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Justin Mason's Weblog Posts

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Online Banking With Konqueror — an exhaustive list of online banking systems, and whether or not they work with Konqueror. Since Konqueror uses a from-scratch implementation of Javascript, and is generally just not MSIE, this also acts as a good guide to online banks that Have A Clue How To Write Usable Web Apps. (Kudos go to AIB 24-hour Online Banking, who have run a clean, friendly, and very usable plain-HTML banking system since day 1.)

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Crummy.com:

We noticed various characteristic Muppet behaviors such as the Muppet Panic and the Muppet Walk (and the one I just realized, the Muppet Moment of Inner Turmoil That’s Actually a Hand Rearrangement).

ROFL! I’d always wondered what was going on there, now it all makes sense.

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Bizarre, if quite funny, spam. This guy should give up on the spammage and just sell wierd stuff over the web legitimately.

Date: Sat, 15 Dec 2001 10:15:18 -0000
From: “Bob Rickard” (spam-protected)
To: (spam-protected) Com” (spam-protected)
Subject: FW: Help Stick it to Osama!

From: Billy Yank …
Subject: Help Stick it to Osama!

Introducing the latest weapon in the war on terrorism: THE OSAMA ‘PIN-LADEN’ ANTI-TERRORIST VOO-DOO DOLL!!!!

http://www.osamapinladen.com

Yes, you read right….AN Osama Doll! But NOT JUST A DOLL!!! The ‘Pin Laden’ Voo-Doo doll is NOT just a wacky little stocking stuffer… It is a bona-fide, home-brewed ‘PSY-OPS’ ANTI-TERROR MOVEMENT!!!! Read on:

It’s like this—Remember those Moony conventions (or whatever they were), where they got thousands of people together in a football stadium to blow out a candle thorugh willpower? Well, we’re trying to ‘blow out’ Bin-boy pretty urgently, and WE NEED YOUR HELP!! So Grab your Osama Voo-Doo doll, an assortment of The Red,White and Blue ‘Patriot Pins’ included, and STICK IT TO HIM AMERICA!!!

Remember, THIS IS WAR, so please buy a few for patriotic friends too…YOUR COUNTRY THANKS YOU!

http://www.osamapinladen.com

Still not convinced?!

OK, OK, While it may not be an officially sanctioned initiative in the War against Terrorism, ‘MAKE NO MISTAKE ABOUT IT,’ this IS for a good cause. 15% of the net profits wil be donated to Rudy Giuliani’s TWIN TOWERS FUND.

So in a way, it’s like RUDY HIMSELF SAID YOU SHOULD BUY ONE!…(unless he e-mails us all pissed off, in which case we’ll take this part out.)

But wait a second…if you poke an Osama Voo-Doo doll, WILL IT REALLY WORK to combat terrorism? Well, if you don’t, it wont work for sure, so WHAT’VE YOU GOT TO LOSE?! Rip open the bag, chant a few curses, and STICK IT TO HIM AMERICA!!!

http://www.osamapinladen.com

Hmmm….If you’ve read down this far, I guess you still need convincing….You’re probably thinking this is just one more lame spam advertisement sent to clog up your in-box for the profit of others.

Uhhhh….Well, you have a point, but we have one too–6 in fact..You see, every person who decides to ‘Stick it’ to the ‘Pin-Laden’ Voo-Doo doll, with the 6 RED, WHITE AND BLUE ‘PATRIOT PINS’ included in the package allows us to donate money to the families of victims of the 9-11 attack via the Twin Towers Fund. It’s a COMPLETELY LEGITIMATE (albeit slightly tasteless) venture, and this IS much funnier than 99% of all the other junk you receive, isn’t it? And after all, they really do make great stocking stuffers to boot.

http://www.osamapinladen.com

Look, what are you afraid of? Hey — it’s a cloth doll okay?! It ain’t anthrax, and it ain’t gonna make you end up on some kind of Tipper Gore black-magic satanist insurgent watch list! It may very well delight and impress your friends, and make a useful doorstop, toilet scrub-brush, rottweiler chew-toy, or firestarter!! When we bring one of these to the local pub, they make a nice trade for a few free beers.

Hey one word of warning…this is not a toy, this is a WEAPON OF WAR!!! So please keep this product away from children, incompetant adults, and any terrorists you may happen to know personally. Use the same care with this product that you would playing with matches or cleaning your ears with your car keys.

IN SUM, we invite you to Vent Anger, Relieve Stress, and Aid Victims…. ….and most of all, STICK IT TO HIM AMERICA!!!!

http://www.osamapinladen.com

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George W. Hart is a sculptor who works with incredible geometric forms. “Classical forms are pushed in new directions, so viewers can take pleasure in their Platonic beauty yet recognize how they are updated for our complex high-tech times. I share with many artists the idea that a pure form is a worthy object, and select for each piece the materials that best carry that form.”

I like “ Gonads of the Rich and Famous“, a 3D printing. But what exactly is a 3D printing?

(Link from Forteana, via a discussion on edible trilobites. George has a recipe on his site ;)

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Good article at the Guardian, on what J. R. R. Tolkien would have made of the movie:

Why, he would have asked in despair, has his quintessentially English shire been turned into an outstation of Riverdance? “I do know Celtic things and feel for them a certain distaste. They are in fact ‘mad’,” he wrote in an untypically snotty letter in 1937. So why do the hobbits do Irish jigs at Bilbo Baggins’ birthday party?

Why are two of the hobbits in the fellowship, Merry and Pippin, cast as prat-falling Irish clowns? Why does Howard Shore’s music break into repeated Irish warbling? Because, as he would dolefully have guessed, James Cameron’s Titanic proved that dollops of Irishry play well with the US box office.

Well, I think I’ll be with JRR on that one then. begorrah.

