Apparently someone in Hollywood is making a movie about Harold Shipman, starring Robert de Niro… It’s called The Old Dear Hunter. :-)
Some cool medium format photos of Tibet.
I especially like this one, but then I’m a sucker for portraits.
… intended solely for organisms high enough in the food chain to appreciate the beauty of wanton marine life and hardcore crustacea.
If you sit in Madonna’s seat, don’t pretend to be Madonna.
During the Gulf war, Britain and the USA pounded southern Iraq with 96,000 shells containing depleted-uranium. This has resulted in an alarming increase in the incidence of leukemia and of congenital defects (read: “horrendous deformities”) amongst newborns in the area. Best of all, depleted uranium has a half-life of 4.1 million years, so that’s basically it for that part of the world. [rw]
Excuse me, but surely that’s a crime against humanity?
Andy, in case you ever need them again (I hope you don’t), here’s where to get Mandrake 8.1 RPMs.
In the face of an approaching storm, scientists say, the city’s less-than-adequate evacuation routes would strand 250,000 people or more, and probably kill one of 10 left behind as the city drowned under 20 feet of water.
… despite the damage [hurricane] Allison wrought upon Houston, dropping more than 3 feet of water in some areas, a few days later much of the city returned to normal as bloated bayous drained into the Gulf of Mexico. The same storm dumped a mere 5 inches on New Orleans, nearly overwhelming the city’s pump system. If an Allison-type storm were to strike New Orleans, or a Category 3 storm or greater with at least 111 mph winds, the results would be cataclysmic, New Orleans planners said.
There’s this Irish band called Blink who I’m a bit of a fan of… Saw them live at Cardiff back in my student days (supporting someone – er, Echobelly? – whom they outshone), and their 1994 album, “A map of the Universe by Blink” subsequently became one of my favourites. Alas I lost the CD about four years ago and since they’re fairly obscure, hadn’t picked up a replacement copy though I kept telling myself to do so.
So imagine my surprise and pleasure when my girlfriend told me she’d found the disk in amongst her musicals (which I’m sure I checked)… Had a very happy evening on Friday reacquanting myself with such greats as “Fundamentally Loveable Creature”, “Going to Nepal”, “There’s Something Wrong with Norman’s Mom”, “Is God Really Groovy?” and the incomparable “Separation”. Bloody fantastic.
A recently rediscovered drawing by Leonardo da Vinci has been destroyed by restorers attempting to clean it. Leonardo’s delicate inkwork was erased when restorers submerged the drawing in a solution of alcohol and distilled water, a common restoration intervention.
Question: What’s 110 feet tall, filled with Helium, and was crucified on the cross at Calvary so that the sins of the world would be forgiven?
Answer: Jesus The Hot Air Balloon!
(Thank you, Mr Pants).
I’ve put some medieval costume tips online. These were originally part of the banquet pages on my trek site but I’ve now removed those banquet pages, and having received a request for these costume tips I thought this was probably the best thing to do.
Lightweight languages – a report on last weekend’s Lightweight Languages Workshop, LL1, at the AI Lab at MIT. Interesting stuff.
He countered criticisms that Scheme is just lots of insane silly parentheses by demonstrating how XML was just lots of insane silly angle brackets. A fair point well made.
A couple of short Chomsky articles, via Robot Wisdom: the US is a terrorist state, more fundamentalist than Iran and “Globalisation is a conspiracy of the Western elite to establish private tyrannies across the world”.
Better yet, here’s a transcript of the presentation discussed in that last article.
So in August 1998, Clinton bombed the Sudan, destroyed half of its pharmaceutical supplies and the factory that produced them. The consequences there are unknown. The few attempts to estimate the toll, the death toll, are in the neighbourhood of tens of thousands of people — by the German Embassy in Sudan, by a few independent investigators, who have looked. Actually nobody really looked carefully because nobody cares! It’s not important, it’s normal, it’s ordinary for a couple of bombs to have the effect of leaving tens of thousands of corpses in a poor African country.
