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Justin Mason's Weblog Posts


Great article from Heise Telepolis, by Duncan Campbell: How the terror trail went unseen.

“It gives you a window into how it is that Al Qaeda … operates,” he added. Calls were so frequent were so frequent that the phone, rented from 1-2-1, was dubbed the “Jihad phone”.

But, like all the other European phones and lines mentioned in the New York trial, the “Jihad phone” didn’t use encryption to prevent the communications from being intercepted by the police or security agencies. It couldn’t. Yet investigators and surveillance centres apparently knew nothing of what was going on at the time, and were unable to piece together the links being run by the terror group.

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The BBC World Service has for the last 8 years, apparently been broadcasting an Afghan version of The Archers, called “New Home, New Life”:

There is Nazir, the buffoon of a security guard based on Eddie Grundy, who in a recent episode set fire to his neighbour’s haystack. There is Rabiya Gul, the bolshie wife in the mould of Jennifer Aldridge who the Taliban routinely complain embarrasses their efforts to subdue women. And there is Rahimdad, the village barber, a solid Sid Perks type character whose shop is the meeting place – much like the pub in western soaps. In the seven years since the show’s birth, the fortunes of these characters have become so vital to national morale that it is thought not only to have saved radio from banishment, but to have encouraged the Taliban to soften their line on a range of other issues.


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Dave said:



Lawrence may have discovered the reason I’ll move to XP.

Or, alternatively, move to Linux ;) That’s my Konqueror browser window right there, using XFree86’s sub-pixel rendering. Best font tweak I’ve ever tried, IMHO.

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Great story from Jon Callas about the history of CD-ROM drives, and why they can play audio CDs in the first place.

Date: Thu, 27 Sep 2001 15:28:26 -0700
From: Jon Callas (spam-protected)
Subject: Re: ah, been waiting for this

At 5:38 PM -0400 9/27/01, t byfield wrote:

> i’ve never bought or even seen a CD of any kind that warrants
> that it will be playable in any physical device capable of in-
> terpreting a CD. and it was only a few years ago that the dis-
> tinction between audio CDs and data CDs was clear: one worked
> in certain kinds of devices, the other worked in other kinds,
> and at the time the twain did not meet. then for a while they
> did, and now manufacturers are reintroducing the distinction.
> i’m not endorsing their actions; but CDs have been around for
> ~20 years, and the ability to use a computer to read data CDs
> has been around for more like ~6 years. this doesn’t have the
> makings of a solid legal argument; it wouldn’t take a rocket
> scientists litigator to ask why no one seems to object to the
> fact that data CDs don’t function in audio equipment. and even
> if it did have the makings of a solid legal argument, pursuing
> a ‘truth in labeling’ strategy may very well end up with audio
> CDs that are truthfully labeled. brilliant.

I disagree on some of the facts.

CD-ROM players have always been able to play audio CDs. The very first CD manufacturing plant to be owned by someone other than the Sony/Philps consortium was built by Digital Equipment Corporation to made CD-ROMs for software distribution, in about ’87-88, as I remember it. While ISO9660 came after the audio formats, it was intended from the start to interoperate with audio CDs in the sense that a player can easily tell the difference.

Now then, early audio players couldn’t tell a data CD and would play them as audio noise. Also, some early DEC CD-ROMs did not have audio jacks. But this is a tale of corporate stupidity only. You see, someone brainiac decided that a CD-ROM was a Serious Business Device and not for entertainment. So they went to Sony and requested that Sony make a model that did not include the audio jack. Sony said, “Sure, no problem, it’s just a manufacturing line change, which we charge $3 million for, so pay us and it’s yours.” So DEC did.

Then customers started complaining about the lack of an audio jack. Their argument was, “Look, I paid $1000 for this CD player, and while I’m in the machine room, it would be really great if I can pop in a CD and listen to it.” The DEC response was, “This isn’t an entertainment device, it’s a Serious Business Device.” The customer response was, “Ummm, look at these schematics. This Serious Business Device that I paid a kilobuck for has all the audio circuitry. If I put an audio CD in it, it mounts up and spins. All it’s missing is an audio jack, which costs about a quarter at Radio Shack. So here’s a quarter. I’ll pay $1000.25 for one, okay?” At one DECUS, there was even a session on how to unscrew the cabinet and which Radio Shack part number would solder directly to the circuit board, and what I/O calls to the device would operate the play/stop/pause/etc. buttons.

Finally, DEC went back to Sony and said, “We’ve changed our minds. We want all our future CD-ROM drives to have audio jacks. Sony said, “Sure, no problem, it’s just a manufacturing line change, which we charge $3 million for, so pay us and it’s yours.” So DEC did.

Now until recently, CD-ROM drives would operate in either “data” mode or “audio” mode. In audio mode, you could punch the buttons and all, but you couldn’t get the digital audio bits off of it. So you could have a software-controlled CD front panel, but not digital music. The first one of those was the Apple double-speed CD-ROM, which for reasons that I don’t know allowed direct access to the digital bits. It is my belief that this occurred because by this time, Sony owned both hardware companies and record companies, and thought it would be cool to allow computers to process music. I do know, however, that for a couple of years, if you happened to have one of those Apple drives, people who were into digital recording would pay you a lot of money for one. And *that* happened around ’96.

*Ripping* is only about six years old. But there has never, ever been a CD-ROM that would not play an audio CD, with the exception of the early DEC fiasco, and even they would, really. The same is true with DVD players, that they’ve been transparently compatible with CD players, both data and audio. Consequently, consumers have the reasonable expectation that if they buy an audio CD that they can go to any CD-ROM in the world and it will play audio. I think they should put a label on the protected CDs that’s at least as big as the naughty word advisory, “WARNING: DOES NOT PLAY IN CD-ROM OR DVD PLAYERS.”


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The US Army has been, reportedly, seeking advice on handling terrorist attacks from Hollywood film-makers.

My take on this: it’s more likely they’re looking for help in running credible simulations. It has to be, otherwise it’s just a total farce!

Date: Mon, 08 Oct 2001 16:09:08 +0100
From: “Tim Chapman” (spam-protected)
To: forteana (spam-protected)
Subject: Beyond parody

Monday, 8 October, 2001, 12:36 GMT 13:36 UK Army turns to Hollywood for advice

American intelligence specialists are reported to have “secretly” sought advice on handling terrorist attacks from Hollywood film-makers. According to the trade paper Variety, a discussion group between movie and military representatives was held at the University of Southern California last week. The group is said to have been set up by the US Army to discuss future terrorist activity in the wake of the attacks of 11 September. Among those reported to have been involved were Die Hard screenwriter Steven E De Souza and Joseph Zito, director of Delta Force One and Missing in Action. Other, more conventional, feature makers were also said to have been present, including Randal Kleiser, who made Grease. Expertise Such a scenario – where the army turns to the creators of film fantasy for advice about real-life disaster – would seem an unusual, not to say unlikely, reversal of roles. Variety dismissed the notion that such a scenario – where the army turns to the creators of film fantasy for advice about real-life disaster – was unusual, not to say unlikely, reversal of roles. The paper argues that there is much the masters of screen suspense can offer the US Army in the way of tactical advice. In particular, says Variety, the entertainment industry can offer expertise in understanding plot and character, as well as advice on scenario training. The US Army is also behind the university’s Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT). The ICT calls upon the resources and talents of the entertainment industry and computer scientists to help with virtual reality scenario simulation. Variety reported that the ICT’s creative director James Korris confirmed that the meetings between the film-makers and the US Army were taking place. However, the paper added that Mr Korris had refused to give details as to what specific recommendations had been made to the US government.

