to clamp down on such operations.

“This demonstrates that action can be taken with the use of international co-operation. I take this matter very seriously.”

Comments closed

SCO sues IBM over Linux

SCO sues IBM (via Slashdot) . Talk about self-immolation: sue IBM, of all companies, with an intellectual property case. One SCO claim:

‘It is not possible for Linux to rapidly reach Unix performance standards for complete enterprise functionality without the misappropriation of Unix code.’

Apart from the fact that SMP is just not a state-of-the-art thing any more; things move on! Perhaps if SCO/Novell/USL hadn’t sat on their hands for 10 years, swapping IP and suing BSDI, they’d still be in the game. Anyway, here’s what the analysts think:

‘It’s a fairly end-of-life move for the stockholders and managers of that company,’ said Jonathan Eunice, an Illuminata analyst. ‘Really what beat SCO is not any problem with what IBM did; it’s what the market decided. This is a way of salvaging value out of the SCO franchise they can’t get by winning in the marketplace.’

He said it.

Comments closed

Cough Cheat Millionaire transcript

The transcript of the “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” episode at the centre of a current UK court case; the producers claim that the contestant cheated, with the aid of a coughing accomplice. Going by this transcript, it’s an open-and-shut case IMO.

Date: Thu, 06 Mar 2003 09:56:42 +0000
From: Tom Farrell (spam-protected)
To: (spam-protected)
Subject: cough cheat millionaire transcript

The major answered the first three questions, but got into difficulty on question six, using the “ask the audience” lifeline when confronted with a question about Coronation Street. He struggled on the next question about the location of the river Foyle and phoned a friend.

As the questions became harder, Major Ingram often appeared unsure and wrestled out loud with several options, often going for a different answer from the one he initially appeared to choose.

Mr Hilliard said there was “a bit of an attempt to make it look like a sweat, some furrowing of the brow … complete changes of mind coincide with the coughs; if you look at the whole picture, that’s what’s going on.”

Major Ingram struggled on question eight, when he was asked who Jacqueline Kennedy’s second husband had been. On two occasions, when he said the correct answer – Aristotle Onassis – out loud, a cough was heard, which the prosecution claims came from Mr Whittock.

For £125,000, Major Ingram was asked about the Holbein painting the Ambassadors.

Major Ingram: “I think I’m going to go for Holbein.”

A cough is heard. Major Ingram says this is his final answer, and is told he is right.

During the next question there was a series of coughs as Major Ingram struggled with the question.

Tarrant asked: “What kind of garment is an Anthony Eden? An overcoat, hat, shoe, tie?”

Major Ingram: “I think it is a hat.”


Major Ingram: “Again I’m not sure. I think it is…”


Major Ingram: “I am sure it is a hat. Am I sure?”


Major Ingram: “Yes, hat, it’s a hat.”

To cheers, Tarrant told him it was the right answer. Then for the £500,000 question, he was asked: “Baron Haussmann is best known for his planning of which city? Rome, Paris, Berlin, Athens.”

Major Ingram: “I think it is Berlin. I think Haussmann is a more German name than Italian or Parisian or Athens. I am really not sure. I’m never sure. If I was at home, I would be saying Berlin if I was watching this on TV.”

A loud cough was then heard, and the prosecution claim that Mr Whittock resorted to the “desperate measure” of saying the word “no” under cover of a cough.

Major Ingram: “I do not think it’s Paris.”


Major Ingram: “I do not think it’s Athens, I am sure it is not Rome. I would have thought it’s Berlin but there’s a chance it is Paris but I am not sure. Think, think, think! I know I have read this, I think it is Berlin, it could be Paris. I think it is Paris.”


Major Ingram: “Yes, I am going to play.”

Tarrant: “Hang on, where are we?”

Major Ingram: “I am just talking to myself. It is either Berlin or Paris. I think it is Paris.”


Major Ingram: “I am going to play Paris.”

Tarrant: “You were convinced it was Berlin.”

Major Ingram: “I know. I think it’s Paris.”

Tarrant: “He thought it was Berlin, Berlin, Berlin. You changed your answer
to Paris. That brought you £500,000. What a man! What a man. Quite an amazing man.”

Then came the £1m pound question: “A number one followed by 100 zeros is known by what name? A googol, a megatron, a gigabit or a nanomole?”

Major Ingram: “I am not sure.”

Tarrant: “Charles, you’ve not been sure since question number two.”

Major Ingram: “The doubt is multiplied. I think it is nanomole but it could be a gigabit, but I am not sure. I do not think I can do this one. I do not think it is a megatron. I do not think I have heard of a googol.”


