Archive: November, 2001


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Friday, November 30th, 2001

George Harrison

I heard the news today, oh boy.

This is very sad news.

George Harrison. February 25th, 1943 - November 30th 2001.

Tenant cuts 7ft hole in billboard blocking his window

Talk about intrusive advertising. I don’t understand how the guy managed to put up with having his view blocked by a billboard for over a year. Can anyone blame him for taking a saw to it?

Maybe he was subliminally influenced by the ad. The advert he cut through was promoting Microsoft XP. It read "Surprise yourself. Surprise everyone."

Thursday, November 29th, 2001

More Anagram Fun

Here’s some more fun from the Modern Humorist: "If poets wrote poems whose titles were anagrams of their names".

William Blake gives us Likable Wilma:

"Wilma, Wilma, in thy blouse,

Red-haired prehistoric spouse,

What immortal animator

Was thy slender waist’s creator?"

Ban on DVD-cracking code upheld

Following up on an earlier post, a court has now ruled that it is illegal for me to write this here:

#!/usr/bin/perl # 472-byte qrpff, Keith Winstein and Marc Horowitz <> # MPEG 2 PS VOB file -> descrambled output on stdout. # usage: perl -I <k1>:<k2>:<k3>:<k4>:<k5> qrpff # where k1..k5 are the title key bytes in least to most-significant order

s”$/=\2048;while(<>){G=29;R=142;if((@a=unqT="C*",_)[20]&48){D=89;_=unqb24,qT,@ b=map{ord qB8,unqb8,qT,_^$a[—D]}@INC;s/…$/1$&/;Q=unqV,qb25,_;H=73;O=$b[4]<<9 |256|$b[3];Q=Q>>8^(P=(E=255)&(Q>>12^Q>>4^Q/8^Q))<<17,O=O>>8^(E&(F=(S=O>>14&7^O) ^S*8^S<<6))<<9,_=(map{U=_%16orE^=R^=110&(S=(unqT,"\xb\ntd\xbz\x14d")[_/16%8]);E ^=(72,@z=(64,72,G^=12*(U-2?0:S&17)),H^=_%64?12:0,@z)[_%8]}(16..271))[_]^((D>>=8 )+=P+(~F&E))for@a[128..$#a]}print+qT,@a}’;s/[D-HO-U_]/\$$&/g;s/q/pack+/g;eval

Walk For Capitalism

I think I’m going to be sick.

"We proudly uphold: Free trade, globalization, liberty, profit, free speech, technology, universal individual rights, intellectual and material prosperity, private property, rule of law, innovation, creativity, human dignity and happiness."

Hmmm… just seeing "globalization" and "liberty" written next to each other looks wrong.

I think they tagged on "human dignity and happiness" as an afterthought - well, they couldn’t come before "material prostperity" and "private property".

And could somebody explain why a site so obviously dedicated to commercialism has the ".org" suffix instead of ".com"?

Tuesday, November 27th, 2001

Modern Humorist - The Holy Tango of Drama

If playwrights wrote plays whose titles were anagrams of their names…

David Mamet gives us "Dammit, Dave".

What would "2001: A Space Odyssey" be like if it were written by David Mamet?

Vector Lounge

This is one amazing piece of Flash. I’m starting to realise just how much can be accomplished with ActionScript.

I’m trying to learn some Flash. Luckily for me, there’s now an O’Reilly book devoted to ActionScripting (I guess that means it can now be considered a "real" programming language).

Time for a trip to Amazon, methinks.

New Worm

Every Sunday, I send out an email newsletter for The Session to all the folks who have subscribed to receive it.

This week, after sending out the newsletter (using a PHP driven administration tool), I noticed a lot of replies coming back with some weird content: a blank HTML page with an iframe tag.

Yup, it’s a new worm.

It doesn’t affect me directly (I use a Mac). It does affect a large proportion of the population, though:

"The worm can infect computers running Microsoft’s Windows operating systems and unpatched versions of Outlook, and is aimed at slackers who haven’t stayed current with Microsoft’s cavalcade of patches."