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a mind-boggling tale of debauchery, supposedly regarding “Philip Murray, a glamorous wayward socialite son of the great classical scholar and Oxford don Gilbert Murray. In the final days of the Spanish Civil War, young Murray fils found himself in the beleaguered town of Valencia, then still under Republican rule. Murray had been on an extended binge and was reduced, in Delmer’s picturesque phrase, to a state of ‘phobic moodiness and mad romantic exaltation in which love, hunger for love, threw him into delusions and despair.”‘

Date: Wed, 12 Dec 2001 16:29:56 -0000
From: John Hurn (spam-protected)
To: (spam-protected)
Subject: re: ape sex

This looks like the one…

To: (spam-protected)
From: Rachel Carthy (spam-protected)
Subject: RE: AIDS, chimps, and Sasquatch

I’m sorry, I’ve been saving this up since the great orang-shagging debate of blessed memory because I didn’t want you all to think I was some kind of primate perv… but I can’t hold back any longer…:

“A more romantic example of bestiality is described by the celebrated war correspondent of the _Daily Express_, Sefton Delmer, in his vivid memoirs _Trail Sinister_. Here, Delmer recounts in a thinly disguised portrait the last amorous exploit of Philip Murray, a glamorous wayward socialite son of the great classical scholar and Oxford don Gilbert Murray. In the final days of the Spanish Civil War, young Murray _fils_ found himself in the beleaguered town of Valencia, then still under Republican rule. Murray had been on an extended binge and was reduced, in Delmer’s picturesque phrase, to a state of ‘phobic moodiness and mad romantic exaltation in which love, hunger for love, threw him into delusions and despair.’

“One evening, down in the squalid port area of Valencia, he met up at a street circus with a ferocious anarchist group calling themselves ‘The Iron Guard of Karl Marx’. During the show, Murray’s attention was drawn to a female chimpanzee – the circus’ top attraction – ‘a fine buxom she-ape with all the indications of her sex emphatically developed.’ [Why is it I hear this in the voice of the ‘very, very drunk’ raconteur from the Fast Show? R]

“Filled with misguided love, Murray tried to buy the creature, offering a huge rate on the black market. When the circus owner rejected his offer, the Iron Guard of KM intervened; they called the owner a miserable skulking capitalist – ‘You refuse to part with this ape who is obviously dying with passion for the British compagnero!’ – threatening to shoot him and burn down his circus if he did not agree.

“Delmer then recounts how Murray and the ape, arm in arm with the Iron Guard of KM, proceeded on an extended tour of the town’s bars and bodegas, during which the chimpanzee drank Fundador brandy glass for glass with her new admirer.

“Finally, when they reached the plush Victoria Hotel, – the grandest in town and the HQ of the foreign press corps – the night porter refused them entry with the pompous words ‘No apes allowed in the hotel.’ The leader of the Iron Guard of KM, brandishing a pistol, shouted ‘If you do not immediately permit the senora ape to enter the hotel with the Ingles, then we shall destroy the hotel and when we have finished there will be nothing left of the hotel or you.’

“Murray and his ape duly repaired to his room, where he was last seen turning on the bath-water, and heard saying, as he closed the door, ‘And now, my poppet, you shall have a lovely warm bath with plenty of lovely lavender soap. Do you like soap, oh Queen of my heart?’

“Nothing was seen or heard of them for another 48 hours. The hotel personnel did not enter the room, partly because Murray had locked the door, but also because they were afraid – not only of the ape but of her peculiar English friend.

“When a leading correspondent of the _Daily Mail_, William Forrest – who confirmed this story later to one of the authors – finally gained access to the room, he was greeted by a scene of unutterable chaos and squalor. The ape lay in a corner, huddled in a nest of pillows and blankets, coughing horribly. Philip Murray lay in another corner, flushed with a high temperature and obviously very ill.

“The British consul made arrangements for Murray, by this time almost delirious, to be evacuated to a British hospital ship, the Maine, lying off the coast at Alicante. But before this could take place, during his last moments of semi-lucidity, Murray – ever romantic – was able to despatch three cables to London – addressed to the three most eligible Society beauties, proposing marriage to each of them.

“Murray died in the ambulance before reaching Alicante. The next morning – Delmer records – three telegrams arrived for Murray at the Victoria Hotel. They were from the girls to whom he had proposed. Two accepted him.

“Delmer adds the foot note that a British doctor remarked afterwards that he had never seen a case of pneumonia like it, since this was a strain known only among apes, and he could not understand how a human had contracted it. Delmer and his colleagues kept faith with their dead companion and said nothing.”

(_The Dictionary of Disgusting Ideas_ Alan Williams & Maggie Noach, 1986)

Impeccable journalistic sources… ;)

Rachel

… ..- -… .-.. .. — .. -. .- .-.. — . … … .- –. .

(spam-protected) London, British Isles

“How come if someone tells you there are 1 billion stars in the universe you believe them, but if they tell you a paint job’s still wet you have to touch it to make sure?”

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The Evil Gerald strikes again, with Mystery Arab warns commuter of possible attack:

We both got off the train at Shankill, and he took me aside in a mysterious fashion. Then he told me in a very hushed voice, “I probably shouldn’t be telling you this, but you’ve been so kind to me. I’ve had this briefcase for three years and I’ve never been able to open it. The sandwiches my wife made for me in 1998 have gone off, but that’s not the point. I’m going to give you a warning, but you must promise to not tell anyone unless you don’t want them to die, in which case it’s fine, I’ll understand that. Listen: Don’t eat so many fatty foods. You’ll clog up your arteries and run a greater risk of suffering a fatal heart attack later in life. It’s only common sense.”
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Forgotten History – Badshah Khan:

Pashtun warriors so impressed the British, including Indian born Rudyard Kipling, that in 1847 they created a separate Pashtun force, the Corps of Guides. But what is little known is that they also created one of the world’s great pacifist movements of the 20th century. Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan who was born in 1890 and died in 1988 led it. His life is heroic. He spent more than 25 years in British Indian and Pakistani jails.