Major Ingram: “Googol, googol, googol. By a process of elimination I have to think it’s a googol but I do not know what a googol is. I do not think it’s a gigabit, nanomole, and I do not think it’s a megatron. I really do think it’s a googol.”

Tarrant: “But you think it’s a nanomole. You have never heard of a googol.”

Major Ingram: “It has to be a googol.”

Tarrant: “It’s also the only chance you will have to lose £468,000. You are
going for the one you have never heard of.”

Major Ingram: “I do not mind taking the odd risk now and again. My strategy has been direct so far – take it by the bit and go for it. I’ve been very positive, I think. I do not think it’s a gigabit, I do not think it’s a nanomole or megatron. I am sure it’s a googol.”


Major Ingram: “Surely, surely.”

Tarrant: “You lose £468,000 if you are wrong.”

Major Ingram: “No, it’s a googol. God, is it a googol? Yes, it’s a googol. Yes, yes, it’s a googol.”


Major Ingram: “I am going to play googol.”

After a break, Tarrant said: “He initially went for nanomole, he then went through the various options again. He then went for googol because he had never heard of it and he had heard of the other three. You’ve just won £1m.”

Comments closed

Who the fuck is Amanda Perez?

and why is she spamming me?

From: “Amanda Perez” [email protected] To: [email protected]

Let’s send Amanda Perez and her new video ‘Angel’ to the top of MTV’s Total Request Live!

I don’t think so. How’s about reporting her to SpamCop instead?

Wow, Virgin Records, you are in so much trouble; spamming me with this crap, using a scraped address — in fact, not even a valid address; it’s a Message-Id! That address has never existed to receive mail. Out and out spamming. Unbelievable.

Update: actually, it’s probably nothing to do with Virgin, on reflection; nothing in the headers indicates anything apart from a dialup PacBell customer. So, Virgin Records, sorry for all the shouting ;)

Return-path: (spam-protected)
Delivered-to: (spam-protected)
Received: from localhost (jalapeno [])
by (Postfix) with ESMTP id 4FC7816F17
for (spam-protected) Thu,  6 Mar 2003 11:10:38 +0000 (GMT)
Received: from jalapeno []
by localhost with IMAP (fetchmail-5.9.0)
for (spam-protected) (single-drop); Thu, 06 Mar 2003 11:10:38 +0000 (GMT)
Received: from pavillion (
[]) by (8.11.6/8.11.6) with ESMTP id
h268Nin26527 for (spam-protected) Thu,
6 Mar 2003 08:23:44 GMT
Message-id: (spam-protected)
Mime-version: 1.0
Content-type: text/plain; charset=''iso-8859-1''
Content-transfer-encoding: 7bit
X-spam-status: No, hits=-5.7 required=5.0
X-spam-checker-version: SpamAssassin 2.60-cvs (1.178-2003-03-03-exp)
Subject: They put me on MTV!
From: ''Amanda Perez'' (spam-protected)
Date: Thu, 06 Mar 2003 00:32:25 -0800 (08:32 GMT)
To: (spam-protected)
Let's send Amanda Perez and her new video ''Angel'' to the top of MTV's Total Request 
Thanks for helping Amanda get to the top, please try to vote before the week 
is out, and you can see the results on MTV's TRL.
Just click on the link below or paste it into your browser's Address window and 
hit enter to vote for Amanda's video at

Comments closed

very nasty new sendmail vulnerability

Remote Sendmail Header Processing Vulnerability.

Attackers may remotely exploit this vulnerability to gain ‘root’ or superuser control of any vulnerable Sendmail server. Sendmail and all other email servers are typically exposed to the Internet in order to send and receive Internet email. Vulnerable Sendmail servers will not be protected by legacy security devices such as firewalls and/or packet filters. This vulnerability is especially dangerous because the exploit can be delivered within an email message and the attacker doesn’t need any specific knowledge of the target to launch a successful attack.

Sendmail versions from 5.79 to 8.12.7 are vulnerable.

Protection mechanisms such as implementation of a non-executable stack do not offer any protection from exploitation of this vulnerability. Successful exploitation of this vulnerability does not generate any log entries.


Comments closed

Recent history of the written word, with William Gibson

William Gibson, talking about why he uses all-caps book titles, gives a short history lesson regarding the rendering of book titles, back in the age of the mimeograph:

Much of my earliest typewriting experience had to do with mimeography, a pre-thermocopy form of reproduction once fairly universal in the world’s offices. You typed, once, on a waxed paper ‘stencil’, clipped this over a silkscreen device with a moving pad or drum of ink behind it, and your mimeograph ran off (or silkscreened, really) as many copies of your document as you required. Owing to the physical peculiarities of the medium, though, it was unwise to underline too frequently on a mimeograph stencil: the single unbroken line was particularly prone to tear, producing leaks and smudging.

