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Justin Mason's Weblog Posts

Quorn, the yummy fungus

Via forteana: Quorn, the yummy meat-substitute, has been having a hard time of it recently. First, there’s a court case going on in the US at the moment, where some people are suing the company claiming that Quorn makes them puke — now the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority is requiring that they get rid of claims of its “mushroom” origins, and note more clearly that it’s a mycoprotein.

But hey, anyone who thinks eating “real” meat bought in a an average supermarket is a good idea, can stick with that, as the hormones turn them into hirsute, uddered bovines. I’m happy with my mostly-veggie diet.

Gordon Rutter, fungus expert at forteana, notes in passing:

A few years ago there was a court case about mushroom soup – the majority are actually made with boletes rather than what people would think of as mushrooms. The reason is that mushrooms don’t preserve very well whereas boletes do and people did not want lumpy bits of black putrescence floating in their soup.

He also notes that the Quorn fungus is a tiny bit more closely related to the fungus that causes athlete’s foot, than it is to a mushroom. urgh. Now I feel sick.

Date: Wed, 04 Sep 2002 09:51:00 +0100
From: “Gordon Rutter” (spam-protected)
To: (spam-protected)
Subject: Re: Mmm, fungal

There are lots of historical precedents over this sort of argument – a few years ago there was a court case about mushroom soup – the majority are actually made with boletes rather than what people would think of as mushrooms. The reason is that mushrooms don’t preserve very well whereas boletes do and people did not want lumpy bits of black putrescence floating in their soup. Thsi was eventually got over when “experts” were brought in to testify that in common useage mushroom refered to something of a particular shape that was fungal in origin and edible.

The quorn people have a bit of problem with names and thigns – a couple of years ago they were informed they were using a totally different species to the one they were telling everyone – who says taxonomists don’t have a job to do.

BTW the species they use is a parasite of grasses which is carcinogenic in humans! Oh to be totally exact it’s a mutated form which is no longer carcinogenic. When BSE hit the headlines quorn production literally doubled over the space of however long it takes to build a fermenter – best thing that could have happened fro them business wise.


As previously mentioned –,2763,785679,00.html

Quorn ‘meat’ must be sold as fungus

James Meikle, health correspondent

Wednesday September 4, 2002

The Guardian

The advertising standards authority has declared that the Quorn brand of meat substitutes has been misleading the public by referring to their key ingredient as a “mushroom protein”.

It has told manufacturers Marlow Foods to delete the claim from advertising unless it also gives equal prominence to either the ingredient’s fungal origin or explains its technical origin as a mycoprotein, found naturally in the soil but then put in a glucose medium and fermented.

The food industry is already under investigation by the food standards agency for being too ready to use label descriptions that imply natural, country goodness.

The authority’s decision was in response to complaints from the mushroom industry which alleged that Quorn’s makers were trying to transfer “agreeable associations consumers have with mushrooms” to their product, and from the Centre for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a US not-for-profit organisation. These related to three magazine advertisements implying that Quorn mince and burgers were “made from a natural mushroom protein”.

But there was some good news for Quorn. The food agency has refused to have the range withdrawn from sale despite the CPSI’s consistent questioning of the products’ safety record.

Marlow Foods, based in north Yorkshire, agreed to suspend the term “mushroom protein” from its promotional material. The chairman of the food agency, Sir John Krebs, has already suggested the term “fungal” was rather more accurate than “mushroom” when it came to decribing the ingredient’s origin.

The company said last night: “We accept the ASA’s ruling. We have always strived to provide meaningful consumer information. We will take the ASA’s comments into account when planning any future advertising.”


Evolving circuits

man, this is so cool. “A self-organising electronic circuit has stunned engineers by turning itself into a radio receiver. This … followed an experiment to see if an automated design process … could be used to breed an oscillator. …. When they looked more closely they found that, despite producing an oscillating signal, the circuit itself was not actually an oscillator. Instead, it was behaving more like a radio receiver, picking up a signal from a nearby computer and delivering it as an output.” New Scientist, via BoingBoing.

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Mozilla supports site navigation

excellent, Mozilla 1.1 supports site navigation via LINK tags; check the menu under View -> Show/Hide -> Site Navigation Bar. About time too! (he said ungratefully.) Now to figure out some time in the nearish future to fix this blog to use the goddamn things. (via Danny)

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An Uruk of Morder writes

so, everyone knows that Nigerian Scam, “help us embezzle lots of developing-world money that got lost somehow during some coup”, that kind of thing. Well, Theo Van Dinter forwards a new take on it:

I am an Uruk of Mordor, charged with the discovery of a number of valuable treasures within Moria. It has come to my notice that the mithril hoard previously owned by Ori of the land of Moria has been found by one of our cave-trolls. Under our laws, the hoard will be shared between our lord Sauron and the local Balrog, but so far neither knows the extent of the treasure.

Date: Fri, 30 Aug 2002 23:04:58 -0400
From: Theo Van Dinter (spam-protected)
To: (spam-protected)
Subject: Mordor Scam

I caught this on another mailing list and hadn’t seen it here yet. Thought you folks would enjoy it. :)

Dear Sir,

I am an Uruk of Mordor, charged with the discovery of a number of valuable treasures within Moria. It has come to my notice that the mithril hoard previously owned by Ori of the land of Moria has been found by one of our cave-trolls. Under our laws, the hoard will be shared between our lord Sauron and the local Balrog, but so far neither knows the extent of the treasure.

Sir, I come to you as a respectful businessperson in order that we may derive some profit ourselves from this venture, I would wish that I could arrange for the transfer of half of the find to yourself, costing roughly 20,000 silver pennies. From this amount, I will then arrange for a further such that 25% remains your own, 5% goes for sundry costs (including hire of strong Rohan horses for use in transportation), 5% is given in bribe to the cave troll to ensure the quantity reported to our respective Lords is adjusted, 65% belongs to myself and my fellow Orcs.

In order that this be accomplished, I ask only that you provide details of:

Your willingness to participate in this venture,

Confirmation that you will not speak of this venture to anyone else, or wear any magic rings,

Your race and land of residence,

The location of your local Palantir or identity of your preferred message-carrying bird or beast,

Your given name, and any name you are known by in the Western lands,

The number of ponies you possess.

I look forward to your returning correspondence, which can be whispered to any passing magpie. I trust that you will ensure that no other dark feathered birds come to hear of this transaction.

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kicked in the balls

latest bizarre Japanese sex fetish: “There weren’t any particular standards regarding who was hired. I suppose the only requirement was an ability to stand erect after being kicked in the balls”. (via forteana, of course) (Link)

Date: Mon, 02 Sep 2002 12:35:39 -0700
From: Brian Chapman (spam-protected)
To: (spam-protected) (spam-protected)
Subject: The Japanese are a creative people

Tarzan Yagi, a former porno actor who turned to making adult movies when he went soft four years ago, has been one of the driving forces behind the production of ball kicking videos.