‘…I said why can’t we just send James Bond into Serbia?’ ‘What did they say to that then?’ “‘James Bond,” says the NCO, “is a fictional character.” Well, my answer to that is – they’re the hardest bastards to kill, aren’t they?’

  • Grant Morrison, The Invisibles, July 99

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I’ve just turned on sub-pixel rendered anti-aliasing on my desktop, using gdkxft and KDE 2.2.1. It’s amazing the difference it makes. Previously, anti-aliasing was pretty similar to just taking my glasses off; but with a TFT laptop screen, you can enable the ClearType-style sub-pixel rendering, and it becomes very smooth.

Dunno if rxvt has it yet, though, so I’m still using blocky ol’ text in my terminal windows.

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Slow Wave is “a collective dream diary authored by different people from around the world”.

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Mind-boggling article about one woman’s journey through Scientology, their surveillance and censorship of the members of their church, and her eventual return from la-la land with the help of Andreas Heldal-Lund and the Lisa McPherson Trust.

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So I’ve been taking a few snaps on a Casio Watch Camera I got for my birthday; check it out:

Luna Park;

A self-portrait;



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Matthew Leeming describes his unnerving encounter in Afghanistan with the murderers of General Massoud:

This summer that place was Afghanistan, from where I have just crossed, disguised as a woman in a shapeless burqa, over the 16,000ft Shai Salim pass into Pakistan. I met a number of people who, by English standards, were decidedly weird … so the two Moroccan journalists with whom I shared a house in the Panjshir seemed almost normal. It was not until after they had killed themselves and General Ahmad Shah Massoud, the commander of the Afghan anti-Taleban forces, a week later that I realised I had spent five days living with two of Osama bin Laden’s kamikaze fighters.

Date: Fri, 28 Sep 2001 14:25:20 +0000
From: “Martin Adamson” (spam-protected)
To: (spam-protected)
Subject: Breakfast with the killers

Breakfast with the killers

Matthew Leeming describes his unnerving encounter in Afghanistan with the murderers of General Massoud

‘Every year there’s one place in the globe worth going to where things are happening,’ says Basil Seal to his mother, immediately before stealing her jewels to fund such a trip. ‘The secret is to find out where and to be on the spot at the time.’

This summer that place was Afghanistan, from where I have just crossed, disguised as a woman in a shapeless burqa, over the 16,000ft Shai Salim pass into Pakistan. I met a number of people who, by English standards, were decidedly weird — one man asked me if it were true that in England women could marry their dogs — so the two Moroccan journalists with whom I shared a house in the Panjshir seemed almost normal. It was not until after they had killed themselves and General Ahmad Shah Massoud, the commander of the Afghan anti-Taleban forces, a week later that I realised I had spent five days living with two of Osama bin Laden’s kamikaze fighters.

Foreigners in Afghanistan tread a fairly well-worn path, usually a triangle between the acting capital in Faisalabad, the Panjshir valley and the government’s military base, Khawja Bahauddin, in the north. Transport is either by Jeeps that cost $200 per day, or — for the really reckless — the government’s ropy, Russian-built helicopters.

I had heard that if there is a Shangri-la it is the Panjshir in August, a narrow, fertile valley surrounded by arid mountains from which the Afghans have for centuries shot at their invaders. It ends at Kabul, which is now one of the main battle-fronts between the government and the Taleban. I arrived, after a torturing road journey from Khawja Bahauddin, between the mulberry and grape harvests, and as I walked along the road groups of men and children invited me to join them for lunch. It was a sponger’s paradise.

I was an official guest of the government, and now my guide, Qhudai, took me to the government guest house, opposite the government’s helicopter base, before leaving me to recover. I was woken before dawn every morning by the shriek of helicopter engines starting up, and would take my breakfast watching soldiers embarking for the flight to another front. No expense has been spared on the house itself, nor on the bill for staff, and I was comfortable for the first time in a month. (I had been sleeping in chai khanas, which are a cross between a night shelter for the homeless and a boarding school.) For two days I was served enormous meals of mutton and rice, alone in a dining-room designed to seat 30. This changed when the Moroccan journalists arrived.

I first saw them pacing up and down in front of the house. They did not return my hello. That evening I was served dinner on the floor of my room as the Moroccans made free with the dining-room. They spent all the next day in their bedroom with the door open, lying on their beds and staring at the ceiling.

On Qhudai’s return, I delegated him to make inquiries from the staff. ‘They are Arabs,’ he reported, with some disgust. ‘They are very unfriendly.’

The next day I determined to break the ice. ‘I’m not eating in my room,’ I told the major domo. ‘I shall eat with the journalists.’ At eight p.m. sharp I presented myself in the dining-room. Both journalists had already started on the bread. There was a definite hierarchy between them. The first sat at the head of the table. He was large and dark, but his most curious feature were two blackened indentations on his forehead, which looked like the result of torture with an electric drill.

I asked him where he and his companion came from and he said Morocco, but they lived in Brussels. I tried to have a polite conversation about holiday destinations in Morocco, but he was unforthcoming. There was something about his manner that prevented me from asking exactly where he lived in Brussels. His companion said nothing, but ate his way through the rice and mutton with a hearty appetite.

The next day the senior Moroccan saw me using a satellite phone, and he became a good deal more amiable. Satellite phones are status symbols but also basic necessities for travel in Afghanistan, and mine had got me out of a number of scrapes already. He approached me, and asked if I had the phone number of Bismillah Khan, the military commander of the Panjshir. I did, and volunteered the services of Qhudai to help.

‘We are doing a television documentary about Afghanistan, and we need to get on a helicopter to Khawja Bahauddin,’ he told me.

The person to arrange this was the commander of the Panjshir, Bismillah Khan. As it happened, I had met him several days before and knew his telephone number. But he didn’t answer.

‘Do you have General Massoud’s number?’ asked the senior Moroccan. I was slightly staggered.

‘No. I don’t think he gives it out. You see, the Russians can find out where you are from a satellite phone and send a missile in to kill you. That was how they got Dudaev.’

Qhudai looked slightly menacing.

‘Why do you want to meet Commander Massoud?’ I asked the Moroccans. I remember them exchanging glances.

‘For our TV film,’ he said.

Afterwards Qhudai said to me, ‘I think they are spies.’

‘But everyone’s a spy in Afghanistan,’ I said. ‘You’re a spy.’

‘But they are Arab spies.’ There seems little love lost between Persian speakers and Arabs, so I put this down to racial prejudice.

We left shortly afterwards, and gave no further thought to the Moroccans, except occasionally to speculate that they were probably still waiting in the Panjshir for a helicopter.

A week later we heard that Massoud had been fatally injured in a Taleban attack, but it was only after we had crossed the border into Pakistan and saw a newspaper report that two Moroccans posing as journalists were responsible that we realised the identity our companions. Qhudai reproached himself for his stupidity. I was horrified that we had spent five nights sleeping next to a room full of several kilos of explosives.

After talking on the phone to some of Massoud’s lieutenants we managed to piece together an account of what had happened. While Massoud’s security was tight in many ways, he was always prepared to see journalists. He was a charming, well-educated product of a French lycée and journalists were always happy to see him. Access was controlled by a sidekick we had come to loathe — Engineer Asim — who was obstructive until he was offered money. Asim let the Moroccans into Massoud’s room.