Date: Tue, 11 Dec 2001 13:37:04 -0500
From: STEPHEN JONES (spam-protected)
To: (spam-protected) (spam-protected)
Subject: Forgotten History – Badshah Khan

Forgotten History – Tuesday, December 11, 2001
“Little known facts and overlooked history”

Badshah Khan

By Denis Mueller

Pashtun warriors so impressed the British, including Indian born Rudyard Kipling, that in 1847 they created a separate Pashtun force, the Corps of Guides. But what is little known is that they also created one of the world’s great pacifist movements of the 20th century. Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan who was born in 1890 and died in 1988 led it. His life is heroic. He spent more than 25 years in British Indian and Pakistani jails.

Khan practiced non-violence as a way of life. “There is no- thing surprising in a Muslim or a Pathan like me subscribing to the creed of non-violence.” He was an ally of Gandhi and once persuaded 100,000 of his countrymen to lay down their arms and vow to fight nonviolently. His profound belief in non-violence came from the depths of his experience and his belief that these principles lay at the heart of Islam.

Khan and Gandhi worked hand in hand using the tactic of non- violence to free their land from British oppression. Khan opened schools and brought women out of their homes to become a part of society. For over two decades Khan and his followers dominated the Northwest Frontier without resorting to violence as a means for independence.

He was a valued Muslim ally of Gandhi who sought a non-secular India. In 1947, political backfighting between Hindu’s and Muslim’s split India in half. Khan opposed this and asked his followers to boycott a referendum on their separation. Muslim politicians derided Khan and called him a lackey of the Hindus. This caused Khan to be arrested by Islamabad’s new masters.

When Khan called for local autonomy within Pakistan he was rejected. At this time Afghanistan warlords saw this as an opportunity to extend their influence. Khan was jailed and defeated. He was eventually released but banished from the area. But his non-violent message was lost and the whole world of Islam is poorer for it.

When he died in 1988 at the age of 98, the funeral procession stretched for miles and miles. It was called a “craven of peace, carrying the message of love.” This forgotten chapter of history suggests that Islam is more complex than its radical supporters and western detractors are willing to say.

Khan said, “the Holy Prophet Muhammad came into this world and taught us, ‘That man is a Muslim who never hurts anyone by word or deed, but who works for the benefit and happiness of God’s creatures.” Belief in God is to love one’s fellow men.” At the end of his life he left these words. “No true effort is in vain. Look at the fields over there. The grain sown therein has to remain in the earth for a certain time, then it sprouts, and in due time yields hundreds of its kind. The same is the case with every effort in a good cause.”

Sources: Karl E. Meyer, The Great Game and the Race for
Empire in Central Asia. (http://www.shagmail.com/sub/history.html)

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Adequacy.org: Is Your Son a Computer Hacker?:

Is your son obsessed with Lunix?

BSD, Lunix, Debian and Mandrake are all versions of an illegal hacker operation system, invented by a Soviet computer hacker named Linyos Torovoltos, before the Russians lost the Cold War.

Adequacy.org is pretty funny… but they really need to sort out some kind of comment voting system. They have some seriously humor-deficient readers.

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Live(ish)! New (unarguably)! Updated, er, whenever the laptop’s plugged in and online, and at most once an hour!! Presenting… jmcam!

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Yahoo:

With a defiant cry of “right on motherfuckers”, pop superstar Madonna has presented one of the world’s most famous art prizes to conceptual artist Martin Creed for his controversial creation of a bare room with a light that switches on and off.

Riight. If there was ever any doubt, I reckon it’s now clear that the Turner Prize is all about getting column inches instead of actually awarding new, interesting art.

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brrr. The weather here in Melbourne is pretty much exactly what the weather in Ireland would be — ie. cold:

Sure this was the second day of summer, but instead of worrying about bush fires, I decided to get the home fires burning again.

After all, it was a shivery 14 degrees – the average maximum of a day in June, not December.

I know that Melbourne’s weather is meant to be changeable, but could we be kidding ourselves when we say that December is summer?

Last December, when the average maximum was an unusually warm 26.2 degrees, there were no fewer than eight 30-degree days, while January turned out to be one of the hottest months ever experienced in Melbourne with 14 occurrences of above 30 degrees.

You have to go back to 1879 to find a December when the thermometer waited until the middle of the month before cracking 30 degrees.

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Crime writer ‘solves’ Jack the Ripper mystery. Patricia Cornwell, a popular crime writer, reckons the impressionist painter Walter Richard Sickert did it — and (ludicrously) ripped up one of his paintings looking for clues.

Date: Fri, 07 Dec 2001 10:40:42 -0000
From: “rpjs2217” (spam-protected)
To: (spam-protected)
Subject: Crime writer ‘solves’ Jack the Ripper mystery

Ananova http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_467675.html?menu=news.latestheadlines

Crime writer ‘solves’ Jack the Ripper mystery

A US crime novelist is claiming she has solved the mystery of Jack the Ripper and named him as an artist who painted images of a murdered prostitute.

Patricia Cornwell spent almost £3 million on her hunt for the true identity of the Victorian serial killer.

She now says she believes the Ripper was really Walter Richard Sickert, an important Impressionist artist who painted the series of gruesome pictures 20 years later.

She told American TV’s Primetime: “I do believe 100% that Walter Richard Sickert committed those serial crimes, that he is the Whitechapel murderer.”

Cornwell, 45, spent part of the fortune her best-selling crime novels have earned her on her hunt, buying Sickert’s paintings, then using them in the hunt for clues.

She even flew a team of American forensic experts to London to examine the notorious Ripper letters for DNA, and bought 30 of the artist’s works, ripping one of them up completely in her hunt for clues.

Sickert, who was born in 1860, was an apprentice to Whistler and worked with Degas and is regarded as a key link between British art and the growth of Impressionism.

But Cornwell claims he led a secret double life as a serial killer – and the five prostitutes named as Jack the Ripper’s victims were not the only women he killed.

They were horribly mutilated and all but Kelly were murdered on the street but their killer – who taunted police in letters signed “Jack the Ripper” – was never found, prompting one of history’s greatest murder mysteries.