“You can’t use professional actors, because you’re making films about men being kicked in their most vital organ. If you did use them, they’d soon be put out of work. So we advertised in S&M magazines and over the Internet to find guys to appear in tamakeri videos. We had over 200 applicants. There weren’t any particular standards regarding who was hired. I suppose the only requirement was an ability to stand erect after being kicked in the balls,” Yagi tells Shukan Taishu, with a laugh.


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I must get around to changing the text at the top of the front page; nowadays, half of this blog is stuff I want me to read — a kind of public “must read when I get a chance” list.

Here’s one for “must try when I get a chance”: The Free Hacking Zone. It’s a simulated-hacking game, with increasing levels of difficulty, simulating a system you have to crack at each level. Sounds like fun…

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IBEC make the right noises

IBEC’s Telecommunications User Group has again criticised the current broadband situation in this country:

“IStream (Eircom’s digital subscriber line service) does not provide an affordable broadband solution for business or households.” … “A basic monthly DSL price of EUR 30 to 40 is needed to stimulate adequate demand, while iStream costs the user a connection fee of EUR 199.65 and a monthly fee of EUR 107.69.”

In terms of cost, (they) referred to a benchmarking study carried out by Forfas in March, which found that Ireland is ranked as the most expensive country in the (small to medium-size business) category.

It’s good to see some backup for what is, broadly, IrelandOffline‘s positions, from other organisations. Let’s hope these datapoints will eventually trickle into the consciousness of Irish small businesses and the media; it’s truly shocking how little coverage this absurd state of affairs gets.

After 5 years of DSL trialling, cronyism, monopoly, and waffle from government, we’re still almost exactly where we started. This I already knew. What I’d never noticed before is that nobody in this country seems to care, or is bothered to understand the issues. Even Australia would be giving front-page coverage to this crap, yet over here you’re lucky to see any coverage at all in the news media.

It’s very tempting just to leave Ireland — again! — and go somewhere where these things have been sorted out already, and stay there, at least until Ireland cops on. As you can probably guess, it’s a pet peeve at the moment. ;)

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gay Afghan farmers

The Scotsman, with some hilarious reports of squaddie culture shock:

“British marines returning from an operation deep in the Afghan mountains spoke last night of an alarming new threat – being propositioned by swarms of gay local farmers. … “We were pretty shocked … we discovered from the Afghan soldiers we had with us that a lot of men in this country have the same philosophy as ancient Greeks: ‘a woman for babies, a man for pleasure’.”

… the locals began pestering Afghan troops attached to the marines with ever more outrageous compensation demands – topping off at a demand from one village elder for $500 (£300) for damage to a tree by the downdraft from helicopters. … “I managed to barter him down to two marine pens, a pencil and a rubber,” Major Joyce said. “He went away quite happy .”

Date: Tue, 27 Aug 2002 18:09:07 -0600
From: Rob Solarion (spam-protected)
Subject: “Lookin’ for love in all the wrong places … “


Startled marines find Afghan men all made up to see them

Chris Stephen In Bagram

BRITISH marines returning from an operation deep in the Afghan mountains spoke last night of an alarming new threat – being propositioned by swarms of gay local farmers.

An Arbroath marine, James Fletcher, said: “They were more terrifying than the al-Qaeda. One bloke who had painted toenails was offering to paint ours. They go about hand in hand, mincing around the village.”

While the marines failed to find any al-Qaeda during the seven-day Operation Condor, they were propositioned by dozens of men in villages the troops were ordered to search.

“We were pretty shocked,” Marine Fletcher said. “We discovered from the Afghan soldiers we had with us that a lot of men in this country have the same philosophy as ancient Greeks: ‘a woman for babies, a man for pleasure’.”

Originally, the marines had sent patrols into several villages in the mountains near the town of Khost, hoping to catch up with al-Qaeda suspects who last week fought a four-hour gun battle with soldiers of the Australian SAS. The hardened troops, their faces covered in camouflage cream and weight down with weapons, radios and ammunition, were confronted with Afghans wanting to stroke their hair.

“It was hell,” said Corporal Paul Richard, 20. “Every village we went into we got a group of men wearing make-up coming up, stroking our hair and cheeks and making kissing noises.”

At one stage, troops were invited into a house and asked to dance. Citing the need to keep momentum in their search and destroy mission, the marines made their excuses and left. “They put some music on and ask us to dance. I told them where to go,” said Cpl Richard. “Some of the guys turned tail and fled. It was hideous.”

The Afghan hill tribes live in some of the most isolated communities in the country. “I think a lot of the problem is that they don’t have the women around a lot,” said another marine, Vaz Pickles. “We only saw about two women in the whole six days. It was all very disconcerting.”

A second problem the British found came minutes after the first helicopter touched down at one of the hilltop firebases, when local farmers appeared demanding compensation for goats they claimed had been blown off the mountains by the rotor blades. “Every time we landed a Chinook near a village, we got some irate bloke running up to us saying his goat has just got blown off the mountain ridge by the helicopter – and then he demanded a hundred dollars compensation,” said Major Phil Joyce, commander of Whisky Company, one of four companies deployed.

As patrols moved away from the landing zones, the locals began pestering Afghan troops attached to the marines with ever more outrageous compensation demands – topping off at a demand from one village elder for $500 (£300) for damage to a tree by the downdraft from helicopters.

But the marines were under orders to win the “hearts and minds” of local farmers in what is one of the few remaining Taleban bastions. “I managed to barter him down to two marine pens, a pencil and a rubber,” Major Joyce said. “He went away quite happy .”

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MP as slave

a conservative MP in Oz is to spend a day as a “slave”, working for the madam of Langtree’s brothel in the mining town of Kalgoorlie. (via forteana)

Date: Tue, 27 Aug 2002 13:31:25 +0100
From: “Tim Chapman” (spam-protected)
To: forteana (spam-protected)
Subject: Brothel duty for Australian MP

Tuesday, 27 August, 2002, 11:00 GMT 12:00 UK Brothel duty for Australian MP

A conservative Member of Parliament in Australia is set to spend the day as a “slave” at one of Western Australia’s most notorious brothels. Liberal Party member Barry Haase was “won” in a charity auction after the madam of Langtree’s brothel in the mining town of Kalgoorlie made the highest offer for his services for a day.

Mary-Anne Kenworthy made a bid of A$1,000 ($540) in the local Rotary Club auction and said she intended “to have a lot of fun with him.” Ms Kenworthy told the BBC’s World Today programme that she had a packed timetable planned for Mr Haase to educate him in the ways of a brothel.

“I am going to put a frilly apron on him and start him cleaning at 10 in the morning to show him our brothel is spotlessly clean and not all brothels are dirty,” Ms Kenworthy said.

“Secondly he is going on a tour at 12 o’clock – we do tours of our brothels

  • and at two clock he is going to take the tour out wearing my tour hat,”

she added.

Long history

Ms Kenworthy said she would tell Mr Haase about the long history of Kalgoorlie’s association with the oldest profession.