Something comparable, though probably on a considerably greater scale, is unfolding right in front of us at this moment. What the consequences will be we do not know and probably never will know in any detail. But what we know is that these are the expectations on which Western civilisation is relying as it lays its plans.
Chomsky then goes on to discuss space-based missile defence systems, and explains that they’re actually intended not merely to defend the US, but to aid it towards complete (and malevolent) dominance of the world.
China’s top arms control official simply reflected common understanding when he observed that “Once the United States believes it has both a strong spear and a strong shield, it could lead them to conclude that nobody can harm the United States and they can harm anyone they like anywhere in the world.”
This is scary, scary stuff… If you thought the cold war years were bad, just you wait until 2020. :-(
Some interesting comments about mobile phone jamming, and mobile phones in hospitals, from the RISKS Digest.
The no-cellphone policies in hospitals are today mostly based on the fear that clueless phone users might operate phones in the immediate vicinity (with a couple of centimeters) of critical equipment. As soon as the mobile phone is a few meters away, field strength will drop well bejond the 3 V/m levels against which medical equipment has to be EMC immunity tested by the manufacturers (EN 50082, IEC 601-1-2).
Who wants to go horseriding in Mongolia?
That’s right – I do. :-)
Oh dear… Remember the reports about instructions for making a nuclear weapon found in Afghanistan a week or so ago? Remember it making the front pages of some of the tabloids? Well, you can bet those same tabloids (and indeed the BBC, shame on you John Simpson), won’t be admitting that the document is in fact a parody dating from 1979.
bookbrain.co.uk – groovy site. Tell it the book you want to buy, it’ll tell you which online retailer provides it the cheapest.
I’ve just been handed this remarkable picture of myself, Rich, and Jon at last year’s company Christmas party. No recollection whatsoever, no idea what’s going on at all.
Caption ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org, please.
Freedom or Power? by Bradley M. Kuhn and Richard M. Stallman.
Even when there is no monopoly, proprietary software harms society. A choice of masters is not freedom.
Heard Philip Glass‘s violin concerto on Classic FM on Tuesday night while I was cooking, and really loved it. I’ve heard a few of his pieces before, eg Koyaanasqatsi, Einstein On The Beach, and Dracula – but this was the most “classically” classical music of his I’d heard, if that makes sense, whilst still being readily identifiable as Glass. Must pick up a copy…
I read this book (Wittgenstein’s Poker) back in the summer, and greatly enjoyed it. No idea why the Guardian’s only just got round to reviewing it.
Well worth waiting for it to download and sitting through the into: The Cow Bondage Song – very funny, and very disturbing. Definitely not for the faint-of-heart. :-)
Some vaguely amusing celeb-spotting tales which I don’t have time to read on this page. This one caught my eye:
My friend Billy was in a hotel in the states and he walked into a lift and Bill Murray walked in after him.
Billy: Hey, aren’t you Bill Murray!?
Bill Murray: Yes, yes I am.
Then Bill Murray gets my friend in a headlock and starts giving him a noogie and says “And nobody in the world is going to believe this happened!!!”
The epidemiologist Professor Roy Anderson, of Imperial College London, told the Commons Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee last week that he had asked Maff-Defra recently for the database of farm locations by which the spread of foot and mouth disease had been monitored. Immensely helpful, they sent him the data, but the co-ordinates they provided left him perplexed. Half the farms he tried to look up, as Prof Anderson told the committee, “were out in the North Sea”.
Wow. Windows XP user accounts are, by default, administrator with no password. Once again, cluelessness abounds in the Micro$oft camp…
More depressing news from the promised land: Pork Feeds Religious-Secular Tension in Israel.