Cornwell said she had been led to Sickert by a series of clues and her knowledge of forensic science and the mind of serial killers. Sickert was 28 when the killings started, an age Cornwell said was typical for serial killers to start their sprees between the age of 25 and 30.

Story filed: 10:08 Friday 7th December 2001

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Pentagon: US military forces have in their control a … US citizen:

All along, Americans have known there were Taliban sympathisers and supporters in their midst: the FBI has been focusing on little else for the past three months. However, it expected they would be of Arab descent, part of the huge wave of immigration from Lebanon, Yemen and Palestine of the past 20 years, living in one of the big, ambivalent Islamic communities, perhaps round Detroit or New York.

No one bargained on a 20-year-old white kid with a Swedish name, Irish descent, a strict Catholic father and a Buddhist mother.

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Farting Shatner’s PR genius:

A rumour of William Shatner farting during an interview pushed sales of a Star Trek video beyond the final frontier. Mark Borkowski applauds stroke of PR genius …

The source of the story was the video company’s publicist, who applied a nifty bit of creativity to one of the most intractable problems in entertainment PR. … Getting coverage for a video release is well nigh impossible because the stars have already done the circuit and everything’s already been said.

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Slightly stale bits, but funny nonetheless:

Sevilla midfielder Francisco Gallardo has been charged by the Spanish soccer federation for an unusual goal celebration. Gallardo bit teammate Jose Antonio Reyes’ penis after he had scored in the 4-0 win over Valladolid. Reyes was besieged by ecstatic teammates after scoring and Gallardo was seen to bend down and nibble at the goalscorer’s genitalia.

He could face a fine or suspension for his actions, which may deemed to be an infringement of what is described in the federation’s rulebook as “sporting dignity and decorum”. “I felt a bit of a pinch but I didn’t realise what Gallardo had done until I saw the video. “The worst thing about it is the teasing I’m going to get from my teammates,” Reyes said.’

via Reuters.

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GNOME Vim: embedded Vim, for use in Evolution. Sweet.

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Club patron sues ‘reckless’ stripper:

Bonnett was in the New Westminster club on Nov. 29, 2000 when a female dancer swung around a pole and kicked him, fracturing his nose, according to the lawsuit filed on Tuesday in British Columbia Supreme Court.

Date: Fri, 30 Nov 2001 12:23:14 -0000
From: (spam-protected)
To: (spam-protected)
Subject: Over enthusiastic stripper causes head injury

Club Patron Sues ‘Reckless’ Stripper

Reuters

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Nov. 29) – A Canadian man has sued a Vancouver-area strip club, claiming he was injured by a “reckless” exotic dancer who kicked him in the head.

Greg Bonnett is seeking unspecified damages from the Barnet Motor Inn, claiming it was negligent in not posting prominent signs warning the public of the risk of sitting too close to the stage.

Bonnett was in the New Westminster club on Nov. 29, 2000 when a female dancer swung around a pole and kicked him, fracturing his nose, according to the lawsuit filed on Tuesday in British Columbia Supreme Court.

The Coquitlam man’s lawsuit also seeks damages from the dancer, identified only as “Jane Doe,” for allegedly “dancing in a negligent and reckless manner.”

Reuters 10:51 11-29-01

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Another classic piece of Pravda translation. “ENDEAVOUR TO DELIVER 6,000 US FLAGS TO THE SPACE“, it seems, which will be handed over to “people who took part in de-mounting of hips on the spot of the tragedy.” Did that really just say “de-mounting of hips”?

Seriously though, I love Pravda’s english articles; it’s not just the iffy translation; sometimes you get some beautiful Russian turns of phrase thrown in — then mangled through the translation. ;)

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Wow. A truly neat, cross-platform, text entry widget in HTML that updates as you edit. Check it out (quick though — it’s a FilePile URL).

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MEMORANDUM

From: Bin Laden, Osama

Sent: Monday, October 22, 2001 8:17 AM

To: Cavemates

Subject: The Cave

The CIA has just released this memo intercepted from Osama bin Laden:

MEMORANDUM From: Bin Laden, Osama
Sent: Monday, October 22, 2001 8:17 AM
To: Cavemates
Subject: The Cave

Hi guys. We’ve all been putting in long hours but we’ve really come together as a group and I love that. Big thanks to Omar for putting up the poster that says “There is no ‘I’ in team” as well as the one that says “Hang In There, Baby.” That cat is hilarious.

However, while we are fighting a jihad, we can’t forget to take care of the cave. And frankly I have a few concerns.

First of all, while it’s good to be concerned about cruise missiles, we should be even more concerned about the scorpions in our cave. Hey, you don’t want to be stung and neither do I, so we need to sweep the cave daily. I’ve posted a sign-up sheet near the main cave opening.

Second, it’s not often I make a video address but when I do, I’m trying to scare the most powerful country on earth, okay? That means that while we’re taping, please do not ride your razor scooter in the background. Just while we’re taping. Thanks.

Third point, and this is a touchy one. As you know, by edict, we’re not supposed to shave our beards. But I need everyone to just think hygiene, especially after mealtime. We’re all in this together.

Fourth: food. I bought a box of Cheez-Its recently, clearly wrote
“Osama” on the front, and put it on the top shelf. Today, my Cheez-Its were gone. Consideration. That’s all I’m saying.

Finally, we’ve heard that there may be American soldiers in disguise trying to infiltrate our ranks. I want to set up patrols to look for them. First patrol will be Omar, Muhammed, Abdul, Akbar, and Richard.

Love you lots. Osama

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A salutary tale of getting ripped off writing games. Nightmare.

None of which has happened. Why? Because: For half a year now Bethesda has been delaying the 150000USD, which they ARE TO pay according to the contract, and moreover, it even refuse to give us the reason why. We have not been paid even for the beta.

But still, from some source we know that by now Bethesda has sold about 50000 boxes of Echelon in North America, which means that Bethesda has already made over a million on the game.

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http://www.uncontrol.com/ — a flash applet which provides a good collection of nature-imitating mathematical eye candy. Number 16 is beautiful.