The gold-mining town has boasted the presence of an open brothel for 100 years, she said. But she stressed that there was a serious side to the day as she hoped to influence Mr Haase’s opinion on brothels.

“I hope he will leave with an informed decision on what Australian brothels are all about and it will help him in his political career to make informed decisions that he might not have been able to make before,” Ms Kenworthy said.

Mr Haase, a member of Prime Minister John Howard’s party seemed relaxed about the prospect of working in a brothel. “You can’t be half-hearted about fundraising for significant charities and I think I’m big enough to play the game,” he said.

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Census Jedi

more than 70,000 Aussies declared themselves as Jedi Knights when asked to define their religion in last year’s census, reports the Guardian (via forteana).

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LBW wrapup

just got back from a brief weekend visit to LinuxBierWanderung in Doolin, Co. Clare. much chat and Guinness was enjoyed aplenty. Didn’t get to meet a few of the people I hoped would be turning up, and didn’t get to sample the official LBW brews (they hadn’t arrived yet), but it was still good clean Linuxy fun — and hopefully Liam will remember to bring me back some of the aforementioned LBWbooze ;).

Due to some Eircom crapness, the ISDN line for the LBW’s internet link was non-functional (hence my lack of email, if you’ve been expecting one from me). But with the help of the IrishWAN boys, the LBW hall was linked to an ISDN connection 2 wireless hops, over a hill, and a mile or two, away — with some cool side-effects. A very nice hack.

I’m dog tired at this stage though, after a 7-hour journey back to Dublin. must sleep soon.

In other news, SpamAssassin was on TechTV. twice. cool.

Ask‘s blog is an interesting read, must remember to bookmark it someday… ;)

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Italian food to get even better

The Guardian: “Some Italians, it seems, are getting hot under the napkin about the standard of Italian food served in restaurants outside their country. Giovanni Alemanno, the agriculture minister, is chief among them. This week he announced a plan to introduce a policy of quality control on Italian food served abroad, lamenting the effect that the ubiquitous Italian restaurant is having on the reputation of his country’s food. Hundreds of Italian restaurants are created around the world every day, he said, but in most cases the only thing Italian about them is the name or a tricolour flag on display outside. ” (more…)

Date: Thu, 22 Aug 2002 14:20:16 +0100
From: “Martin Adamson” (spam-protected)
To: (spam-protected)
Subject: Nothing like mama used to make

Thursday August 22, 2002

The Guardian

Nothing like mama used to make

In Britain, we love Italian food – but is it the real thing? No, says the Italian government. Matthew Fort on whether our pasta is fit to be on the menu

Matthew Fort

Some Italians, it seems, are getting hot under the napkin about the standard of Italian food served in restaurants outside their country. Giovanni Alemanno, the agriculture minister, is chief among them. This week he announced a plan to introduce a policy of quality control on Italian food served abroad, lamenting the effect that the ubiquitous Italian restaurant is having on the reputation of his country’s food. “Hundreds of Italian restaurants are created around the world every day,” he said, “but in most cases the only thing Italian about them is the name or a tricolour flag on display outside.”

The fact is that most of the Italian food served abroad has always been appalling. Think Spaghetti House, think Pizza Hut, think of thousands of Da Ginos, Da Marios, Amalfis, Bella Venezias, Borgo this and Trattoria that. You wonder why it’s taken Italian politicians so long to wake up to the irreparable damage that these fifth columns of fifth-rate food have done to the reputation of one of the world’s most exported cooking cultures.

Of course, the most willing conspirators in this traducing of Italy’s great cooking traditions have been Italians themselves – the immigrants who sought to make a living out of restaurants in the countries where they settled, and quickly realised that they didn’t have to try very hard to do so.

The real irony is that the qualities of Italian food and cooking have never been more highly appreciated abroad. We glug down oceans of olive oil at a cost per litre that no Italian would begin to consider paying. Balsamic vinegar that you would never find in Modena, its city of origin, sloshes through the professional and amateur kitchen here. Would-be Valentinas and Giorgios make pasta at home, for heaven’s sake, something that few Italians can be bothered to do. Health-food shops and fashionable restaurants are saving such rarities as la cicerchia, a primitive pulse akin to a chickpea, when no one in Italy will give it table room. We worship pasta, mozzarella, focaccia and tiramisu. There are even some restaurants serving a passable approximation to authentic Italian food, albeit at a price.

There are limits. We probably can’t tell the difference between pancetta and prosciutto, between sugo (tomato sauce) and ragu (meat sauce), between mozzarella di bufala (made with buffalo’s milk) and mozzarella fior di latte (made with cow’s milk).

The supermarkets, on which we depend for much of our supplies and information, still persist in making fresh penne, when it should only be dry; in using durum wheat for certain pastas when in many cases it is totally unsuitable; in adding cream to spaghetti carbonara, which has the same effect on pasta as making a pizza a deep-pie; and so on and so on. There is, after all, a difference between blind lust and true love.

Food, like language, is the repository of history. You can read the history of a region in Italy through its food, from the Moorish influences of the sorbetti and pastries such as canaroli in Calabria, to the use of paprika, cream and veal stews, relics of the Austro-Hungarian empire in the north.

The trouble is that our knowledge and experience of Italian food is strictly limited. Italy is a country with an unparalleled variety of dishes, ingredients, styles and techniques. Every region, every zone within a region, has its own very particular identity, based on produce and season, that goes unacknowledged on the predictable pizza/pasta menus of the British high street. The butchers in the market of Vibo Valentia make their zingirole, a kind of celestial brawn, only between October and April. Signora Cappello in Reggio di Calabria only stuffs cherry peppers with melanzane and pine kernels in July, when the peppers first come in. For reasons that remain obscure, the bridgehead between the British kitchen and la cucina Italiana has been the food of Tuscany, which is probably the most restricted and most boring in the country.

But then Italians are similarly restricted. They suffer, or benefit from, a condition known as campanilismo, a profound sense of locality, of being rooted in a specific place. Because food has such a central part in Italian culture – Italians talk about food as incessantly and naturally as we talk about the weather – it is rare to find an Italian of one region who has a kind word to say about the food of another. Such passion also helps to preserve local food culture.

That is why, on the whole, Italian cooking has changed far less in recent years than that of any other European country. Like Chinese cooks, Italian chefs are more intent on reproducing traditional dishes based on traditional ingredients than inventing new ones. Of course, it has developed over the centuries, absorbing new ingredients (there was a time when there were no tomatoes in Italy) and techniques, but it has resisted the wholesale globalisation and homogenisation of food cultures that has led to national food identities stamped beneath the mighty boot of global brands.