According to our sources, Massoud immediately realised that there was something wrong (the torture marks on the forehead?), and shouted to Asim to get them out. At this, the senior Moroccan exploded the bomb hidden in his camera. He and Asim were pulverised. The second Moroccan (the one who ate more) escaped and jumped into the river Oxus, from which he was fished by guards and shot. Massoud — still living — was flown to Tajikistan for treatment. The Taleban immediately claimed that he had been killed outright, and most press reports supported this, but it seems more likely that he hung on to life for nearly a week and died without regaining consciousness.

In retrospect, one can see that the murder of Massoud was a deliberate first step in a carefully planned series of atrocities. Massoud represented the only credible military threat to the Taleban. Known as the ‘Lion of the Panjshir’, revered by his men, he had defeated the Russians 15 times and almost certainly could not be displaced from his stronghold in western Afghanistan. Many people — including Massoud’s younger brother, Wali, the Afghan ambassador in London — have been urging the West for years to arm the Northern Alliance properly to ensure the Taleban’s defeat, but to no avail. Now the man who may go down in history as one of the great generals of irregular warfare, who, with proper support, could have defeated the Taleban in a year, is dead and the West is desperately looking for credible and committed Muslim allies with whom to fight the Taleban.

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The Enigma story, and the misattributions of credit:

In U-571, Hollywood gave the credit for the Enigma code-cracking heroics of World War Two to the Americans. In the British thriller Enigma, out today, the praise is given to the English. Now, if a protest from the Polish embassy in London is to be believed, it was the Poles that done it after all.

From what I’ve read, the Polish cryptographers are certainly missing out on a lot of the credit they’re rightly due.

Date: Fri, 28 Sep 2001 12:29:35 +0100
From: “Tim Chapman” (spam-protected)
To: forteana (spam-protected)
Subject: UK accused of movie history revisionism,4029,559785,00.html

Enigma deepens as Poles claim code-cracking breakthrough

Friday September 28, 2001

In U-571, Hollywood gave the credit for the Enigma code-cracking heroics of world war two to the Americans. In the British thriller Enigma, out today, the praise is given to the English. Now, if a protest from the Polish embassy in London is to be believed, it was the Poles that done it after all. The statement claims that Polish intelligence experts captured the Enigma machine on which the Germans conducted all their most secret cipher traffic before the war had even begun, and later presented this to the Allied forces. The statement quotes a Professor M.R.D. Foot as claiming that: “The most important service the Poles ever rendered to the anti-Nazi cause was something they did before the war had even begun.” An accompanying missive from the Federation of Poles in Great Britain adds that: “Mathematicians of the Polish Intelligence Service were the first to
break the Enigma code. In July 1939 passed over to British Intelligence a copy of the Enigma machine and the fruits of their work done in breaking the code in the years 1932-1939. This work greatly assisted the Bletchley Park code breakers and contributed to the Allied victory in world war two.” The Polish authorities are particularly annoyed with Enigma’s depiction of a traitorous Polish officer at Bletchley Park, the wartime headquarters of code-cracking intelligence, who works as a spy for the Nazis. The statement insists that no Pole ever worked at Bletchley Park. “Obviously we feel that this is a gratuitous slur on Poles who fought side by side with their British allies.”

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Nightmarish details of what the US planned to do as a first strike, in the event of nuclear escalation in the cold war. Mutual assured destruction is the only valid term, IMO.

Date: Fri, 28 Sep 2001 12:11:50 +1000
From: Justin Mason (spam-protected)
To: (spam-protected)
Subject: US nuclear attack plans of the cold war (fwd)

— Jay Lake forwarded:

> In 1955, Gen. Curtis LeMay, the head of SAC, told the Joint Chiefs his
> nuclear attack plans for the first time: “The plan called for the
> instantaneous destruction of 645 military targets, 118 cities and sixty
> million people in the Soviet Union.” Note that since 1957 at the
> *latest*, and contrary to public statements by Presidents of the time
> and since, the commander of SAC has had the ability to initiate a
> nuclear attack, without orders from the President.

> “[….] In 1958, the military sought and received more classified funds
> to build more nuclear reactors, to make more plutonium, to triple the
> number of warheads within a year.” When Eisenhower learned of this in
> 1959, he summed up the military’s position this way: “They are trying to
> get themselves in an incredible position–of having enough to destroy
> every conceivable target in the world, plus a threefold reserve.”
> It wasn’t until late November 1960 that the then head of SAC, General
> Power, showed the President it’s plans for nuclear war. “The plan began
> World War III with a devastating first strike. Three thousand two
> hundred and sixty-seven nuclear warheads annihilated the Soviet Union,
> China and Eastern Europe in a single blinding blow. And the first strike
> was just that: the beginning. SAC planned to follow this apocalyptic
> spasm with thousands and thousands more bombs, everything we had on
> hand. Ten nations would be obliterated. Five hundred million people
> would die.
> “The plan accurately reflected General Power’s thinking. “The whole
> idea is to *kill* the bastards!” Power said in December 1960. “At the
> end of the war, if there are two Americans and one Russian, we win!””

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One thing I should note — World New York is possibly my best news source for WTC-related commentary, especially for the eyewitness reports. A great site. It was great before the WTC, too — let’s hope things get back to normal pretty soon…

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Great article on practical counter-terrorism in Salon today:

Ask now of any action you mean to take — bombing, assassination, ground war — whether it means there will be more or fewer terrorists when the children who are now in preschool grow up to fighting age. This is not an argument against the use of violence. Violence is absolutely essential; but it has to be used so that it conveys the right political message to the people who might become terrorists when they grow up. The state has to become as good at theater as its enemies. There’s a short version of this lesson: “Don’t shoot the boys throwing stones.”
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Jackie Chan cheats death — again:

A late script crucially delayed plans that would have landed action icon Jackie Chan on top of the World Trade Centre during last Tuesday’s terrorist assault. The Hong Kong star had been due to film a scene from MGM’s action-comedy Nosebleed atop the North Tower at the moment when the terrorists hit, but due to the scriptwriters’ tardiness, the shoot was cancelled at the last minute.

Via forteana.

Date: Thu, 20 Sep 2001 11:07:25 +0100
From: “Tim Chapman” (spam-protected)
To: forteana (spam-protected)
Subject: Jackie Chan cheats death (again),4029,555058,00.html

Late script saved Chan from New York attack

Thursday September 20, 2001

A late script crucially delayed plans that would have landed action icon Jackie Chan on top of the World Trade Centre during last Tuesday’s terrorist assault. The Hong Kong star had been due to film a scene from MGM’s action-comedy Nosebleed atop the North Tower at the moment when the terrorists hit, but due to the scriptwriters’ tardiness, the shoot was cancelled at the last minute. “Filming was scheduled to have taken place at 7am last Tuesday morning,” Chan told the Hong Kong newspaper, Oriental Daily News. “As I had to be at the top of one of the towers I would probably have died.” Chan concluded, “Well, I guess my time is not up yet.” Chan was to have starred in Nosebleed as a Manhattan window cleaner who foils a terrorist scheme to blow up the Statue of Liberty. Backers MGM say it is still to early to say whether the film’s content will now be altered. As for Chan, he already has two films on the go. He is shooting the Hong Kong spectacular Highbinders and preparing for his role in Steven Spielberg’s Tuxedo

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Worth a read. An Aussie columnist describes what happened on a mailing list he frequents, in the wake of the WTC attack.