I’m currently reading John Simpson‘s A Mad World, My Masters, which a good friend lent me on the plane back from Beijing, and which helped make an otherwise depressing flight enjoyable. It’s an incredible book, one of those you just can’t put down. The tales this man has to tell are incredible. It’s a whole big scary world out there, people.
I’ve also picked up a copy of The River at the Centre of the World, by Simon Winchester, simply because it looked ace. I’ll let you know how if it’s any good or not…
Advanced filesystem implementor’s guide – all about the exciting topic that is journalling filesystems.
The Selling of ‘Free Trade’: Nafta, Washington, and the Subversion of American Democracy. Grumble, grumble, grumble…
The Last Time I Saw bin Laden – very funny, provided you feel we should be able to joke about these matters (I do, btw).
I’m back. The trek was the best thing I’ve ever done in my life – an incredible experience. Still totally knackered though, so that’s all I’ve got to say right now.
Depressed to be home…
The Nostradamus query graph is pretty depressing too. Follow the herd, people.
Tonight, I’m catching a train to Haslemere, in Surrey. On Sunday, I’m catching a plane to Beijing. When I get there, I’m going to spend five days walking fifty miles of the Great Wall of China, then spend a couple of days in Beijing, then catch a place back to Heathrow, a coach to Cheltenham, and a train back to Cardiff.
There’s a website all about it here.
Oh, man… I love this one – that punchline is beautiful…
The full text of Adison-Wesley’s 1994 book Firewalls and Internet Security: Repelling the Wily Hacker – excellent!
Five lines of C++ which will crash Windows XP. Five pretty innocuous lines too, I note…
We’ve just got back from the Glee Club, a comedy club in Cardiff Bay… Tonight is Julie’s last night in Cardiff before she departs for a six-month training course, so this was the send-off. None of us have been to the Glee Club before, but the bay has a bit of a reputation as being overpriced trendy shite, so we weren’t quite sure what to expect… I have to say, fitst and foremost, the comedy itself, was pretty good. We had three acts (all pretty straight stand-up, although the last guy did some musical stuff too), plus compere, who was also pretty good, so definitely no complaints there.
However, the place itself absolutely blew chunks of crap everywhere… I mean, we paid £12.50 to get in, so we expected good stuff – we were expecting the full “comedy club” treatment, a smokey room full of round tables and jocular punters – whereas what we actually got was a bright room full of school-style desks all pointing the same way (mmmm, really great for conversation between acts) and, oh yes, those overinflated bay prices (£12.00 for a bottle of Blossom Hill? Er, that’s £3.99 at our local. Jeee-zus). As I say, the comedy was good, which almost made up for it – but the icing on the cake was being told that Julie “had to leave” because she was falling asleep on my shoulder. What? Bunch of nazis… I tell you, the whole place was (as usual) a machine for raking in money, and to hell with any concept of doing things right/well/etc. Oh yeah, and it’s impossible to get a taxi in the bay on a Saturday night.
Verdict: avoid, unless you like shopping at Gap, in which case it’ll probably be right up your street and you’ll be happy to bend over and take whatever the management want to give you for your £12.50 plus excessive bar prices.
The Christian Science Monitor, which I’m reliably told is one of the best-informed, most balanced, newspapers in the world.
Noam Chomsky on The War On Terrorism. As ever, Chomsky’s got loads of insightful stuff to say, with plenty of interesting background.
Which tells us that Western civilization is anticipating the slaughter of, well do the arithmetic, 3-4 million people or something like that. On the same day, the leader of Western civilization dismissed with contempt, once again, offers of negotiation for delivery of the alleged target, Osama bin Laden, and a request for some evidence to substantiate the demand for total capitulation. It was dismissed. On the same day the Special Rapporteur of the UN in charge of food pleaded with the United States to stop the bombing to try to save millions of victims. As far as I’m aware that was unreported. That was Monday. Yesterday the major aid agencies OXFAM and Christian Aid and others joined in that plea. You can’t find a report in the New York Times. There was a line in the Boston Globe, hidden in a story about another topic, Kashmir.