Even so, perhaps Signor Alemanno should be directing his concerns at his own country, because there are disturbing signs that even Italy is edging towards the kinds of changes in the structure of its agriculture and retailing that have been the death knell of national food culture in less resistant countries. Open market forces, EU regulation and social change are all playing their part in bringing Italian agriculture and retailing into line with those of its neighbours. Particular vegetables, pulses, fish, cheeses and breeds of pig, sheep and cattle are all under threat. The Italian-based international organisation Slow Food has recognised the dangers and has set up what it calls an ark to protect endangered species and delicacies. The neighbourhood grocers, butchers, bakers and alimentari who once supported local life in Rome and other cities are disappearing fast. Agricultural units are steadily getting bigger. Agricultural variety is disappearing in favour of monocultures.

It is one of the abiding ironies of Italy that the wonderful quality of the food, so sought after by buyers for the chrome-and-plate-glass food emporia in London, New York and Tokyo, is sustained by a resolutely peasant underclass. Much of the landscape, particularly in the south, guarantees to immure those who continue to live there in peasant poverty and perpetuate those values. The same profound rural conservatism is in part responsible for the fierce pride and astonishing high standard of local foods.

In decrying the globalisation and homogenisation of food cultures, we fail to recognise the true cost of traditional indigenous cultures to the people who have to maintain them. This way we celebrate labour and indignity that we would not tolerate in our own lives.

Whatever happens to Italian cooking outside the country is completely immaterial. We will do what we have always done – reinvent Italian food in our preferred image, just as we have with French, Chinese and Indian. The real future of Italian food lies not in the hands of such politicians as Signor Alemanno, but in those of Italian consumers, and, while there may be a bit of wavering in the ranks, on the whole they are standing remarkably firm.

A couple of years ago I witnessed a dispute between a husband and wife over the correct ingredients for the filling of a pastiera, a kind of super-tart made at Easter. The argument involved, among other things, the correct mixture of crystalised fruits, the origins of ricotta, the use of crema (custard) and the addition of orange water. It started off in fairly good-humoured banter, quickly brought out jeering dismissal of the other’s point of view, heated up into an intense exchange of views and finally erupted into all-out barrages that came to a head when the wife proclaimed with magisterial dismissal: “Ma questo e un piatto romano!” (“But that is a Roman dish!”)

I couldn’t help thinking that it was all rather heartening. It was difficult to imagine such a passionate exchange in an English kitchen, or indeed an Englishman capable of holding his own on the matter of Victoria sponge.

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BT lose patent case

British Telecom lose their “we invented hyperlinks, honest” case against Prodigy. Good to see some sanity in the courts.

Date: Fri, 23 Aug 2002 11:36:29 +0100
From: “Tim Chapman” (spam-protected)
To: forteana (spam-protected)
Subject: BT loses hypertext claim

A bit of a long-runner this one –

BT loses hypertext claim By Tim Richardson Posted: 23/08/2002 at 09:38 GMT

BT has lost its legal challenge to charge US ISPs a fee for using hyperlinks.

US judge Colleen McMahon ruled late yesterday that ISPs did not infringe a patent filed by BT more than 25 years ago.

The ruling was welcomed yesterday by those in the industry, although it was not unexpected.

In March Judge Colleen McMahon ruled that the patent for the “hidden page” – filed in 1976 and granted in 1989 – might not actually cover what we know today as “hyperlinks”.

Yesterday’s decision confirms that initial ruling.

Two years ago BT discovered an old patent which it claimed proved it owned the patent to hyperlinks, the devices that help link the Web together.

Six months later the UK telco filed a lawsuit against Prodigy Communications Corp in New York State in a bid to exploit its patent and claim royalties.

The legal challenge asserted BT’s patented claim to hypertext links or the “hidden page” as it was described in the original patent.

Had BT been successful it could have opened the doors to a massive claim from US ISPs for revenues.

According to reports Prodigy is delighted with the decision. It has maintained throughout that BT’s challenge was “shameless” and “groundless”.

BT has yet to make a formal response to the ruling. However, a spokesman for BT told The Register that they were “disappointed by the judgement”.

“It’s [the judgement] highly detailed. We will be considering our options,” he said. ®

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Billy in the Bowl

something from the archives. Daev Walsh forwards an article from The Irish Digest about “Billy in the Bowl“. This story is also immortalised in an old Dublin song, which in turn was mentioned in a Pogues track. Billy was a legless beggar in the alleys of Stoneybatter and Grangegorman (where I now live) during the 18th century, who discovered a new, but not entirely legal, way to make money.


daev (spam-protected)
Subject: The Case of the Stoneybatter Strangler

A story of my new neighbourhood…

The Irish Digest July 1964

The Case of the Stoneybatter Strangler

The handsome, deformed Billy in the Bowl evolved a plan to rob his donors. Then, one night, he made the biggest mistake of his life

DUBLIN in the eighteenth century was noted for two things – the architectural beauty of its public buildings and the large number of beggars who sought alms in its maze of streets and lanes. Many of these beggars relied on visitors and the gentry for their coin, but there was one who campaigned among the working class. This was “Billy In The Bowl”

The strange appellation was derived from the fact that Billy’s sole means of transport was a large bowl-shaped car with wheels. Seated in this ” bowl “, the beggar would propel himself along by pushing against the ground with wooden plugs, one in each hand.

Billy’s unusual means of conveyance was vitally necessary, as he had been born without legs. Nature, however, had compensated for this by endowing him with powerful arms and shoulders and, what was most important, an unusually handsome face.

This was Billy’s greatest asset in his daily routine of separating sympathetic passers-by from their small change.

The cunning young beggar would wait at a convenient spot on one of the many lonely roads or lanes which were a feature of eighteenth century Grangegorman and Stoneybatter, until a servant girl or an old lady would come along.

He would then put on is most attractive smile which, together with his black curly hair, never failed to halt the females. The fact that such a handsome young man was so terribly handicapped physically always evoked pity.

“Billy in the Bowl”, however, wasn’t satisfied with becoming the daily owner of a generous number of small coins; what his greed demanded were substantial sums of money. The more he managed to get the more he could indulge in his pet vices – gambling and drinking.

As a result the beggar evolved a plan to rob unsuspecting sympathisers. The first time lie put his plan into operation was on a cold March evening as dusk, was falling. The victim was a middle aged woman who was passing through Grangegorman Lane on her way to visit friends in Queen Street – on Dublin’s North Quays.

When Billy heard the woman’s footsteps, he hid behind some bushes in a ditch which skirted the lane. As his unsuspecting victim drew close, the beggar moaned and shouted, and cried out for help.

Trembling with excitement, the woman dashed to the spot where Billy lay concealed. She bent down to help the beggar out of the ditch, when two powerful arms closed around her throat and pulled her into the bushes.

In a few minutes it was all over. The woman lay in a dead faint, and Billy was travelling at a fast rate down the lane in his ” bowl “, his victirn’s purse snug in his coat pocket. An hour after the robbery the woman was found in a distracted condition, but failed to give a description of her assailant. And, as “Billy in the Bowl” had figured, nobody would suspect a deformed beggar.

Again and again the beggar carried out his robbery plan, always shifting the place of attack to a different part of Grangegorman or Stoneybatter.