I used to write graphics demos on the C-64, which used a lot of this kind of stuff (although a hell of a lot simpler for obvious reasons). It occurs to me that Flash makes writing demos a lot easier; it provides a decent language (scripting as opposed to 6502 assembly), it gives you a good set of drawing tools (anti-aliasing, alpha blending, and 24-bit colour), the hardware no longer limits what you can do in 2-D graphics, and you can even buy software which takes care of the text effects like zooms, scrolling, bouncing etc. In other words, all the cool tricks are done for you ;)

I wonder what demo writers are doing nowadays, as a result? One side seems to be what these guys have done — actually go for really interesting, good-looking effects, rather than just the “how did they do that” factor. I would imagine the other side of the demo “bleeding edge” is doing a hell of a lot of 3-D stuff. (By hand. In assembler. ;)

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A great idea for a blog — “who would buy that?” — featuring auction oddities from all over the web. There’s some absolutely horrific tat to be found out there…

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When Leonids attack!

Just as Laura walked toward the house to get her husband, Tom, a chunk of rock fell from the sky, slamming down to her left near where she had been standing just moments before.

via the forteana list.

Date: Wed, 21 Nov 2001 10:24:43 -0000
From: Scott Wood (spam-protected)
To: Forteana (spam-protected) Fort Research List (spam-protected)
Subject: When Leonid’s Attack!

A memento from the sky

Family nearly hit by possible meteorite from Leonid display

BY LU ANN FRANKLIN Times Correspondent

Posted Tuesday, November 20, 2001

http://www.thetimesonline.com/index.pl/article?id=1192720

HIGHLAND — When Laura Yuran and her 11-year-old son, Jonathon, awoke at 4 a.m. Sunday to watch the Leonid meteor shower outside the family’s home in Highland, they never expected to be a target for space debris.

About a half hour into their sky gazing mother and son began hearing something that sounded like hail falling. A short time later, those hail-like objects started pelting the pair. Just as Laura walked toward the house to get her husband, Tom, a chunk of rock fell from the sky, slamming down to her left near where she had been standing just moments before.

“It went, ‘Boom!’ and I screamed,” Laura recalled. “Part of it hit the driveway and the second part was embedded in the ground. I was afraid to touch it.”

Laura’s scream brought Tom outside. Locating the rocks with a flashlight, he picked them up, finding them cold to the touch. He had to pull the smaller stone out of the lawn.

“It’s beautiful,” Laura said of the family’s newest treasure.

Jim Seevers, an astronomer from Chicago’s Adler Planetarium, said the rocks are most likely meterorites from the Leonid meteor shower. The rust color is “the fusion crust,” he said, which is typical of a meteorite that has been seared by the earth’s atmosphere.

“The rock probably chipped off and the shiny, silver they see is the inside,” Seevers said. “It’s most likely iron and nickel.”

Although Tom Yuran was concerned that the rocks might be radioactive, Seever said they are basically rocks mixed with metal, such as bits of iron. The rarest of all meteorites are composed of carbon, another common element in the universe, and “look like a hunk of charcoal,” Seevers said.

The astronomer said meterorites are slowed down by the earth’s atmosphere much like a parachute slows down a skydiver. At 60 miles up in the atmosphere, the rock then begins a fall to earth. Its size and the speed it is traveling will determine how hard it hits and if it will become embedded in the Earth.

“If it had hit me, I could have been killed,” Laura Yuran said. “We hid under the awning on our porch because we were afraid of more rocks falling down.”

Seevers recommended that the Yurans allow the geology staff at Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History to analyze the rock.

“We don’t have a lab here at the Adler Planetarium,” he said. “The staff at the museum’s meteorite lab will be able to tell them the rock’s composition.”

On Monday afternoon, the Yurans contacted Dr. Menache Wadhwa, the curator of the Field Museum’s meteorite collection, for an opinion.

“She wants us to bring her a small piece of it on Wednesday morning. She said we’re the only ones anywhere who have reported falling meteorites from the Leonid meteor shower,” Tom said.

In fact, after talking with Wadhwa, Jonathon began searching for more pieces of the meteorite. He quickly located two more small rocks that weigh about one ounce each.

Laura said until the rocks are analyzed, she’s trying to play hostess to the excited neighborhood children whom Jonathon has invited over to see the space debris. Eventually she hopes to put the objects in a display case and give it to her son who collects rocks.

The next time the Yuran family could gather to view the Leonid meteor shower is in 2034. That’s when the comet Temple-Tuttle, which causes the Leonid display, will pass by Earth again.

“We really enjoyed watching it, with the blue lights and long tails,” Laura said. “If it wasn’t for Jonathon setting his alarm and waking us up, we wouldn’t have seen it.”

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Nancy Banks-Smith on an ill-conceived method of reviewing, during her career as the Guardian’s TV critic:

Later, we all went to the BBC’s TV centre or various ITV offices, running after each other across town like a row of ducks. Then, programmes were shown in central viewing theatres such as at Bafta. This had the disadvantage that the actors were apt to show up, too, applauding their own performance. It was not a relaxed mix. It was at Bafta that Barbara Woodhouse snapped “Put that out at once!” with such dominance that the critic beside me swallowed her cigarette and had to be extinguished with water.
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The winner of the Second Annual SatireWire Spam Slam, courtesy of Kelley on FoRK:

ELECTRIGEL CREME

Brazen Teen Bitches, Take a serious look at your life. And allow me to introduce a powerful new substance from the Electri-Cellular Industry. Electrigel Creme

I wouldn’t have believed it myself, But now there is a better way. There is no catch. I have to get this off my chest before I explode!!!

Electrigel Creme

It’s true you can earn $50,000 in the next 90 days

You really can find out ANYTHING ABOUT ANYONE! A university diploma is waiting for you! But no product is more effective than, Electrigel Creme

What does it do? That’s right. It really really does.

And that, my friend, is the bargain of a lifetime.

I am faxing a check

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BillG recently claimed to have invented Open Source. As part of a discussion of this, his original open letter to computer hobbyists was uncovered. Makes interesting reading, in retrospect.