Date: Mon, 17 Sep 2001 21:09:20 +1000
From: Peter Darben (spam-protected)
Subject: High emotion and internet mailing lists

Peter Wear is a regular columnist in the Curious Snail, normally devoting his scribbling to some rather clever (if occasionally heavy handed) political satire. This turned up in today’s paper and I think it provides some food for thought, given Bob’s excellent observation of the list as group therapy, and some recent postings.

For what it’s worth, when I first heard that “something” had happened in New York, my first movement was to the computer, not to the teev. I wanted to see what happened from your points of view, as I’ve found in the past that reading through the sequence of claim and counterclaim, news and rumour that turns up in this list always gives me a much more personal of international events as they unfold. As I read through the postings to the list, I noticed that my last posting for the night (sent at about the same time as the first jet hit the WTC) was a message or two before the first appearance of the news on the list.

—– (from The Courier Mail (Brisbane) 17.9.01)


The catastrophic events in New York and Washington are yet to change our world, but the first tremors of the coming upheaval are already detectable

  • on the Internet.

Millions are trading e-mails, but the real eye-opener for me has been an Internet backwater, a small photography newsgroup I occasionally visit. That’s right, camera nerds from all over the world who tap keyboards, chatting about Mikons and lenses and tripods – a couple of hundred virtual friends from various countries. We know each other pretty well – the experts and the poseurs, the earnest and the flip. It’s all, well . . . folksy.

Not any more. Last week, like so much else, it began to fall apart. At first the messages conveyed shock and condolence. Then Luke, in New York, stood on the trip wire. “This sort of explosion and death,” he wrote, “has been going on for years in the Balkans and the Middle East. Now we know what it is like. Killing begets more killing. When does it end ?”

With all-out nuclear retaliation, it seems. “The same way it did in Japan,” wrote Jim, “turn every grain of sand to glass in these countries.” And quickly, added Fred. “No time to play around. It’s time to kill and break things. We can’t let cowards intimidate us.”

Leica Lust called for ” a response so terrible no one will ever again risk this kind of attack. Never again. Never. Never.”

“A couple of days vacation might be a good idea,” scoffed Mxsmanic, a longtime provocative contributor. Relations quickly deteriorated. Our little camera group was starting to fall apart.

“You are a puerile asshole,” frothed Leica Lust. “My only hope is that you are of draft age and will have the opportunity to water the tree of liberty you hide under with your own blood.”

These are people who have chatted amiably about lenses and flashguns.

It didn’t improve when someone called for prayers. “I’d rather be doing something constructive than bleating with the rest of the flock at church,” was the first reply. This attracted droves of hardline Christians, folk who’d previously only expressed views on auto-focus. God, it was made clear, was on America’s side. The cynics retaliated. “God moves in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform. And this was a real puzzler.”

That seemed to inspire the first international response. “When I heard the “selected” President of the US end his speech by ‘God Bless America’, I felt an urgent need to vomit!” wrote Geert from Belgium. “Has anybody asked himself the question WHY these disgusting acts took place ? . . . Wasn’t it the CIA who supported Muslim fanatics against the Russian army trying to keep the Taliban out of the country?”

Tony from England agreed. “Islamic countries, and some other countries too, see the US as and evil, unprincipled despotic power which tramples on smaller nations . . .”

Ralf reminded us from Germany that : “Each day as many people as were most regrettably killed in the US starve in what we outrageously call the Thirld World . . . each bloody single day. Where are the presidents and prime ministers condemning this attack on all civilised mankind?”

The lectures from Europe incensed some Americans and chastened others. “This is largely our fault,” Bill wrote. “We are the cause of this,” Darren agreed. “Choosing money over morals. When you have more, some will have less.”

And Charo thought : “The innocent people of Afghanistan, who have already suffered temendously at the hands of this (Taliban) regime . . . should not be made to suffer doubly in our attempt to make ourselves feel better.”

Bill was having none of it. “The ‘innocent’ people of Afghanistan have had three days to fire up the camel or whatever it is they do while waiting for another hand-out from the US. I don’t care how deented the remainder are, they have to know this party will never last the weekend. Exterminate the bastards.”

The last message I read came from someone suggesting a huge defiant party on the roof of the Empire State Building, “as a way of showing everyone that we won’t be cowed, and we won’t be scared away from what makes us unique. This is New York, for chrissakes, we’re the toughest, busiest, most sleep-deprived, most trash-talking mother——- on the planet”.

The demise of our little group of multinational camera geeks is unimportant, but the manner of its crumbling left me with a sense of foreboding.


Personally, I’ve been surprised at the care with which people have treated this. I can remember some of our biggest flame wars have started from something which seems so trivial when compared to the enormity of all of this. Perhaps something has happened which we all feel so strongly about that we have, for the time being at least, abandoned our regional biases and extended the hand of understanding. Fel noticed folks out in the real world being so much more polite all of a sudden, and, for the most part carried that into our little corner of the internet.

Bob hit the nail on the head when he spoke of the importance of this group for our emotional well-being. We’ve all shared personal tragedies and triumphs here. We came to an agreement long ago that the subject of this group would sometimes be allowed to extend out past the boundaries of forteana (not that forteana should have any boundaries ;) Let’s not try to justify our discussion of this as conspiracy fodder or rumour watch (although these are worthy goals) – sometimes we just need to talk things over, as all friends do.

That’s enough typing for me – I head off to the lounge room with some trepidation about watching the first satirical news program since last Tuesday. I’m sure Backberner will handle it with aplomb

‘night all


“John Ryland pulled Christine Blackshaw to him. An embrace that said all,

shut out everything. Two people in love in a world of their own. A higher 
plane where huge crabs did not exist, oblivious to everything else. 
Euphoria."                         Guy N. Smith - Origin of the Crabs
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My uncle Kevin, and the other members of the Irish Northwest Passage Expedition have successfully sailed the Northwest passage, from the Atlantic to the Pacific around the north coast of Canada. Cool!

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The view from Islamabad, courtesy of Z Magazine via FoRK.

Date: Sun, 16 Sep 2001 17:41:21 -0700
From: “Bill Hofmann” (spam-protected)
To: (spam-protected)
Subject: FW: ZNet Commentary / Hoodbhoy / the view from Islamabad / Sept 17

Another voice.