On one occasion ” Billy in “the Bowl ” tried his tactics on a sturdy servant girl who put up such a vigorous resistance that he was forced to strangle her. The incident became known as the 11 Grangegorman Lane Murder and caused a great stir.

Hundred.s flocked to the scene of the crime and for a couple of months “Billy in the Bowl” was forced to desert his usual haunts. Around this period, Dublin’s first-ever police force was been mobilised, and the first case they were confronted with was the Grangegorman lane murder.

Months passed and “Billy in the Bowl” reverted once again to his old pasttime. A number of young servant girls were lured into ditches and robbed, and the police were inundated with so many complaints that a nightly patrol was placed on the district. But the beggar still rolled along in his “bowl” pitied and unsuspected. Then came the night that finished Billy’s career of crime.

Two stoudy built female cooks, trudging back to their places of employment after a night out in the city, were surprised and not a little shocked to hear shouts for help. Rushing over, they came upon a huddled figure in the ditch.

Billy, thinking there was only one woman, grabbed one of the cooks and tried to pull her into the ditch. She proved much too strong for him, however) and while resisting tore ‘at his face with her sharp finger-nails.

Meanwhile, her companion acted with speed and daring. Pulling out her large hatpin she made .for the beggar, and plunged the pin into his right eye.

The screams and howls of the wounded beggar reverberated throughout the district and brought people dashing to the scene. Among them was a member of the nightly police patrol who promptly arrested the groaning Billy.

“Billy in the Bowl” was tried and sentenced for robbery with violence, but they could never prove it was he who had strangled the servant girl. The Grangegorman-Stoneybatter district became once again a quiet, attractive Dublin suburb where old ladies strolled, and carefree servant girls laughed and giggled as they wended their way home at night.


Rev. Dave ‘daev’ Walsh, (spam-protected) Home:
Weekly Rant: ‘Is it about a bicycle?’-Sgt.Pluck, ‘The Third Policeman’, by Flann O’Brien

Holistic Pet Detective, Owl Worrier, Snark Hunter

the kamikaze manual

notes from a suicide manual: the Japanese kamikaze pilot’s manual, now published in English for the first time. Extracts at the Guardian, but here’s some to go on with:

Taking off: Breathe deeply three times. Say in your mind: Yah (field), Kyu (ball), Joh (all right) as you breathe deeply. Proceed straight ahead on the airstrip. Otherwise you may damage the landing gears. ….

At the very moment of impact: do your best. Every deity and the spirits of your dead comrades are watching you intently. Just before the collision it is essential that you do not shut your eyes for a moment so as not to miss the target. Many have crashed into the targets with wide-open eyes. They will tell you what fun they had.

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Irish politicans and tech

just spotted this on Karlin Lillington‘s weblog.

I sent (a mail) to whatever email contact was listed on the party website, noting in the subject heading that the message was an urgent press query. I asked them to give me a synopsis of their party stance on technology issues, which would be featured in a spread in the Irish Times, and gave them about 10 days to respond.

The Progressive Democrats, supposedly the pro-business party and the party from which the very publicly pro-technology-industry deputy prime minister (or Tanaiste) comes, never responded. At all. Neither did Sinn Fein, which had been making a minor campaign issue out of the state of Ireland’s internet infrastructure. Of those who did reply, the major party in government, Fianna Fail, only just sneaked in under the deadline (because I suspect no one had read the email earlier). Labour got the award for responding first (the next day); with Fine Gael also on top of things, and the Greens a bit slower but in time for the deadline as well.

Somehow this does not surprise me at all; Irish politicians are all too willing to pay lip service to tech issues, but do absolutely nothing concrete, or useful, about them. The fact that true broadband for the home user has only been made available by one ISP, since about a year ago, and even then costs over 89 euros per month, bears this out only too graphically.

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I’ve read this before, but it’s worth pointing to: Jon Udell on SSL Proxying.

the browser's secure traffic flows to Proxomitron. It decrypts that traffic, so you can see it in the log window, and then re-encrypts it to the destination server. Coming back the other way, it decrypts the server's responses, so you can see them in the log window, then re-encrypts them to complete the secure loop back to the browser. It's really quite amazing, and amazingly useful. Automation tasks that used to look like more trouble than they were worth -- for example, driving a HotMail or E*Trade account from a script -- suddenly look easy.

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sysadmin nightmares

Aaron sez:

It’s 1:30AM. Hours ago, my server seemed to stop working. I could ping it, but I couldn’t do anything else. We drove over to see what was up. … I’ll just say that everything broke. Repeatedly. … I think I have a small idea what it’s like to be Evan now. This is not what I want to be when I grow up.

Never mind that — I think you now have an idea what it’s like to be an on-call sysadmin ;)

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I’ve been talking about these a lot on the SpamAssassin-talk list and other places, so forgive me for not blogging much about it.

  • Paul Graham talks about his naive Bayesian spam filter. We already use a very basic form of this kind of matching in SpamAssassin, in the SPAM_PHRASES matches; but it’s not proper Bayesian filtering. However, it looks like Matt is taking the bull by the horns and making it Work Right once 2.40 is released (any day now). (BTW it’s worth noting that Bayesian filtering doesn’t always seem to get the success rate that Paul talks about; we think this is down to what kind of mail you get.)

  • While we’re doing that, we’ll have to make sure we don’t hit this MS patent. grr.

  • Habeas Sender-Warranted E-mail has launched. It’s a very nice solution, allowing non-spam senders of all kinds to “sign” their mails with a “mark” indicating that it’s non-spam — and filters, like SpamAssassin, can then use that mark as a good compensation signal (SpamAssassin now has the HABEAS_SWE test in CVS).

    The mark in question is a copyright- and trademark-protected haiku. Virtually every internet-connected country in the world honours copyrighted poetry with a high degree of legal protection, so unauthorised reproduction will be a big no-no, and result in a heavy battering in the courts.

    As a result, they’re going to have to have some serious lawyers on their side. But it looks like they do. And to really press the advantage, they’ve teamed up with Dun and Bradstreet — who can seriously impact a scumbag’s ability to do business in the western world, never mind just Florida, if it comes to that.

    However, there’s still money to worry about (as usual). It does cost a hell of a lot to pursue as many legal cases as they may have to. Let’s hope they can pull it off. Good luck folks!

  • Finally, cool — I’ve made Aaron’s see-also bar!

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Category envy

Leonard has released a nifty upgrade to Newsbruiser, his weblog software. It now has the feature that means a weblog stops being an overgrown .plan file, and becomes a proper Web Log — a calendar. Now I’m jealous.

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Budvar lives!

Phew! the Budejovicky Budvar brewery has “escaped significant damage” and it’s delicious Budvar beer is back online.