An Open Letter to Hobbyists

February 3, 1976

By William Henry Gates III

To me, the most critical thing in the hobby market right now is the lack of good software courses, books and software itself. With- out good software and an owner who understands programming, a hobby computer is wasted. Will quality software be written for the hobby market?

Almost a year ago, Paul Allen and myself, expecting the hobby mar- ket to expand, hired Monte Davidoff and developed Altair BASIC. Though the initial work took only two months, the three of us have spent most of the last year documenting, improving and adding features to BASIC. Now we have 4K, 8K, EXTENDED, ROM and DISK BASIC. The value of the computer time we have used exceeds $40,000.

The feedback we have gotten from the hundreds of people who say they are using BASIC has all been positive. Two surprising things are apparent, however, 1) Most of these “users” never bought BASIC (less than 10% of all Altair owners have bought BASIC), and 2) The amount of royalties we have received from sales to hobbyists makes the time spent on Altair BASIC worth less than $2 an hour. Why is this? As the majority of hobbyists must be aware, most of you steal your software. Hardware must be paid for, but software is something to share. Who cares if the people who worked on it get paid?

Is this fair? One thing you don’t do by stealing software is get back at MITS for some problem you may have had. MITS doesn’t make money selling software. The royalty paid to us, the manual, the tape and the overhead make it a break-even operation. One thing you do do is prevent good software from being written. Who can afford to do professional work for nothing? What hobbyist can put 3-man years into programming, finding all bugs, documenting his product and distribute for free? The fact is, no one besides us has invested a lot of money in hobby software. We have written 6800 BASIC, and are writing 8080 APL and 6800 APL, but there is very little incentive to make this software available to hobbyists. Most directly, the thing you do is theft.

What about the guys who re-sell Altair BASIC, aren’t they making money on hobby software? Yes, but those who have been reported to us may lose in the end. They are the ones who give hobbyists a bad name, and should be kicked out of any club meeting they show up at.

I would appreciate letters from any one who wants to pay up, or has a suggestion or comment. Just write to me at 1180 Alvarado SE, #114, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 87108. Nothing would please me more than being able to hire ten programmers and deluge the hobby market with good software.

Bill Gates

General Partner, Micro-Soft

(Gates, 1976)

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I’ve just added weblogs.com support to taint.org. Been meaning to do it for a while, but plenty of other stuff got in the way in the meantime. :(

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“Please mind the closing doors…” The doors close…The doors reopen. “Passengers are reminded that the big red slidey things on the side of the train are called the doors. Let’s try it again. Please stand clear of the doors.” The doors close… “Thank you.”

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Due to a set of advocacy and plain show-off mails recently, regarding sub-pixel font rendering under Linux, my hand has been forced ;)

As a result, here’s a little HOWTO document I’ve written up for getting sub-pixel rendering working under Linux. Check it out if you’ve got a Linux laptop and want some sweet-looking fonts!

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What’s hot in Kabul today? Apparently, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai = hot, Fakhir Mohammed = not. Can’t say I blame them.

Date: Wed, 14 Nov 2001 13:51:13 -0000
From: “Martin Adamson” (spam-protected)
To: (spam-protected)
Subject: Afghan music latest: Last chance to buy Osama praise songs

Evening Standard – 14 November 2001

In his music shop Mohamed Salim is quite literally erasing the Taliban from Kabul – taping new music over the cassettes of religious chanting which the former regime forced him to sell.

Today’s victim is former Taliban Top Ten chanter Fakhir Mohammed, whose monotonous warbles were a firm favourite until the regime fled on Monday. Now a tape of his chants is being dubbed over with the soundtrack from an Indian film.

Getting to the front counter in Salim’s shop means fighting your way past dozens of young men, all eager for tapes. For the moment he has run out, producing new ones only as fast as his tape-to-tape machine can dub over the Taliban cassettes. “This is the best business in five years,” he says. “We’re very happy just to hear music again.” Outside, Salim’s music merges with the cacophony of tunes – Indian and Western

  • being pumped into the street at maximum volume.

Until Monday night, when the Taliban fled, Farashgar was a grim place to visit: those shops which bothered to put music onto their speaker systems had only repetitive chants to offer. Business was bad, and also uncertain. “If a Talib came to the shop, he would say ‘give me one cassette, I will pay you after’,” said Salim, 22. “But maybe the money would never come. What could you do?” What they did was sell underground music: many of the tape boxes on Salim’s shelves held a secret.

He shows me why. On the labels of some cassette boxes are the names of various Taliban chanters. But he opens the box to reveal, scrawled over the tape, an Indian singer. “We would sell this way, to people we know. The hard thing was remembering which singer was in which cassette box.” The other hard thing were the men from the notorious Ministry for Vice and Virtue. These so called “religious police” were the Taliban’s gestapo, and the shopkeepers of Farashgar were a favourite target. “I was in jail four times. For one month, for one week, the last for 18 days,” says Salim.

In the next-door shop to Salim’s, his friend Mohamed Talut Taheri says: “Sometimes they could come to raid, they would open all the
cassette boxes, then you were caught. The other way was that someone would be arrested for something. They would search him and find a cassette. If he told them where he got it, you were in jail.”

Now the problem is supply. With the overland route to Pakistan cut, there are no more CDs and only dubbed tapes on offer to a public clamourous for music. This means prices have shot up: A tape from Salim’s shop that was £1.80 when you risked jail to buy it is now £2.80. But nothing drives away the customers. “We love to hear music. Indian, Western, it doesn’t matter,” says Salim. “It’s just so nice that music is back.”

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Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing is on fire today. I was tempted to forward on an entry or two, but by the time I got to the end of today’s updates, I think the only thing a reader can do is just go there and read ’em: Quake players on drugs, Dance Dance Resurrection, and EMI uploading their own music to Gnutella…

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Hamlet vs. ISDN:

Technician 1: My name be John. What problem do you have?

Hamlet: A heart so full of woe to shame the gods.

My father dead. My mother newly wed

To mine own uncle who hath stole my crown.