The world looks very different depending on whether you are holding the lash or whether you are being whipped by it for hundreds of years, very different.
The war against terrorism has been described in high places as a struggle against a plague, a cancer which is spread by barbarians, by “depraved opponents of civilization itself.” That’s a feeling that I share. The words I’m quoting, however, happen to be from 20 years ago. Those are…that’s President Reagan and his Secretary of State. The Reagan administration came into office 20 years ago declaring that the war against international terrorism would be the core of our foreign policy….describing it in terms of the kind I just mentioned and others. And it was the core of our foreign policy. The Reagan administration responded to this plague spread by depraved opponents of civilization itself by creating an extraordinary international terrorist network, totally unprecedented in scale, which carried out massive atrocities all over the world, primarily….well, partly nearby, but not only there.
That is the culture in which we live and it reveals several facts. One is the fact that terrorism works. It doesn’t fail. It works. Violence usually works. That’s world history. Secondly, it’s a very serious analytic error to say, as is commonly done, that terrorism is the weapon of the weak. Like other means of violence, it’s primarily a weapon of the strong, overwhelmingly, in fact. It is held to be a weapon of the weak because the strong also control the doctrinal systems and their terror doesn’t count as terror. Now that’s close to universal. I can’t think of a historical exception, even the worst mass murderers view the world that way. So pick the Nazis. They weren’t carrying out terror in occupied Europe. They were protecting the local population from the terrorisms of the partisans. And like other resistance movements, there was terrorism. The Nazis were carrying out counter terror. Furthermore, the United States essentially agreed with that. After the war, the US army did extensive studies of Nazi counter terror operations in Europe. First I should say that the US picked them up and began carrying them out itself, often against the same targets, the former resistance.
Apparently this page has someone who sounds uncannily like Madonna singing The Wheels On The Bus Go Round And Round over the backing track of Ray Of Light. Haven’t been able to check it out yet though…
Finished reading Are You Dave Gorman? by Dave Gorman and Danny Wallace last night. Very funny book, I really enjoyed it. The Gorgeous Heather, who lent it to me, said she got tired with them relentlessly taking the piss out of the Dave Gormans they met, but I have to say, I didn’t feel the same. Definitely a laugh-out-loud book.
Some websites I found from the Dave Gorman site above:
Danny Wallace, Dave’s faithful flatmate, whose website could really do with more content…
Bill Bailey – gotta love Billy Boy – but again, little actual content here.
What Should I Put On The Fence? – they won’t let him chain a bike to the fence, so now he’s going to chain other stuff to it instead. Amusing and depressing at the same time, kinda like Seinfeld.
Dean & Nigel, experts on blending in.
Now that’s democracy. ;-)
America’s Air Force Public Affairs Office released this report on how they kept the National Military Command Center running during the Sept 11th crisis. It’s quite interesting, if a little cheesy towards the end.
zmag.org – looks like lots of good stuff here, will look further later (‘cos I’ve spent all day today staring at a screen). Cheers, Ed. And Hi, Alex! :-)
misterpants says it best: Twin Civil War buffs make tiny clay cats and dress them in civil war uniforms, hey you… buy emu, and this is the best: Land of Lincolns.
Thrown into this weird mix at the convention was a Col. Sanders look-alike who showed up unannounced among the Abes. The Colonel fended off inquiries initially by saying he’d come because, ‘Somebody’s got to feed all these Lincolns.’