> —–Original Message—–
> From: (spam-protected) (spam-protected)
> Behalf Of Michael Albert
> Sent: Sunday, September 16, 2001 11:24 AM
> To: (spam-protected)
> Subject: ZNet Commentary / Hoodbhoy / the view from Islamabad / Sept 17
> Hello,
> During September we are mailing to ZNet’s 50,000 Free Update Recipients
> our Daily Sustainer Commentary which usually goes only to our Sustainer
> Program members.
> If you don’t want these mailings you can turn them off for the month at
> the ZNet Top Page (
> We hope you will consider joining our Sustainer Donor Program. To learn
> more about the program and for links you can use to join it, please
> visit:
> ======
> by Pervez Hoodbhoy
> Samuel Huntington’s evil desire for a clash between civilizations may
> well come true after Tuesday’s terror attacks. The crack that divided
> Muslims everywhere from the rest of the world is no longer a crack. It
> is a gulf, that if not bridged, will surely destroy both.
> For much of the world, it was the indescribable savagery of seeing
> jet-loads of innocent human beings piloted into buildings filled with
> other innocent human beings. It was the sheer horror of watching people
> jump from the 80th floor of the collapsing World Trade Centre rather
> than be consumed by the inferno inside. Yes, it is true that many
> Muslims also saw it exactly this way, and felt the searing agony no less
> sharply. The heads of states of Muslim countries, Saddam Hussein
> excepted, condemned the attacks. Leaders of Muslim communities in the
> US, Canada, Britain, Europe, and Australia have made impassioned
> denunciations and pleaded for the need to distinguish between ordinary
> Muslims and extremists.
> But the pretence that reality goes no further must be abandoned because
> this merely obfuscates facts and slows down the search for solutions.
> One would like to dismiss televised images showing Palestinian
> expressions of joy as unrepresentative, reflective only of the crass
> political immaturity of a handful. But this may be wishful thinking.
> Similarly, Pakistan Television, operating under strict control of the
> government, is attempting to portray a nation united in condemnation of
> the attack. Here too, the truth lies elsewhere, as I learn from students
> at my university here in Islamabad, from conversations with people in
> the streets, and from the Urdu press. A friend tells me that crowds
> gathered around public TV sets at Islamabad airport had cheered as the
> WTC came crashing down. It makes one feel sick from inside.
> A bizarre new world awaits us, where old rules of social and political
> behavior have broken down and new ones are yet to defined. Catapulted
> into a situation of darkness and horror by the extraordinary force of
> events, as rational human beings we must urgently formulate a response
> that is moral, and not based upon considerations of power and
> practicality. This requires beginning with a clearly defined moral
> supposition – the fundamental equality of all human beings. It also
> requires that we must proceed according to a definite sequence of steps,
> the order of which is not interchangeable.
> Before all else, Black Tuesday’s mass murder must be condemned in the
> harshest possible terms without qualification or condition, without
> seeking causes or reasons that may even remotely be used to justify it,
> and without regard for the national identity of the victims or the
> perpetrators. The demented, suicidical, fury of the attackers led to
> heinous acts of indiscriminate and wholesale murder that have changed
> the world for the worse. A moral position must begin with unequivocal
> condemnation, the absence of which could eliminate even the language by
> which people can communicate.
> Analysis comes second, but it is just as essential. No “terrorist” gene
> is known to exist or is likely to be found. Therefore, surely the
> attackers, and their supporters, who were all presumably born normal,
> were afflicted by something that caused their metamorphosis from normal
> human beings capable of gentleness and affection into desperate,
> maddened, fiends with nothing but murder in their hearts and minds.
> What was that?
> Tragically, CNN and the US media have so far made little attempt to
> understand this affliction. The cost for this omission, if it is to stay
> this way, cannot be anything but terrible. What we have seen is probably
> the first of similar tragedies that may come to define the 21st century
> as the century of terror. There is much claptrap about “fighting
> terrorism” and billions are likely to be poured into surveillance,
> fortifications, and emergency plans, not to mention the ridiculous idea
> of missile defence systems. But, as a handful of suicide bombers armed
> with no more than knives and box-cutters have shown with such
> devastating effectiveness, all this means precisely nothing. Modern
> nations are far too vulnerable to be protected – a suitcase nuclear
> device could flatten not just a building or two, but all of Manhattan.
> Therefore, the simple logic of survival says that the chances of
> survival are best if one goes to the roots of terror.
> Only a fool can believe that the services of a suicidical terrorist can
> be purchased, or that they can be bred at will anywhere. Instead, their
> breeding grounds are in refugee camps and in other rubbish dumps of
> humanity, abandoned by civilization and left to rot. A global
> superpower, indifferent to their plight, and manifestly on the side of
> their tormentors, has bred boundless hatred for its policies. In supreme
> arrogance, indifferent to world opinion, the US openly sanctions daily
> dispossession and torture of the Palestinians by Israeli occupation
> forces. The deafening silence over the massacres in Qana, Sabra, and
> Shatila refugee camps, and the video-gamed slaughter by the Pentagon of
> 70,000 people in Iraq, has brought out the worst that humans are capable
> of. In the words of Robert Fisk, “those who claim to represent a
> crushed, humiliated population struck back with the wickedness and
> awesome cruelty of a doomed people”.
> It is stupid and cruel to derive satisfaction from such revenge, or from
> the indisputable fact that Osama and his kind are the blowback of the
> CIAs misadventures in Afghanistan. Instead, the real question is: where
> do we, the inhabitants of this planet, go from here? What is the lesson
> to be learnt from the still smouldering ruins of the World Trade Centre?
> If the lesson is that America needs to assert its military might, then
> the future will be as grim as can be. Indeed, Secretary Colin Powell,
> has promised “more than a single reprisal raid”. But against whom? And
> to what end? No one doubts that it is ridiculously easy for the US to
> unleash carnage. But the bodies of a few thousand dead Afghans will not
> bring peace, or reduce by one bit the chances of a still worse terrorist
> attack.
> This not an argument for inaction: Osama and his gang, as well as other
> such gangs, if they can be found, must be brought to justice. But
> indiscriminate slaughter can do nothing except add fuel to existing
> hatreds. Today, the US is the victim but the carpet-bombing of
> Afghanistan will cause it to squander the huge swell of sympathy in its
> favour the world over. Instead, it will create nothing but revulsion and
> promote never-ending tit-for-tat killings.
> Ultimately, the security of the United States lies in its re-engaging
> with the people of the world, especially with those that it has
> grieviously harmed. As a great country, possessing an admirable
> constitution that protects the life and liberty of its citizens, it must
> extend its definition of humanity to cover all peoples of the world. It
> must respect international treaties such as those on greenhouse gases
> and biological weapons, stop trying to force a new Cold War by pushing
> through NMD, pay its UN dues, and cease the aggrandizement of wealth in
> the name of globalization.
> But it is not only the US that needs to learn new modes of behaviour.
> There are important lessons for Muslims too, particularly those living
> in the US, Canada, and Europe. Last year I heard the arch-conservative
> head of Pakistan’s Jamat-i-Islami, Qazi Husain Ahmad, begin his lecture
> before an American audience in Washington with high praise for a
> “pluralist society where I can wear the clothes I like, pray at a
> mosque, and preach my religion”. Certainly, such freedoms do not exist
> for religious minorities in Pakistan, or in most Muslim countries. One
> hopes that the misplaced anger against innocent Muslims dissipates soon
> and such freedoms are not curtailed significantly. Nevertheless, there
> is a serious question as to whether this pluralism can persist forever,
> and if it does not, whose responsibility it will be.
> The problem is that immigrant Muslim communities have, by and large,
> chosen isolation over integration. In the long run this is a
> fundamentally unhealthy situation because it creates suspicion and
> friction, and makes living together ever so much harder. It also raises
> serious ethical questions about drawing upon the resources of what is
> perceived to be another society, for which one has hostile feelings.
> This is not an argument for doing away with one’s Muslim identity. But,
> without closer interaction with the mainstream, pluralism will be
> threatened. Above all, survival of the community depends upon strongly
> emphasizing the difference between extremists and ordinary Muslims, and
> on purging from within jihadist elements committed to violence. Any
> member of the Muslim community who thinks that ordinary people in the US
> are fair game because of bad US government policies has no business
> being there.
> To echo George W. Bush, “let there be no mistake”. But here the mistake
> will be to let the heart rule the head in the aftermath of utter horror,
> to bomb a helpless Afghan people into an even earlier period of the
> Stone Age, or to take similar actions that originate from the spine.
> Instead, in deference to a billion years of patient evolution, we need
> to hand over charge to the cerebellum. Else, survival of this particular
> species is far from guaranteed.
> The author is professor of physics at Quaid-e-Azam University,
> Islamabad.