Date: Thu, 15 Aug 2002 15:39:55 +0100
From: “Tim Chapman” (spam-protected)
To: forteana (spam-protected)
Subject: Budvar saved

Famous Czech Brewery Working Again

Thursday August 15, 2002 3:00 PM

PRAGUE, Czech Republic (AP) – Famed Czech brewery Budejovicky Budvar resumed production of the original Budweiser beer Thursday, two days after unprecedented flooding shut down operations, officials said.

Spokeswoman Denisa Mylbachrova said the brewery was forced to halt production Tuesday when large parts of the town of Ceske Budejovice, 90 miles south of Prague, were flooded.

“The brewery was without steam and electricity,” Mylbachrova said, adding that the brewery had never before had experienced such troubles.

Although part of the brewery was flooded, it escaped significant damage, she said.

“Damages caused by the flood are minimal,” the brewery’s director-general, Jiri Bocek, said in a statement. “The quality of the beer will not be affected.”

Budejovicky Budvar was founded in 1895 in Ceske Budejovice – called Budweis by the German-speaking people that populated the area at the time. Beer has been brewed there since 1265.

The founders of American brewer Anheuser-Busch used the name Budweiser for their product because it was well-known in their German homeland. They founded their brewery in 1876.

Disputes over the trademark date back to 1906, when the Czech brewery began exporting its product to the United States. The two competitors are embroiled in about 60 lawsuits across Europe.

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no monkey brains for you

Another one bites the dust. Looks like the “live monkey brains for dinner” story is a big fib.

Date: Wed, 14 Aug 2002 21:29:28 +0100
From: Rachel Carthy (spam-protected)
To: (spam-protected)
Subject: Yet another legend bites the dust

Thursday, August 8, 2002

Debunking strange Asian myths: Part II

Do Chinese really pig out on live monkey brains? The writer couldn’t find one who has


This story began over a beer in a Kabukicho restaurant, when an adventuresome Canadian lassie named Christine, who had requested a tour of Shinjuku’s sleazier hangouts, leaned suggestively across the table and asked me in a husky voice if I had ever eaten monkey brains.

I hadn’t. And for that matter, I certainly wouldn’t. Medical textbooks say eating simian gray matter can give you kuru, a disorder similar to mad cow disease.

For those unfamiliar with this famous tale — featured in the documentary films “Mondo Cane” and “Faces of Death” — consumption of monkey brains calls for a live monkey (species not specified) to be immobilized by a collar in the center of a table designed specially for such a purpose. A tool of some sort is used to whack open his skull, upon which the live, bloody gray matter is apportioned to eagerly awaiting diners.

Christine’s question was my cue to embellish on this story, so that I might take perverse pleasure in watching her squirm with disgust.

But I thought for a moment and realized that, after three and a half decades of wandering around Asia — and eating things that might indeed invoke repugnance on the part of squeamish Westerners — I had yet to partake in this delicacy. I have met exactly two individuals who “claim” to have done so, both Americans and otherwise upstanding citizens, who seemed a bit irritated by my skepticism.

“It’s an urban legend,” I told her. “Nobody really eats monkey brains.”

Her countenance reflected an expression of rapt disappointment.

Well, I thought, perhaps this is as good an opportunity as any to lay this story to rest. So I began sending out e-mails to an assortment of old Asia hands — ex-military men, businessmen, government employees, missionaries, guide book editors. I also fired off queries to about a dozen Chinese chefs. Everybody knew the story. Nobody had ever actually partaken of such a meal, or witnessed a monkey meet its maker in such a cruel manner.

A few got a good chuckle out of letting their imaginations run wild.

“Most Chinese places do a lousy job on monkey brains,” one Washington D.C. acquaintance replied, tongue in cheek. “I have a friend who is a high ranking patron of the Friends of the National Zoo and he gets me anything I need. It’s not too difficult to prepare at home — the most difficult part is holding the little bastards still without getting bitten.”

I also succeeded in getting columnist Cecil Adams to post my query on The Straight Dope web site, and drew quite a few responses. One message, from Gopinath Nagaraj, was of particular interest, and I include it here in its entirety.

“The story of the monkey being shackled under a table only to have its skull removed and its brain scooped out while it is still alive originates apparently in a newspaper report to that effect sometime in 1948, when a columnist (I’ve forgotten his name) wrote a tongue-in-cheek column on the feeding habits of ethnic Chinese. He was also apparently responsible for the saying that the Chinese eat everything in the water except submarines, everything in the air except airplanes and everything with legs except furniture.

“He confessed in a revelation some time back (shortly before his death) that he had no idea that the monkey brain story would take on the dimension of an urban legend, but there you are. I am inclined to believe him because in my numerous travels, I have visited many Chinese restaurants, and, while all have heard the story, none have witnessed the event.”

Oh yes; in my exhaustive search I did find a restaurant in Beijing with “monkey’s brain” on the menu. But get this: it’s a vegetarian establishment. The “brain” is likely to be tofu, which in Chinese is colorfully described as nao (brains) in certain types of cuisine. And when I asked a Chinese chef in my neighborhood what he knew about monkey brains, he brandished a transparent bag of brown, fuzzy mushrooms labeled hou-tou (monkey’s head), imported from China.

And that’s as close as I succeeded in getting to the bottom, or rather the “top” of this famous story.



Eddie Mair’s diary at the Guardian. Eddie Mair is the producer of the BBC Today radio programme.

A case in point (and I’m not making this up): 10 days ago, when another Israeli bus was blown up on a Sunday morning causing several deaths, we carried a report on Broadcasting House from our correpondent at the scene. The next day we got a very serious complaint insisting we had, on air, called the victims “bastards”. We scoured the tape of the show for the offending word. It wasn’t there. It turned out what the listener had heard was the reporter saying “…the victims’ bus had started…”

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Aaron notes:

Tokelau, a small island in the Pacific is inhabited by less than 1500 people. They’ve always divided their share of fish among the people equally and so now that they’ve got their own top-level domain (.tk) they’re giving those away for free too.

Some quick grepping of /usr/share/dict/words reveals that the following are still available: (transatlantic), (antibiotic), (ah, you get the idea…),,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

They’re purely URL forwarding, of course, but good fun… I’ve just taken ;)

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It would work, that’s the awful thing

a great interview with Bruce Schneier (via /.):

If the rise of the Internet has shown anything, it is that huge numbers of middle-class, middle-management types like to look at dirty pictures on computer screens. A good way to steal … secrets … would be to set up a pornographic Web site. The Web site would be free, but visitors would have to register to download the naughty bits. …

Many of his corporate porn surfers, Schneier predicted, would use for the dirty Web site the same password they used at work. Not only that, many users would surf to the porn site on the fast Internet connection at the office. …

“In six months you’d be able to break into Fortune 500 companies and government agencies all over the world,” Schneier said, chewing his nondescript meal. “It would work! It would work — that’s the awful thing.”

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some very nerdy Lovecraft-meets-miffy humour: Tales of the Plush Cthulhu. “How odd it looks!” said Miss Kitty Fluffington. “Very non-Euclidian.” “Yes,” said Brown Snuggly Bear, “but thank goodness it isn’t squamous.” “Or gibbous,” said Mister Bright Eyes. “It seems to be covering something,” said Miss Kitty Fluffington. “Let’s see!”