People who liked books, and frequently wrote letters, on typewriters, to other people who liked books, tended, free from the constraints of an academic stylesheet, to render titles in all-caps. People who wrote about books for publication in amateur journals (mimeo was an authentic medium of the American samisdat) rendered titles in all-caps in order to avoid stencil-tears. At various times, I was both.

It’s such a pleasure having this kind of stuff to read every day!

Comments closed


Returnadores: a New Life in the Old World. ‘Imported from Argentina to help save the village from a decades-long decline in population which threatened its very future, the Paez family has travelled backwards along the path of the first conquistadores and the generations of Spanish emigrants who followed them.’

Comments closed

Random Word of BIG LETTERS

Leonard notes the ‘Random word of mixed symbols with length 1 to 27’ type spammer obfuscation, suggesting it’s ‘open source spam’; I reckon it’s more ‘literate programming spam’, in that it’s self-documenting. But it certainly is very wierd. Maybe some spamtool developer has a COBOL fetish.

Anyway, just got back from a very enjoyable work trip to find my visa documents have arrived — so things are probably going to heat up ’round about Thursday, when I have my interview at the US Embassy. Once that happens, it’s full speed ahead on flights, shipping, figuring out how to transport the cat, handing over house to new tenants, etc. etc…

Comments closed

Bitstream come through with Vera

Bitstream Vera released as a beta. The full release, sometime next month, will use an extremely open license. To quote the FAQ:

Are derivative works allowed?


I want to sell a software package that uses these fonts: Can I do so?

Sure. Bundle the fonts with your software and sell your software with the fonts. That is the intent of the copyright.

Hey presto — open source fonts! Good work by Jim Gettys, Bitstream and GNOME in making these available.

Comments closed

World’s first 419 revenge killing? (fwd)


Spam: The Register: World’s first 419 revenge killing?

Michael Lekara Wayid, 50, Nigeria’s consul in the Czech Republic, was shot dead at the embassy yesterday morning. The embassy’s 37-year-old receptionist was shot in the hand during the melee which began after a suspect opened fire after visiting the embassy to discuss an unspecified business matter yesterday morning. A 72-year-old Czech man was arrested at the scene on suspicion of murder, the BBC reports. Unconfirmed, and thus far sketchy reports, suggest the unnamed suspect was a victim of a 419 (AKA advanced fee) fraud.

Now that’s taking it a bit too far IMO ;)

Comments closed

A new world for radio regulators

GNU Radio, which (as noted on Boing Boing) has just released screenshots of a successfully-decoded HDTV signal, is a totally new way to receive (and possibly, in the future, send) radio-frequency signals. The FCC ponder the implications:

The emergence of the low-cost, generally available SDR which can be configured with … open software will present a new issue for regulators. What will be placed in the hands of the public entrepreneurs, amateurs, and even those with malicious intent will be machines which in principal can emulate, send, and receive any radio signal on any band. …

Then, with the world-wide availability of software that can even be modified if needed, any radio transmitter or receiver can be emulated. Bans on receiver types will be circumventable with ease. Mandates such as the proposed ATSC broadcast flag will be hard to enforce (and may even fail in the presence of a single web-connected noncompliant receiver). And, although not generally an issue for the Commission, it will be possible to implement proprietary systems without the benefit of any license from the patent holder. Because the software is open, as a practical matter virtually all mandated restrictions will be at risk (except for total power output which remains a classical hardware issue). …

In the GNU SDR environment, we have the makings of a powerful new technology that has the potential of solving the spectrum management problem, but we may also have other people in the world writing and distributing software with their own agenda.

Wow. That’s a brave new world. I wish I knew enough about radio tech to really get a handle on this stuff…

Comments closed

AOL reports on its spam-blocking efforts

Lycos: AOL reports to Members on Its Efforts to Fight Spam. ‘Members Now Reporting 4.1 Million Junk E-Mails Daily To AOL’ …. ‘AOL announced that its proprietary anti-spam filtering technology is blocking up to 780 million pieces of junk mail every day from reaching member e-mail inboxes, which amounts to an average of 22 blocked spam e-mails per account daily.’

Of course, they don’t say how much mail overall arrives at AOL, but I’d hazard a guess it’s not much over 1,300 million messages per day based on those figures.

