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Justin Mason's Weblog Posts


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


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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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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(Untitled) — 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

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:


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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 support to 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,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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Found on /.: Nuon have released a free-as-in-speech SDK for third-party developers to develop applications which will run on certain models of DVD players. According to ‘What Is Nuon?’, the Nuon DVD hardware is essentially both a DVD player and an open gaming platform. Incredible! Looks like I know now what kind of DVD player I’ll be buying — the one I can write my own apps for ;)

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Looks like my extensive Laxo and Publin experience will come in handy, if things get tight.

Date: Tue, 30 Oct 2001 15:15:33 -0500
From: “Damien Morton” (spam-protected)
To: “Jason Borum” (spam-protected)
Subject: RE: Programming position?

Dear Jason,

Thanks for your interest in employment at Dennis Interactive. These are indeed tough times, but its always good to hear from someone with as broad and varied experience as yours. Im am particularily impressed with your familiarity with Xwad and Verible. You time at E*pregnate must have been an interesting one.

Whilst we arent currently looking for T and T++ programmers, your experience with PROBOL and XVRT suggests that the transition to our in-house programming language, BABEL, would be a relatively painless one. We will certainly keep you on file for a later date, should we have an opening for someone of your calibre.

Thanks again for your interest.

Damien Morton, Technical Director, Dennis Interactive

The glass is neither half-full nor half-empty. Its too big.

—–Original Message—– From: Jason Borum
Sent: Tuesday, October 30, 2001 2:24 PM
To: Damien Morton
Subject: Programming position?

Hi there:

I realize that in the current economic climate, jobs are scarce. But I believe I fill a programming niche overlooked by many employers. Please take a look at my attched resume, and let me know if you think I’d be a good match with Dennis Interactive.

Thanks! \jason

Jason Borum (spam-protected)

Goal: A position that will utilize my knowledge of programming languages,
operating systems, software products, and programming methodologies

Description: I have work-experience in a broad range of programming
languages in a number of different industries, and I believe that I have my finger on the pulse of the latest technological developments. I’m an ‘out of the box’ thinker willing to learn any and all new technolgies. My motto is “whatever it takes to do the job”.

Programming Languages: T+, T++, PROBOL, TSP2, TSP3, RSP, XVRT, XEL, XSM, AHP, EVML, NOML, QML, YML, LOGO

Development Tools: EUnit (EX, SX, SI, TI), Verible, SR Promoly, WevCan, WevCan SE, WevCan Pro, EyePopper 2.0, PluTo, Xwad, Spelunker

Databases: DuBase(4,5), NuQL, MyNuQL, XKSBase, WooferBase

Operating Systems: Eunichs, Firewater NT, Publin, Raxin, Laxo (FUI, TNP/TNT)

Experience: 06/1999 – Present E*Pregnate Senior TSP Engineer

-Developed OMP methodology for TSP reporting -Implemented XJIB based server-side reporting utilizing PluTo shell -Created SR Promly reports with UFML Port and XPO -Programmed multi-tier MRAF based on DuBase 4,5 -Engineered blocked WIML procedure with Laxo Connectivity

04/1998-06/1999 RCSC Analyst

-Ported Publin 1.8.x content from legacy Raxin system -Utilized DMP 1.3/1.4 for EDE triggers -Secured KYB connection with ESS (XK, XL) -Analyzed RCSC driver with XLUnit, FoGrois

08/1997-04/1998 Bendix & Formalade IHML Developer

-Developed IHML surface for PROBOL, XSM EEIU system -Designed TNP/TNT FUI for ROP -Made coffee -TSP4 driven DCV System with PIO Connectivity -Created copies of documents using a P&H KX43400 ML Series photocopier

04/1997-08/1997 Orange Julius Customer Service

-Prepared Orange Julius drinks -Prepared and servered hot dogs -Answered phones -Took out trash -Swept and mopped

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Geek hero:

The publication in Genome Research gives details of (Jim) Kent’s algorithm as a demonstration of openness, which has been a hallmark of the public Human Genome Project.

“Instead of being a black box it details how it was done,” said John McPherson, co-director of the genome sequencing center at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., one of the many labs that contributed to the Human Genome Project.

The free exchange of information is a testament to why Kent became passionate about the public Human Genome Project in the first place.

“I thought it would help to get as much information about genes and the genome in to the public domain to help discourage people from patenting it wholesale,” Kent said.

“I was afraid that if the only people who had access were the people who could afford Celera’s (subscription) database, it would tie things up.”

Sorry, it’s old bits, but I hadn’t read it before.

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Absolutely classic.

  1. Drop (a) food, in yellow parcels, then (b) cluster bombs, also in yellow casings.

  2. Eventually realise potential for confusion.

“Do not confuse the cylinder-shaped [yellow cluster] bomb with the rectangular [yellow] food bag. […] All bombs will explode when they hit the ground, but in some special circumstances some of the bombs will not explode.”

Riiiight. Way to get the locals on your side!

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Good article on building a large-scale e-commerce site with Apache and mod_perl, for what that’s worth nowadays, at This bit was especially pleasing to my SQL-database-phobic mindset:

Since Perl code executes so quickly under mod_perl, the performance bottleneck is usually at the database. We applied all the documented tricks for improving DBD::Oracle performance. We used bind variables, prepare_cached(), Apache::DBI, and adjustments to the RowCache buffer size.

The big win of course is avoiding going to the database in the first place. The caching work we did had a huge impact on performance. Fetching product data from the Berkeley DB cache was about 10 times faster than fetching it from the database. Serving a product page from the proxy cache was about 10 times faster than generating it on the application server from cached data. Clearly, the site would never have survived under heavy load without the caching.

Ha! Take that, database-backed-website fans! ;)

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

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

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

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

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


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Dave said:



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

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

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

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

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

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

I disagree on some of the facts.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Grant Morrison, The Invisibles, July 99

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

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

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

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