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bad judges in Seattle

anti-spam laws are not necessarily the answer: A Seattle man who has been actively pursuing spammers in King County District Court has been hit with a nearly $7,000 judgment to cover a spammer’s attorney fees:

According to Newman, who prepared the order, the chief basis of Kato’s decision was “personal jurisdiction.” In other words, the judge agreed with Newman’s position that his clients could not reasonably expect to be hauled into court in Washington state for “sending something blindly over the Internet,” Newman said.

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Cosmo’s Big Toe

The British Museum in London is to display the contents of the Secretum:

Some items even have names, such as St Cosmo’s “big toe”, which dates from 18th-century southern Italy, where it was said to be a popular sex toy. Unmarried maidens prayed on St Cosmo’s day: “Blessed St Cosmo, let it be like this.” (Link)

Date: Mon, 12 Aug 2002 10:41:04 +0100
From: “Martin Adamson” (spam-protected)
To: (spam-protected)
Subject: Sex secrets of the British Museum

The Sunday Times

August 11, 2002

Sex secrets of the British Museum

Jonathan Leake and Jane Mulkerrins

THE British Museum is to shed the last of its inhibitions. A secret collection of sex toys, chastity belts and antique erotica that has been locked away since Victorian times could finally be opened to the public. The collection contains more than 400 provocative items described by the museum’s Victorian curators as “abominable monuments to human licentiousness”.

They banned anyone except those of “mature years and sound morals” from seeing them — and may even have added to the collection by snapping off the “corrupting” parts of classical nude statues on display in the museum.

After more than a century of pressure from art historians it emerged this weekend that the museum is considering reversing the policy. It has already thought of turning the collection into a money-spinner by mounting a special exhibition.

Dr David Gainster, a senior curator who is writing a book on the collection, has sent a proposal to the management recommending that it should be exhibited. “Its importance is at last being realised. It is of great value both for the individual artefacts and as a time capsule of Victorian interest in sexual material,” he said.

The collection contains erotica from the Greek, Roman, Egyptian and Indian empires as well as from renaissance and medieval times. Artefacts range from a statue of Pan intimately involved with a she-goat to a medieval-style iron chastity belt and images from one of the first sex education books, printed in the 16th century.

Some items even have names, such as St Cosmo’s “big toe”, which dates from 18th-century southern Italy, where it was said to be a popular sex toy. Unmarried maidens prayed on St Cosmo’s day: “Blessed St Cosmo, let it be like this.”

The museum has made tentative plans to display about 400 of the items in an exhibition provisionally entitled Sex and Sensibility. It means the ancient erotica would take pride of place next to the Elgin marbles.

Such an exhibition could be just the money-spinner the museum needs after being forced to cut staff, close galleries and reduce its research and restoration work. The government is preparing to give it up to £15m to help bail it out.

The exhibits, locked in a cupboard in the Secretum (secret museum), have been open to those who submit a personal application. They are largely the collection of George Witt, a Victorian doctor-turned-banker and one-time mayor of Bedford.

Dr Witt, who donated his unusual collection, perhaps wisely just after the passing of the first Obscene Publications Act, is thought to have been at the centre of an international circle of wealthy gentlemen who collected erotica.

“In Victorian times, when to have had representations such as these was very much frowned upon, he probably collected them to show to his male friends after dinner parties,” said Judy Rodoe, another curator.

One item that would doubtless have amused his guests is a gentleman’s tobacco box, decorated on the outside with pleasant country scenes. Under the lid, however, is a graphic portrayal of a couple in flagrante delicto, leaning against a startled-looking horse.

Other items reveal much about ancestral beliefs in health, illness and fertility, and include phallic symbols that in the 17th century were used to lobby the gods to bring relief to a suffering believer. One such curio is an alabaster phallus on animal legs, engraved with birds and animals.

The Secretum also contains the only pornography to survive from the renaissance period. The 16th-century I modi set of engravings shows more than a dozen different sexual positions and was used as the benchmark for pornography for the next two centuries. “It forms the basis for a lot of erotic art from that time onwards — it really is the first good sex guide,” said Gainster.

More recent items include 18th-century condoms made from animal intestines knotted at one end with a silk ribbon.

The British Museum already displays several erotic items. A silver Roman cup featuring a homoerotic scene was controversially bought last year for £1.8m using £300,000 of lottery money.

“This collection tells us so much about the Victorian attitude to sex,” said Gainster. “It is a historical artefact in its own right, and it also serves as a warning to future historians against imposing their own prejudices on past cultures.”

Additional reporting: Roger Dobson

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Le ”maxi-vague”

Le “maxi-vague” de la Côte d’Azur – a mini-tidal wave, every day at 4pm. Sounds like great fun!

Date: Sat, 10 Aug 2002 23:25:38 +0100
From: Roy Stilling (spam-protected)
To: (spam-protected)
Subject: It’s 4pm on the Côte d’Azur. Must be time for the daily tidal wave

The Independent

It’s 4pm on the Côte d’Azur. Must be time for the daily tidal wave By John Lichfield in Paris 11 August 2002

All the elements are present for a French version of Jaws.

In the opening scene, swimmers, sunbathers and fishermen are relaxing on the crowded beaches of the Côte d’Azur (almost the only part of France to escape the rain this summer).

Abruptly, it strikes. A giant wave (“maxi-vague”), 4ft high and 15ft long, surges from nowhere and generates panic among the holiday-makers. Toddlers are almost swept away. Mobile phones, expensive sun-creams and towels stolen from hotels are engulfed by the Mediterranean, never to be seen again.

So far no one has been seriously hurt, although a number of small children have been sucked under and badly scared. The giant wave which strikes the coast near Nice each day at almost exactly 4pm is causing consternation, amusement and scientific bafflement. The local newspaper, Nice-Matin, describes it as “the event of the year”.

Since the Mediterranean is a tideless and often placid sea, the waves breaking on the beaches in the Baie des Anges around Nice usually plop ashore within a few inches of one another. The phenomenon of the maxi-vague – a single, giant, rogue wave, which breaks much further up the beach – began a few years ago but has taken on a puzzling regularity and ferocity this year.

Olivier, 34, a beach fishermen at Cros-de-Cagnes, west of Nice, said: “When the sea is very calm, you see first a few ripples, just like a trembling in the water. Then, the big wave comes. The first time, it catches you. After that, you’re on your guard.” Swimmers have been tossed against rocks. Parents have reported having to drag terrified children from the sea with lungs full of water.

The finger of blame was pointed at first at the high-speed ferries that have cut the journey time from Nice to Corsica to three hours in the past six years. The ships have been ordered to travel more slowly near the coast. The no-speeding zone may now be enlarged experimentally to see if the big wave disappears.