But worst of all, like demon born of Hell,

Connection’s lost; I hath no ISDN.

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One to buy; a collection of J.G. Ballard’s short stories. I’m a big Ballard fan, so I’ll be keeping an eye out. Great review too:

The drowned worlds, scorched cities and overgrown jungles of his early fiction; his concentration on the new media landscape of celebrity and stylised catastrophe; his exploration of the connections between sex, eroticism and death; his fetishism of motorways, cars, technology and high-rise buildings – Ballard wrote about the twentieth century in its own idiom, at a time when most other literary writers were no more than grappling with the same old tired clichés of the English class system.

Date: Sun, 04 Nov 2001 11:29:27 -0000
From: “Tim Chapman” (spam-protected)
To: forteana (spam-protected)
Subject: Complete Stories – Observer review

http://www.observer.co.uk/review/story/0,6903,587030,00.html

The Ballard of Shanghai jail

The poetry of disaster gleams among the anti-utopian’s collected short stories in JG Ballard’s The Complete Stories

Jason Cowley Sunday November 4, 2001 The Observer

The Complete Stories

JG Ballard

Flamingo £25, pp1,189

When I worked at the Times, a couple of years ago, a shout used to echo through the newsroom at moments of great national trauma, the death of Princess Diana, say, or a terrorist outrage – ‘Call JG Ballard’. Strangely, at such moments, JG Ballard seldom seemed to be at home or was, at least, sensibly not answering the phone.

Yet the news editor, for all his harassed panic, was right to think that Ballard might have something to contribute at a time of crisis, because no other contemporary British writer possesses his prescience and perspicacity, his instinct for catastrophe. No other writer foresaw, in quite the same way, how televised images of fame and death were to become all-powerful in our culture.

Reading this book of collected stories, spanning more than 1,000 pages and 40 years, is a peculiarly enriching experience. Every sentence Ballard writes is absolutely characteristic. Ever since he began publishing stories in the mid-1950s, in low-circulation science-fiction magazines such as New Worlds and Science Fantasy, he sought to find new ways of writing about our emerging consumer society, not as other sci-fi writers did through speculating about space travel or the far future, but through constructing his own cool, detached psychopathology of post-industrial society.

The drowned worlds, scorched cities and overgrown jungles of his early fiction; his concentration on the new media landscape of celebrity and stylised catastrophe; his exploration of the connections between sex, eroticism and death; his fetishism of motorways, cars, technology and high-rise buildings – Ballard wrote about the twentieth century in its own idiom, at a time when most other literary writers were no more than grappling with the same old tired clichés of the English class system.

Those who complain that he repeatedly writes the same book, that he cannot do character or convincingly animate women, misunderstand a writer who is less a formal storyteller than a prose surrealist. The motifs in his work are abandoned airfields, drained swimming pools, crashed cars, flooded lagoons, overlit motorways. His male heroes – doctors, pilots, architects, engineers – are emblematic last men, moving uneasily though flimsy, disintegrating worlds (in their impassive striving they recall the sad urban dreamscapes of Edward Hopper).

Through his interest in medicine, science and psychoanalysis, Ballard understands how powerfully we are driven by irrational and unconscious forces, that we are often no more than mysteries to ourselves.

In ‘Motel Architecture’ a man called Pangborn retreats from the world, spending his days alone in a solarium, amusing himself by endlessly replaying the shower sequence from Psycho on a bank of television screens (this story was written in 1978, before the age of video and digitised surveillance cameras). One day, he discovers there is an intruder in the solarium, eating his food and sharing his private space. Sometimes he catches glimpses of the intruder, his spectral presence and shifting shadows. Then a cleaning woman is found murdered in the solarium, lying in the ‘familiar postures he had analysed in a thousand blow-ups’. Pangborn is terrified until, in a moment of blazing self-revelation, he realises he has always been alone in the solarium, that he is his own intruder, a stranger to himself and perhaps now a murderer, too.

‘I’ve always thought that life was a kind of disaster area,’ says Ransome, the narrator of his third novel, The Drought. In Ballard’s fiction society is always close to or actually breaking down, and civility is threatened with extinction.

In many stories, he constructs closed, artificial communities – a tropical island paradise, an internment camp, a luxury high-rise apartment block, a hi-tech business park, a seaside leisure resort – then watches as they collapse under the strain of their own internal contradictions. ‘Is this the promised end?’ asks Kent in King Lear. ‘Or,’ replies Edgar, ‘image of that horror?’

Through reading Ballard, we have lived vicariously with a sense of an ending, simultaneously embracing what we most fear and perhaps most desire – the ruin of cities, the collapse of communities, the wilful embracing of deviance and obscenity.

Many of the stories here can be read as sketches for the later novels they became. ‘Dead Time’, in particular, is a template for Empire of the Sun (1984), the marvellous autobiographical novel which liberated Ballard from the cult of avant garde celebration and carried him to an international audience.

As a detainee, between the ages of 12 and 15, in the Lunghua prison camp in Shanghai, Ballard watched as Chinese soldiers were decapitated, as the streets of Shanghai were bombed by low-flying aircraft and as his fellow internees were harassed and brutalised. In Empire he writes of returning to the International Settlement where his parents lived in colonial seclusion to find the houses inexplicably deserted, and of watching the distant glow of the atom bomb explosion in Hiroshima, ‘that spectral mushroom cloud’.

In ‘Dead Time’, the young narrator, liberated from an internment camp, hides for hours under a pile of corpses to avoid detection from the Japanese, and later journeys across a ravaged landscape in search of his missing parents, a search that Ballard enacts again and again in his fiction, as if seeking to return to that Edenic first moment, the world of tranquillity that was destroyed the day the Japanese arrived in Shanghai and took him away from home.