Comments closed


The Sun provides tolerant coverage of Islam? Never thought I’d see the day.

Date: Sun, 16 Sep 2001 12:13:27 +0100
From: “Tim Chapman” (spam-protected)
To: forteana (spam-protected)
Subject: Sun shocked into tolerance

On the press

Papers went for it and won

> >From the Sun leaders defending Islam to the Telegraph quoting Kipling the nationals made a good fist of their first drafts of history

Special report: Terrorism in the US

Peter Preston Sunday September 16, 2001 The Observer

There were, of course, all the predictable oddities, banalities, illogicalities and flat-out eccentricities. The Sun (oddly, maybe even eccentrically) cleared a double-page spread to tell its readers that: ‘Islam is not an evil religion… Blaming Islam for the horrors the world witnessed on Tuesday is like blaming Christianity for the hatred between Protestants and Catholics in Belfast. The Muslims in Britain ARE British.’ If that’s eccentricity, give us more of it by the bucketload. The Mail, within a single leader column, railed against British ‘appeasement’ of Sinn Fein/IRA while instructing George Bush that ‘it is surely the time for another effort at Middle East settlement’. … full analysis of UK media coverage at,6903,552462,00.html and of US coverage at,6903,552463,00.html

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Oh dear — Astrologer takes credit for predicting WTC attacks. “Aye right”, as they say.

Date: Fri, 14 Sep 2001 12:26:36 -0700
From: Brian Chapman (spam-protected)
To: (spam-protected) (spam-protected)
Subject: Astrologers predicted it

The Mirror | 14 Sept 2001


MIRROR astrologer Steve Judd predicted a catastrophe involving America

  • and possibly Afghanistan – nearly six weeks ago.

Judd – part of our renowned Jonathan Cainer team – was close to tears yesterday as he recalled his prophecy of August 6.

The key, he wrote, was the opposition of two planets, Saturn in Gemini and Pluto in Sagittarius. Judd said this occurred every 35 years “from last night until May 2002”.

He wrote: “The opposition hits the US horoscope powerfully and immense changes in American political, financial and even constitutional circles are more than possible – even probable.”

Judd, who specialises in charting the fortunes of nations, warned the world to expect an “intensification, and hopefully resolution of religious conflict worldwide (Israel, N.Ireland and Afghanistan etc)…while extremism will rise in the short-term”.

Judd, 46, said yesterday: “I knew as early as 1994 that something cataclysmic was going to happen. There was an intensification in America’s chart from 1999 to 2002.”

A similar picture was apparent just before Vietnam and when the US entered the Second World War.

Judd added: “On Tuesday, I was appalled that astrologers are not taken seriously.” He believes there is worse to come in the next six or seven months, with stability to follow from the end of May next year.

Daily Star | 13 Sept 2001

Local astrologer predicted attacks in US

Terrorism will strike again in the heart of the United States, Lebanese astrologer Samir Tomb predicted in his yearbook for 2001. Preempting Tuesday’s attacks on America in his book, which describes astral influences and Chinese, Arab and Indian astrological horoscopes, Tomb announced “a terrorist attack which will cause victims.” The Lebanese astrologer also foresees a “strong shake in the world market,” and a stronger euro against the dollar in the fourth quarter of 2001. AFP

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On a lighter note, I’ve written down my adventures through Thailand on the way over to Australia — with pics! Check it out.

Much fun was had. Hopefully I’ll be able to add some more travels to the site soon enough — although it’s doubtful I’ll be doing any overland trips from Asia to Ireland, given the likely feelings towards westerners in the Middle East, soon enough…

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I’ve been very quiet about the attack on the World Trade Center; this is not from any unwillingness to talk about it, it’s more because, for the last week, I’ve been doing virtually nothing else, in a range of forums, particularly on Crackmice and the TBTF Irregulars list. What can I say — I guess I’m just not a committed blogger ;)

Anyway, I’ve been forwarding on lots of details on Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Osama Bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda organisation, which generally makes it look like the US and its allies will have their work cut out for them. Here’s a good one from The Guardian (UK):

Communications are vital. Messages are sent by word of mouth to Pakistan, and from there they are emailed. Bin Laden, testimony has shown, had no contact with any of the east African bombers except for al’Owhali, whom he met, once, 18 months before the attack. Instead the men were selected, briefed and supervised by senior aides, some from organisations affiliated with but discrete from bin Laden’s. And this is the key: al-Qaeda does not act as a commander, it acts as a facilitator, a coordinator, putting together disparate elements – some in Afghanistan, some in the target country, some in other locations entirely – who together can pull off an operation.

It’s going to be messy. And as a much-forwarded piece by Tamim Ansary points out,

We come now to the question of bombing Afghanistan back to the Stone Age. Trouble is, that’s been done. The Soviets took care of it already. Make the Afghans suffer? They’re already suffering. Level their houses? Done. Turn their schools into piles of rubble? Done. Eradicate their hospitals? Done. Destroy their infrastructure? Cut them off from medicine and health care? Too late. Someone already did all that.

There’s lots more good, insightful journalism in the Guardian’s special report on Afghanistan and special report on the WTC attacks. Recommended reading.

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A man managed to escape the World Trade Centre as it was hit by a hijacked jet, only to find out that his sister and young niece were on board.” Life doesn’t get much more tragic than this.

Date: Wed, 12 Sep 2001 17:33:11 +0100
From: “Donal O’Carroll” (spam-protected)
To: (spam-protected)
Subject: Tragic twist for Irish survivor,1300,550792,00.html

Tragic twist for Irish survivor

Staff and agencies Wednesday September 12, 2001

A man managed to escape the World Trade Centre yesterday as it was hit by a hijacked jet, only to find out that his sister and young niece were on board, his family revealed today.

Irishman Ronnie Clifford fled after the first plane struck the twin towers in New York yesterday, and escaped the second tower as it was hit by the United Airlines Boeing 767.

In a devastating turn of events, his sister Ruth Clifford McCourt, 45, and her four-year-old daughter Juliana were passengers on the second plane – they died as he escaped.

Meanwhile, British officials in New York believe that at least 15 Britons may be among the missing in the devastated rubble of the World Trade Centre. Consular officials are currently liasing with emergency services to try to establish identities.

Mrs McCourt, originally from the Lough, Cork, was among 56 passengers on the hijacked plane which was travelling from Boston to Los Angeles.

Mr Clifford’s brother, John, today told of their deaths and his brother’s escape. John, also from Cork, said he began fearing for his sister and niece after discovering that his brother was safe.

He said: “Tragically my sister hit the tower building as my brother was on the ground floor. He’s safe now. He’s very traumatised.”

John Clifford said he became concerned when the two buildings collapsed because he knew his brother worked in one. However, he later “phoned to say he made it, he was OK, traumatised, that he was within an inch of his life”.

“He went through the front door on the ground floor and a lady was about three seconds in front of him. She was hit by a terrific fireball. She subsequently died,” he added.

“He said that unfortunately, while he was okay, he had a feeling that his sister – my sister – had left Logan airport to go to Los Angeles with her daughter at around 7.30 in the morning.