Comments closed

Hotmail getting tough on spammers

Reg: Hotmail files anti-spam lawsuit. ‘Microsoft has targeted spammers with a lawsuit aimed at bulk mailers who harvest email addresses of Hotmail subscribers in order to bombard them with junk. … In the suit, Microsoft alleges that unnamed bulk mailers used tools to randomly generate email addresses prior to testing this list out to see which accounts were active. Essentially this is a form of dictionary attack, which Microsoft argues violates federal laws including the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Trespass is also involved in the attacks, the software giant argues.’ Go Hotmail!

Also noteworthy: The Spammers Are Watching You: ‘Eight out of ten spam e-mails contain covert tracking codes which allow the senders to record and log recipients’ e-mail addresses as soon as they open the message.’ well, duh, that’s why SpamAssassin has a WEB_BUGS rule. Unfortunately, eight out of ten legit HTML newsletter mails also contain web bugs, too. :(

Comments closed

Incredible Documentary on the Venezuelan Coup

last night RTE showed Chavez – Inside The Coup, a documentary about the 2-day coup d’etat in Venezuela in April 2002 which overthrew Hugo Chavez, and was then in turn overthrown in a popular uprising.

It was incredible. The team had amazing access to Chavez and the presidential palace while the 2-day coup and mass protests went on. The cameras are right there while Chavez is taken into custody by the generals, carries on rolling through the censorship of the media, through the street protests and shotgun-blasting riot police, and then catches the loyal-to-Chavez presidential guard retaking the palace from the inside.

Finally, it follows the negotiations to get Chavez returned from custody etc.; his cabinet are right there, on screen, talking to the generals on the phone while you watch and listen. Incredible footage, right from the thick of it.

As far as I could tell, it’s called Chavez – Inside The Coup, and is by Power Pictures, Irish lads from Galway, no less.

I’ve never seen anything like it. If you get a chance, don’t miss it.

Comments closed

Sony’s Civil War

Wired: The Civil War Inside Sony.

By rights, Sony should own the portable player business. The company’s first hit product, back in the ’50s, was the transistor radio, the tinny-sounding invention that took rock and roll out of the house and away from the parents and allowed the whole Elvis thing to happen. A quarter-century later, the Walkman enabled the kids of the ’70s to take their tapes and tune out the world. But the 21st-century Walkman doesn’t bother with tapes or CDs or minidiscs; it stores hundreds of hours of music on its own hard drive. And it sports an Apple logo. ….

Where the iPod simply lets you sync its contents with the music collection on your personal computer, Walkman users are hamstrung by laborious ‘check-in/check-out’ procedures designed to block illicit file-sharing. And a Walkman with a hard drive? Not likely, since Sony’s copy-protection mechanisms don’t allow music to be transferred from one hard drive to another – not an issue with the iPod. ‘We do not have any plans for such a product,’ says Kimura, the smile fading. ‘But we are studying it.’ ….

What’s changed since the original Walkman debuted is that Sony became the only conglomerate to be in both consumer electronics and entertainment. As a result, it’s conflicted: Sony’s electronics side needs to let customers move files around effortlessly, but its entertainment side wants to build in restraints, because it sees every customer as a potential thief.

Comments closed

Ashutosh Varshney on ethnic conflicts

Great interview with Ashutosh Varshney, an Indian political scientist investigating ethnic violence. From New Scientist, via Damien Morton on FoRK.

So what is the key to predicting which communities will turn violent and which will remain peaceful in times of ethnic unrest?

It comes down to how the cities or villages are structured, and the networks that people form across religious or ethnic divides. In India I have identified two types of civic network, which I call the associational and the everyday. The everyday type covers things such as Hindu and Muslim children playing together and their families and friends visiting each other or eating with each other, or taking part in festivals together. The associational type involves the two groups being members of the same trade unions, sports clubs, student unions, reading clubs, political parties or business organisations. Associational structures go beyond neighbourhood warmth, and in times of unrest they are much more robust. They can be a serious constraint on the polarising strategies of political elites. Places with strong networks of this kind are very likely to remain peaceful.

Comments closed

Reverse-engineering: now even easier with added XML

Slashdot posts a story about ‘Hacking the Streamium’ — the Streamium is an ‘internet micro hi-fi’ made by Philips. The poster writes ‘the main gripes (are) that Philips controls which Internet radio stations you can listen to and that the PC-link software … only runs on Windows. I managed to fix both of these problems by reverse engineering the PC-link protocol and writing my own pc-link server in perl, which can be run on practically any OS, *and* can trick the Streamium into playing any Internet MP3 stream that you want’.

A quick look at his page notes ‘the protocol consists of fairly simple xml tags’. It sure does; I’d imagine it took all of 5 minutes with a tcpdump reversing that! In fact, it looks so easy to reverse-engineer, you’d have to wonder if the engineers at Philips weren’t hoping something like this might happen ;)

Comments closed