Damn it, python just keeps on getting better and better. Here’s an article about a whole new concept, and its accompanying keyword in python2.2: Iterators and simple generators. Really funky – I mean, I realise it’s incredibly sad and geeky of me, but this is actually exciting stuff from where I’m sitting. I’d say “kill me now”, but I’m enjoying it too much…
What, that’s not enough great python stuff for you? Tish! OK then, how about this groovy article with some cool things to do in python’s aleady marvellous interactive mode. Possibly most intruigingly, it brings us to deep_reload.py, “an import hook for Python versions 1.5.2 and above that causes the reload() command to act recursively, reloading all of the modules that a given module imports”. Ooooooh, nice…
Still hungry for more? Alright, try this: the final draft of a complete online book called, oh yes, it’s GUI Programming with Python: QT Edition.
Annoyances with the latter:
Fixed font size for the text, which is a pain while using IE (though Opera will be fine).
Some of the images are broken – presumably they’ll fix that.
It assumes you’re going to use an IDE called Blackadder, although thankfully you don’t have to.
Whaaat? That’s still not enough crunchy python goodness to satisfy? Fine! Sift through this: Pyro, “a basic Distributed Object Technology system written entirely in Python”; diveintopython.org, another online book; a command line filter for processing MIME messages; pSQL, which wraps a MySQL table up in objects that feel like standard python constructs; and finally, Developing Games with Python using the Simple Direct Media Layer. I don’t know, kids today…
Hey Brits! Think you’re living in a democracy? Then you might be interested in this little peek into our corridors of power.
Some nicely cynical accounts of recent charity concerts in America, courtesy of salon: Paul McCartney’s gig in New York, which sounds bad, and Michael Jackson’s gig in Washington, which sounds much much worse (although may have looked good at least once).
Afghans give surprise to US-led coalition – interesting article on what’s really happening, militarily, in Afghanistan.
…the military resilience showed by Taliban in defending the city of Mazar-i-Sharif in northern Afghanistan has surprised both Pakistani and US military officials who were particularly impressed by the Taliban military skills in repulsing attacks from Northern Alliance and in re-capturing the area…
I’ve decided I must use the word avec more often.
The way Dave Thomas describes it, he and his staff were trying to track down a series of unusual bugs in Windows, when they stumbled across something that really worried them. There, on their screens along with the code they were debugging, was the name and password they’d just used for Microsoft’s Passport service. Worse, it was in plain text, and readily accessible. As he looked more deeply, he realized that creating a worm that could recover that information would be, in his words, “trivial.”
Gopher No. 2 has received the “hot pepper cable”, which Shumake has smeared with a jelly-like coating spiked with capsaicin — the chemical that puts the pow in chile peppers. Not realizing that he is chewing on the high-tech equivalent of an eye-watering habanero pepper, the gopher chews for a while before it stops and begins to gnash its teeth. It pauses, as if pondering the scenario, then drops the cable to move on to easier eats.
Got the new Locust album, Wrong on Saturday. It’s very different from the last album, Morning Light, which was very pastoral – the only instruments on Wrong are vocals and analogue synthesisers, and it’s got an almost claustrophobic feel to it – but it’s really growing on me, a couple of tracks in particular. Groovy.
Less topical, but more amusing (from here):
Screaming Japanese Schoolgirls Overturn Greenspan’s Bus
TOKYO — Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan described himself as “shaken but all right” Monday following an incident in which several thousand excited young Japanese fans mobbed and tipped over his tour bus after a speech at the Tokyo Dome. “Mr. Greenspan is at the height of his popularity in Japan right now,” said Martine Engers, a publicist for the chairman, who is currently in the midst of a 41-city world tour. “And I guess we simply weren’t prepared for this level of fan hysteria.” Before military police restored order, thousands of frantically speculating youths drove the Nikkei average past 16,000.
Saw Amelie last night – another goregous gorgeous movie. Incredibly feelgood, but not in a cheesy shmultzy Hollywood way. Lovely movie. Here’s the official site, and a page (in French) about Audrey Tautou.
Strange that there are two films you must not miss, both set in Montmatre, out at the same time. :-)
pabber – “an attempt to replace Microsoft Exchange on my desktop with Pine and other Linux utilities, without sacrificing all of the features of Exchange in the process”.