If Ballard is an anti-utopian writer, a pessimist of human nature, it is because by the time he returned to England, as a young adult after the war, he had seen and experienced the worst of the world and of man’s potential for depravity. He was without hope or illusion, his imagination forever after to be shadowed by the ruined towns, abandoned aircraft, crashed cars and arbitrary disappearances and injustices of his childhood. And so, as the political philosopher John Gray has written, Ballard’s fictional achievement is to have communicated a vision of what fulfilment might mean in a time of nihilism. And who would argue that ours is not a time of nihilism and that Ballard is not the ideal chronicler of our disturbed modernity?

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a classic tale of in-flight mass hysteria, courtesy of 0xdeadbeef. Read on…

Date: Thu, 01 Nov 2001 09:51:06 -0800
From: (spam-protected) (glen mccready)
To: (spam-protected)
Subject: QANTAS Flight 203 and the Breadroll of Doom

Forwarded-by: Nev Dull (spam-protected)
Forwarded-by: Randy Cassingham (spam-protected)

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= QANTAS Flight 203 and the Breadroll of Doom

Just thought I’d fill you guys in on my rather eventful day today.

The day started off ok — flew from Melbourne to Brisbane with no major dramas at all. The only problem was that three of the five screaming little whipper snappers I had earlier noticed in the gate lounge at Melbourne had been allocated the row of seats behind mine. In hindsight, I probably should have taken a little more notice of this obviously bad omen….

Anyway, apart from the screaming, crying and the regular “sinking of the slipper” into the back of my seat with clocklike monotony, it really was not all that bad. Landed in beautiful Brissy and had a dream connection to my Mackay flight. The kids left the flight, the plane left on time, wow, this is going to be a good day.

Once we were on our way, the hosties decided to surprise us with some unbelievably ordinary food — no, not just the normal servings of ordinariness, this time they had gone to some extra effort. There was the standard cheese and crackers, the piece of fruit ‘n’ nut chocolate, and then the centre piece, a delightfully soggy bread roll with an internal smearing of curried egg and capsicum. Nothing else, just curried egg and capsicum. Mmmm Mmmm! Hot Tip: These rolls are best served when made a few weeks before hand so the curried egg can thoroughly soak through the bread.

Now, in these turbulent times, and following the 17 suspected cases of Anthrax poisoning reported yesterday, you would think Qantas would be rather careful about what they are serving on their planes. Nope. The aforementioned culinary delight that was the soggy bread roll was not a plain roll, nor did it have those sesame seed thingys stuck to its top, oh no, lets give everyone on the aircraft a bread roll completely laced with flour! Great idea that. How about we put so much flour on it that it will actually fall off in a clump onto your plate so that some paranoid git behind you can start screaming hysterically about anthrax poisoning!! Fantastic.

The hosties step in and calm the situation quite well. They quietly tell her (she actually was sitting right behind me — in hindsight I’d have rathered those little whipper snappers any day!) that they have taken her meal back and will send it for analysis once we land in Mackay. They took her details and told her she would be contacted with the results. Obviously if it really was anthrax, she would be the only one at risk of inhaling the stuff, what with the sealed aircraft environment and the recirculating air con….

Anyway, nothing more said until we land. It now seems that some ground official has cottoned on to the fact that if one person could be at risk, then, hang on while I do the maths …um… carry the five… oh yeah!! The whole damned plane is at risk!! Quick shut the doors! Oh, and lets keep that air con running!!

Then the action starts. On my side of the plane I see a fire truck pull up. Then another one. Then what looks like every policeman Mackay has ever trained. Then a water tanker. Ahh, the Hazardous Materials Van is here! That should induce some panic! And what should emerge from the Haz. Van? Why, two blokes in full bio suits of course!! For those that are familiar with the movie “2001”, they looked just like “Dave” when suited up to venture outside Voyager in his space pod. For those not familiar with 2001, blokes in yellow plastic suits with a massive, fully enclosed perspex face mask which would fit over the head of a baby elephant. Color coded of course.

Now, what terrifies human beings even more than the fear of death via biological warfare I hear you ask? Why, it’s taking a shower in all your good clothes of course!! Oh the horror!!!! Yes the bio suited guys have erected their little shower cubical and have connected up a massive 2″ outlet from one of the fire trucks. And, wait, who’s here now? Yes it’s the local media. They’ve turned up to film “the cleansing of the roll flour from the passengers”. Should make some great viewing, perhaps even a mini series.

Two and a half hours pass while being constantly updated that we “should be able to disembark in the next 15 minutes or so”. (Let’s just keep that air con. going though, just in case.) The bio suited dudes are so far the only people who have used the shower (after handling the highly toxic roll flour). The guys outside with the camera’s are obviously getting bored waiting for us — they start to pack up their cameras.

Then, out of the blue, Mr Plodd bravely enters our flour infested chamber with some news, and he has with him, a doctor. The doc gets on the PA system and tells us that they have run all the tests that they are capable of in the Mackay hospital, and while they can not be 100% certain, it seems that the substance taken from the plane is, wait for it, an ordinary substance used in the preparation of the flight meals. He had even diagnosed us — the entire plane. We have a phenomenon known in the medical world as “Excessive Vigilance”. Well done champ. Unbelievable. It would have been quicker to scrape all the flour up off everyone’s lap and whip up a batch of scones to prove the true identity of the substance!!

This is when in my opinion, the day’s highlight occurred. Following such a long period of such intense waiting, there is bound to be an outpouring of emotion… Sighs of relief, cries of laughter, cheering, clapping, and of course, the absolute verbal barrage of abuse for the poor lady sitting behind me who had now sunk so low into her chair that she was now practically wearing her lifejacket. It seems that another particular lady who had now well and truly missed her (spam-protected) flight to the Whitsundays had decided to give our friend a piece of her mind. The awkward silence that followed was priceless.

Anyway, before we all finally got off the plane they took everyone’s details in case forensic testing at Brisbane’s pathology centre turned anything else up. We got off the plane to a bit of a hero’s welcome — heaps of people, police and media interviews. I didn’t quite get to my destination from Mackay in time to see the local news, but apparently we were the headline story. All hail the paranoid chick from row 9.

  • Randy Cassingham, author of “This is True” * (spam-protected) +
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