However, the authorities and maritime scientists are not convinced that the fast ferries are the only, or even the principal, cause of the maxi-vague. The regularity of the phenomenon this summer has everyone baffled. The 4pm arrival time bears no obvious relation to the ferry timetable.

Marine scientists are convinced that the wave is not purely a natural event. They believe that it may be generated by a combination of wind, coastal geography and the passage of large, fast boats other than ferries.

Gabriel Nakhleh, an official in the French government’s maritime office in Nice, said: “It is a complex phenomenon. It seems to be something to do with the weather but there could be other, so far undiscovered, causes … We are not treating this lightly.”

In the meantime, the authorities would like you to know that it is perfectly safe to go back into the water. Except at around 4pm.

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Crotch-sniffing Caymanian Wonder Dog

Tax havens and offshore islands are not quite as “free” — at least in terms of personal liberties — as people might think. R.

  1. Hettinga tells some stories about “Triumph, the Fabulous

Crotch-Sniffing Caymanian Customs Wonder Dog, … and (the Cayman-born expat’s kid) who was literally exiled from the island when the island constabulary discovered a marijuana seed or three in his summer-break rental car a few years back.”

I guess it’s back to the oil rigs then ;)

Date: Sun, 11 Aug 2002 12:31:56 -0400
From: “R. A. Hettinga” (spam-protected)


At 3:36 PM +1000 8/11/02, David Hillary wrote:
> I think that tax havens such as the Cayman Islands should be ranked
> among the freest in the world. No taxes on business or individuals
> for a start. Great environment for banking and commerce. Good
> protection of property rights. Small non-interventionist
> government.

Clearly you’ve never met “Triumph”, the Fabulous Crotch-Sniffing Caymanian Customs Wonder Dog at extreme close range, or heard the story about the expat’s college age kid, actually born on Cayman, who was literally exiled from the island when the island constabulary “discovered” a marijuana seed or three in his summer-break rental car a few years back.

I mean, his old man was some senior cheese at Global Crossing at the time, but this was back when they could do no wrong. If that’s what they did to *his* kid, imagine what some poor former junk-bond-hustler might have to deal with someday for, say, the odd unauthorized Cuban nightlife excursion. A discretely folded twenty keeps the stamp off your passport on the ground in Havana, and a bottle of Maker’s Mark goes a long way towards some interesting nocturnal diversion when you get there and all, but still, you can’t help thinking that Uncle’s going to come a-knockin’, and that Cayman van’s going to stop rockin’ some day, and when it does, it ain’t gonna be pretty.

Closer to home, conceptually at least, a couple of cryptogeeken were hustled off and strip-searched, on the spot, when they landed on Grand Cayman for the Financial Cryptography conference there a couple of years ago. Like lots of cypherpunks, these guys were active shooters in the Bay Area, and they had stopped in Jamaica, Mon, for a few days on the way to Grand Cayman. Because they, and their stuff, reeked on both counts, they were given complementary colorectal examinations and an entertaining game of 20 questions, or two, courtesy of the Caymanian Federales, after the obligatory fun and games with a then-snarling Crotch-Sniffing Caymanian Wonder Dog. Heck, I had to completely unpack *all* my stuff for a nice, well-fed Caymanian customs lady just to get *out* of the country when I left.

Besides, tax havens are being increasingly constrained as to their activities these days, because they cost the larger nation-states too much in the way of “escaped” “revenue”, or at least the perception of same in the local “free” press. Obviously, if your money “there” isn’t exchangeable into your money “here”, it kind of defeats the purpose of keeping your money “there” in the first place, giving folks like FinCEN lots of leverage when financial treaties come up for renegotiation due to changes in technology, like on-line credit-card and securities clearing, or the odd governmental or quango re-org, like they are wont to do increasingly in the EU, and the US.

As a result, the veil of secrecy went in Switzerland quite a while ago. The recent holocaust deposit thing was just the bride and groom on that particular wedding-cake, and, as goes Switzerland, so goes Luxembourg, and of course Lichtenstein, which itself is usually accessible only through Switzerland. Finally, of course, the Caymans themselves will cough up depositor lists whenever Uncle comes calling about one thing or another on an increasingly longer list of fishing pretexts.

At this point, the “legal”, state-backed pecuniary privacy pickings are kind of thin on the ground. I mean, I’m not sure I’d like to keep my money in, say, Vanuatu. Would you? Remember, this is a place where a bandana hanging on a string across an otherwise public road will close it down until the local erst-cannibal hunter-gatherer turned statutorily-permanent landowner figures out just what his new or imagined property rights are this afternoon.

The point is, any cypherpunk worth his salt will tell you that only solution to financial or any other, privacy, is to make private transactions on the net, cheaper, and more secure, than “transparent” transactions currently are in meatspace. Then things get *real* interesting, and financial privacy — and considerably more personal freedom — will just be the icing on the wedding cake. Bride and groom action figures sold separately, of course.

Cheers, RAH (Who went to FC2K at the Grand Cayman Marriott in February that year. Nice place, I liked Anguilla better though, at least at the time, and I haven’t been back to either since. The beaches are certainly better in Anguilla, and the “private” banking system there is probably just as porous as Cayman’s is, by this point. If I were to pick up and move Somewhere Free outside Your Friendly Neighborhood Unipolar Superpower, New Zealand is somewhere near the top of my list, and Chile would be next, though things change quickly out there in ballistic-missile flyover country. In that vein, who knows, maybe we’re in for some kind of latter-day Peloponnesian irony, and *Russia* will end up the freest place on earth someday. Stranger things have happened in the last couple of decades, yes?)


iQA/AwUBPVYS48PxH8jf3ohaEQKwtgCgw/XSwzauabEP/8jDvUVk/rgFdroAn0xf Owk90GoK+X5Pv+bGoKXCwzBK =1w9d —–END PGP SIGNATURE—–

  1. A. Hettinga

The Internet Bearer Underwriting Corporation 44 Farquhar Street, Boston, MA 02131 USA “… however it may deserve respect for its usefulness and antiquity, [predicting the end of the world] has not been found agreeable to experience.” — Edward Gibbon, ‘Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire’

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tool-using crows

tool-using crows. Brainy crow upsets pecking order: “Betty the New Caledonian crow made a tool from a piece of garden wire and used it to hook a tasty morsel of meat out of a tube too deep for her beak.” … “The question is: what kind of physics is it they understand? If you see a problem, pick up a straight wire and without instruction bend it into the right shape, and then extract the food, that means the animal is behaving as if it understands the required physical properties of an instrument”.

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broken Windoze

the Win32 messaging API, the foundation of Windows, is inherently insecure:

  • textboxes can be instructed to remove attributes, such as length limits for incoming data (EM_SETLIMITTEXT)

  • a paste action can triggered (WM_PASTE)

  • an application can be instructed to jump to a given location in memory (WM_TIMER) – and the best thing is, the application can do nothing about it

Once again, it’s clear the Windows dev team chose totally a unnecessary degree of flexibility, over security. Great paper. (via /.)

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