“So we were then concerned that she may have been on either of the two flights that crashed into the towers, and that was confirmed,” he said.

A friend of Mrs McCourt, who lived in Connecticut and was flying to LA for a few days’ holiday, was also killed.

Mr Clifford said his sister’s husband was absolutely devastated. Juliana was their only child. Mr Clifford said she was a “beautiful” girl and described his sister as “full of life”.

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The Evil Gerald special report: “Enterprise to be “ready by Christmas, deffo” — Chief O’Brien.

Chief O’Brien broke the news to Captain Jean-Luc Picard by informing him that the transporter engines were “totally banjaxed”, but promised to begin work on them at 8am the following morning, as he was just about to “knock off” for the day.

A shocked Picard was told that the total cost would be ?5,000 “on the books”, although O’Brien hinted that speedier and more competent work could be carried out for ?3,000 if the usual tax and invoicing regulations were disregarded.

He also stressed that the general state of the engines was “something shocking” and that, in his professional opinion, persons unknown had previously made “a complete bags” of repairing them. Said O’Brien: “Just take a look at what some chancer’s done here to the transmodulator coils. That’s all gonna have to come out of course, you know that.”

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Very scary; it’s been discovered that your childhood recollections might be false memories, suggested to you from ads you watch on television.

Date: Wed, 05 Sep 2001 10:44:06 +0100
From: “Tim Chapman” (spam-protected)
To: forteana (spam-protected)
Subject: False memory advertising,3604,546901,00.html

No thanks for the memory … it was only a TV advert

Tim Radford, science editor Wednesday September 5, 2001 The Guardian

Future generations of Britons will wistfully recall their wholemeal Hovis childhoods, that first Werther’s Original toffee from cuddly grandpa, and those festive meals around a Bisto gravy Sunday roast – even though they might never have experienced them. Elizabeth Loftus, a psychologist at the University of Washington, told the association yesterday that commercial advertisers could be unwittingly implanting false memories in unsuspecting viewers. She and colleagues had studied a Walt Disney TV advertising campaign called “remember the magic”. This used imagery that evoked family outings and what seemed to be home movies of people shaking hands with Mickey Mouse. She wondered if these ads had triggered “memories” in viewers who might never have been to Disneyland, or shaken hands with Mickey Mouse. So she tested volunteers with her own “Disneyland advert” in which someone shook hands with an impossible character – Bugs Bunny, created by Warner Bros. She found she was right: some of the volunteers who saw her film were more likely to believe that they had in fact met Bugs Bunny at Disneyland in childhood. She found that Ovaltine, Alka-Seltzer and Maxwell House had begun to dig into their vaults for nostalgic film of 40 years ago. In one study, US adults “remembered” drinking Stewart’s root beer from bottles in their youth, although the bottles had only been in production for 10 years. A vice-president of marketing swore he remembered drinking from the bottle after childhood baseball games and then told her: “Memories are always better when they are embellished.” Professor Loftus established five years ago that false memories could be suggested. She asked respondents to “imagine” being lost as a child, and months later they recalled as real memories the imaginative tests she had set them. “In a sense, life is a continual memory alteration experiment where memories are continually shaped by new incoming information. This brings forth ethical considerations. Is it okay for marketers knowingly to manipulate consumers’ pasts? “On the one hand, the alteration will occur whether or not that was the intent of the marketer. And in most cases, the marketer is unlikely to try to ‘plant’ a negative memory. “On the other, there are ways in which the marketer can enhance the likelihood that consumer memories will be consistent with their advertising messages.”

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When the Queen Mother dies, UK TV is going to go apeshit:

One officially recommended script achieves a tone hovering neatly between Iraqi state radio introducing Saddam Hussein and a Monty Python sketch. Over the next two hours (the presenter will say): “We’ll be looking back over her long and remarkable life . . . We’ll be hearing from many of the people who – although they never met her – felt that they knew her too.” (As long as their views have been vetted in advance and declared safe by those responsible for the defence of the nation’s airwaves.)
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Before coming over here to Australia from Ireland, I put my CV (ie. resume) up on (I initially assumed I’d be looking for work over here — it’s since turned out that my Irish employers are happy to keep me on, even when I’m on the other side of the world.)

I’ve been getting loads of job offers (about 3 a week, by email and phone) from companies and recruiters in the US, since I put the CV up.

I think I’ve just figured out why… a search for “unix cv resume” on Google returns my CV as the first hit!

No wonder. Any half-awake recruiter who wants someone who can “do UNIX” will try a Google search. Better figure out some way of fixing it to get a lower ranking…

Comments closed


Coca-Cola has been working on a new sales technique for restaurants, called H2No“: a method to reduce what is known as “tap water incidence”.

Each time a glass of water is requested, waiters must emphasise the wide range of beverage selections available, including soft drinks, non-carbonated beverages and alcohol. Especially, no doubt, those produced by Coca-Cola.

Date: Tue, 04 Sep 2001 13:46:20 +0000
From: “Martin Adamson” (spam-protected)
To: (spam-protected)
Subject: Month-old story from forteana-l finally hits British press

Evening Standard – 4 September

Coke's war on water

by David Rowan

You've finally plucked up courage to ask a sniffy waiter for a glass of tap water and the worst you're expecting is a passing scowl of disapproval. So you had better hope he hasn't been trained by Coca-Cola in its latest corporate mission - Just Say No To H2O.

Concerned at the vast potential profits lost by diners not paying for liquid refreshment, the world's largest soft drinks company has been working with restaurants to teach staff "beverage suggestive selling techniques".

The plan - codename H2No - involves briefing staff to "influence" customers to reduce what is known as "tap water incidence". Each time a glass of water is requested, waiters must "emphasise the wide range of beverage selections available, including soft drinks, non-carbonated beverages and alcohol". Especially, no doubt, those produced by Coca-Cola.

The strategy appears to be working: at least one restaurant chain has reported higher profits since training serving staff in the H2No programme. The result, says Coca-Cola, is sending "a powerful message to the entire restaurant industry - less water and more beverage choices mean happier customers".

Details emerged when the company's website told of the plan, highlighting profits at The Olive Garden restaurant chain. Under the headline "The Olive Garden targets tap water and wins", the website says: "Many customers choose tap water not because they enjoy it, but because it is what they always have drunk in the past."

To encourage them to spend more money, the American chain developed a competition with Coca-Cola offering company merchandise and an allexpenses-paid trip to Atlanta to staff who met monthly targets. "When the contest was completed, almost all participating restaurants realised significant increases in beverage sales and reduced levels of tap water incidence," the company claims.

The corporation researched why customers might order tap water, and suggested what might make them choose something else. For the 30 per cent who cite weight or other health considerations, the best strategy, it says, is to offer lighter or noncarbonated alternatives.

For those who ask for water "because it's there", waiters should never offer a glass unless it is specifically requested, and then not before using "suggestive selling techniques" to promote drinks with a price.

A number of websites have criticised the strategy. On one email reads: "Jesus guys, we know you're in it for the money, you don't have to pretend you actually care." Such criticisms have prompted Coca-Cola to take down web pages relating to H2No lest people "who aren't in a sales-related business" misunderstand its purpose. (A copy has, however, been stored at this address: The company says the campaign, launched in the US, has not been extended to the UK.

London restaurateurs told about the scheme had little sympathy for Coca-Cola's campaign. "They're wrong about it improving the dining experience," insisted David Wilby, Antony Worrall Thompson's partner at Wiz in Notting Hill. "The way to give the customer a better experience is to give them what they want - we wouldn't raise an eyebrow if someone ordered tap water."

At The Savoy, Olivier Thomas, food and beverage manager, said: "We have no problem serving tap water and wouldn't think of charging for it." Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay also saw nothing embarrassing about asking for water. "I love tap water," he said, "in a really nice decantered jug". But he added: "It's only visiting chefs who ask for it."

Still, Coke's on to a winner whatever customers choose. It is selling tap water in pretty blue bottles under the brand name Dasani. The drink has been "enhanced with a special blend of minerals for a pure, fresh taste", but is otherwise straight from the local water supply. What tap water fans might call the real thing.

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Sex in space rears it’s head again (ooer): apparently NASA have sent over a pregnancy testing kit for the {astro,cosmo}nauts on the ISS. Best quote:

In his book Living in Space, Dr Stine, who died in 1997, said that Nasa staff at the Marshall Space Flight Centre in Huntsville, Alabama, had used a buoyancy tank that simulates low-gravity conditions to test the possibilities of weightless sex. “It was possible but difficult,” he said, “and was made easier when a third person assisted by holding one of the others in place.”

Say no more!

Date: Mon, 03 Sep 2001 12:06:03 +0000
From: “Martin Adamson” (spam-protected)
To: (spam-protected)
Subject: Sex in space: thin blue line keeps crews in check

The Times


Sex in space: thin blue line keeps crews in check


ASTRONAUTS on the International Space Station (ISS) have been supplied with DIY pregnancy tests in case the enforced intimacy of space travel prompts mixed crews to try for the 200-mile-high club. The test sticks have been included in the station’s medical pack in one of Nasa’s first admissions that its astronauts might have sex in orbit.

Although the US space agency has always taken a prudish attitude towards such activity, the kits are intended for its aftermath: female astronauts take a pregnancy test before launch and are not allowed to fly if it is positive.

Scientists know little about the effects of space travel, particularly those of weightlessness, on human embryos and any astronaut found to have become pregnant on board the ISS would almost certainly be returned to Earth at the earliest opportunity.

The station’s present crew will not need the kits: all three are male. The crew they replaced recently, however, included a female flight engineer, Susan Helms, and the next crew but one will also have a female member, Peggy Whitson.

Details of the pregnancy test and directions on how to use it have emerged from a set of leaked Nasa documents on emergency and medical procedures obtained by the website The documents provide astronauts on board the ISS with guidance on dealing with situations ranging from a crew-mate becoming suicidal or psychotic to diarrhoea, motion sickness, nosebleeds and dentistry. Nasa would not comment on the handbook.

Keith Cowing, editor of and a former Nasa scientist, said that the tests were clearly aimed at detecting conceptions in orbit.

“Since the crew get a good physical exam before flight, and I doubt that anyone would deliberately fly while pregnant given our sparse knowledge of what might happen, one has to assume that this test is to detect a particular medical condition that developed while the individual in question was already in space,” he said.

“There is a rather short list of ways whereby this specific condition can arise. Nasa never discusses the possibility of sex in space, but it does not look like they’re worried about what an astronaut might have done with her husband the night before launch.”

It remains unclear whether or not the 200-mile-high club already has any members. There is no suggestion that any astronauts have had sex on board the ISS since its launch in 1998, but many believe that the increasing length of time spent on board — the last crew were in space for 165 days — makes it more likely that such a relationship will develop.

Harry Stine, a former Nasa technician, said that the agency had conducted experiments in the simulated weightlessness of a flotation tank, but never in space itself. In his book Living in Space, Dr Stine, who died in 1997, said that Nasa staff at the Marshall Space Flight Centre in Huntsville, Alabama, had used a buoyancy tank that simulates low-gravity conditions to test the possibilities of weightless sex. “It was possible but difficult,” he said, “and was made easier when a third person assisted by holding one of the others in place.”

Nasa has always been coy about the idea of sex involving its astronauts, but some cosmonauts have been more forthcoming. Valeri Polyakov, who spent 14 months on Mir between 1992 and 1993, said to mission control shortly before his return: “No need to say what we are longing for.”

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It seems a 3-metre-across meteor exploded over the Pacific on 23 April this year.

Date: Mon, 03 Sep 2001 15:02:23 +0100
From: “Tim Chapman” (spam-protected)
To: forteana (spam-protected)
Subject: Big bloody meteor detected

Monday, 3 September, 2001, 13:27 GMT 14:27 UK Low sounds detect meteor blast By BBC News Online science editor Dr David Whitehouse

One of the first stations of what will be a global “infrasound” listening network, has detected a meteor that exploded over the Pacific Ocean with the force of the Hiroshima nuclear blast. “Infrasound” refers to sound waves that fall below the 20 hertz lower level of human hearing. The new detectors record signals that are too faint, and vary too slowly, to be detected by humans. The global network is designed to monitor clandestine nuclear tests but scientists say it will have many scientific uses as well. It will be able to detect previously unsuspected meteor entries into the atmosphere, volcanic eruptions, and the formation of hurricanes. Hiroshima blast One of the first significant signals received by the infrasound array built by the Scripps Institute of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, was of a meteor that came crashing into the Earth’s atmosphere on 23 April. Estimated at between 2-3 metres (8 – 10 feet) across, it exploded with a yield of a few thousand tonnes of TNT, nearly the force of the atomic weapon that was dropped on Hiroshima. “If this rock had come into the atmosphere at a slightly different time, it might have exploded not over the Pacific, but over a large metropolitan area,” said Dr Michael Hedlin of the Scripps Institute. “With this global listening network we can develop much better statistics on large meteors and get a better idea of how often these massive objects enter the atmosphere.” Large explosions send part of their acoustic energy into the audible range, but those signals dissipate rapidly. But they also emit large amounts of energy into the infrasonic range in signals that decay slowly across vast distances. The 23 April explosion occurred 1,800 km (1,118 miles) away from the Scripps detector. It was also detected by an infrasound array in Germany, 11,000 km (6,835 miles) away. ‘Unprecedented opportunity’ As well as meteors, infrasonic sound is generated by supersonic aircraft, tornadoes, earthquakes and volcanoes. According to Hedlin, scientists have already discovered that volcanic eruptions produce strong infrasonic signals, “seismic and infrasound data taken together give a much fuller account of activity inside the volcano that might be indicative of an impending, significant eruption.” Scientists are also planning to build a new infrasonic array at Cape Verde in western Africa, near to a region where hurricanes develop and emit infrasonic signals. “There is a lot going on in the atmosphere that we need to know more about. The infrasound network will offer us an unprecedented opportunity to better understand these phenomena on a global scale. “We anticipate that this global network of listening posts that monitors Earth’s fluid exterior shell where we live will someday become as indispensable as the global seismic network that monitors the Earth’s solid interior for seismic activity.”

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Just got ADSL installed — it’s sweet. Napster rides again! Well, to tell the truth — gnapster rides again, the proprietary stuff was never going to work for me on Linux anyway, and they’ve been thoroughly shafted by the RIAA now.

Anyway, as a result, I’ve been getting very heavily into the Congo Natty back catalogue. Junglist! ;)

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Sweet! If you’re into your old ragga jungle, Congo Natty is the label Rebel MC set up — it’s got some incredible tunes. I’ve been looking for copies for a while, and finally, I found this discography. Beautiful…

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A very cool, very simple Flash animation — follow the money! (via the IRRs)

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