On the one hand, I think "yeah, you should be keeping your software patched!".

On the other hand, I think "how can one piece of software need so many patches!?".

I’m sure Microsoft have covered their ass in that licencing agreement that nobody reads when they install software. Still, I find it criminally negligent that a mail client so riddled with security holes was ever released to the public.

The BadTrans.B worm: turning the "embrace and extend" motto into reality.

Saturday, November 24th, 2001

Mac Expo

This is my first "remote" posting.

I’m at the mac expo in London. There’s a row of iMacs conncted to the ‘net here and that’s where I’m posting from.

There’s oodles of goodies here but nothing that’s really all that new.

Except the iPod.

I took the opportunity to pick it up and play with it. It really is very nifty and very intuitive to use. And boy, is it ever small! I mean, I had heard people say it was about the size of a pack of cigarrettes but I didn’t realise they meant a ten-pack.

Okay, I’m off to get the train back to Brighton. My next post will be from the comfort of my own home.

Friday, November 23rd, 2001

Man who got £250,000 in error says money is his

This is great.

An Irish man who lives in Spain wanted to transfer £1,500 from his bank in Ireland to his bank in Spain. The bank converted the amount to pesetas. They then transferred this amount… but in euros. That comes to about a quarter of a million pounds.

So, what would you do?

"I had to make the moral decision about what I was going to do with the money and I didn’t do anything straight off.

"But I looked at the original transfer form and it had a disclaimer on it saying that Bank of Ireland took no responsibility for any mistakes made during the transfer. And the Bank made a big mistake."

He has a point.

Thursday, November 22nd, 2001

Galileo's Daughter : A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love

Time for a little book review. I’ve just finished reading "Galileo’s Daughter" by Dava Sobel.

I had already read Sobel’s previous book, "Longitude", which I enjoyed immensely. Because of this, my expectations for Galileo’s Daughter were pretty high.

I’m afraid the book didn’t live up to my expectations.

It’s hard to put my finger on quite what was missing. It’s not a bad book by any means. It just didn’t grip me.

First of all, it has a much smaller scope than Longitude. Longitude featured a large cast of historical characters ranging all over the globe in an intellectual quest. Galileo’s Daughter deals primarily with just two people confined to a small area of Italy.

Secondly, I didn’t really gain that much insight from the book. Longitude was a treasure trove of historical oddities and offers a new spin on the recent history of civilisation. Galileo’s Daughter deals mostly with the frustrating struggle between Galileo and the inquisition and we all know how that went.

I’m being unfair, of course. I shouldn’t be comparing books (even if they are by the same author).

Perhaps the problem lies with me. I’m interested in the Renaissance but it just doesn’t grip me in the same way that tales of invention from the Victorian era do.

That’s why I’m now reading a book that promises to be the true successor to Longitude: "The Cogwheel Brain" by Doron Swade.

It’s a biography of Charles Babbage (or rather, a biography of his Difference Engine) and already it has me completely gripped. It looks like being a nice companion piece to "The Victorian Internet", a really great book about the invention of the telegraph.

I’ll give my verdict on The Cogwheel Brain here once I’ve finished reading it.

Tuesday, November 20th, 2001

Ice Mold

I smold, you smold, we all smold for ice mold.

The Czars

I went out last night to see a band called The Czars. Actually, I saw two fifths of the band: the singer and guitarist are doing a little mini-tour ‘round England.

I had seen the full band. They played support to 16 Horsepower when I saw them in Strasbourg quite a while back. I remember thinking they were a good band with a really good singer.

My memories were correct. The singer has an amazing voice. It was a joy to listen to him, even with the songs stripped down to the bones of voice and guitar (a guitar with lots of effects can make a lot of noise).

Remember folks, you heard it here first: The Czars are a band to watch out for.

Osama's Nuclear Plans Half-Baked

Here’s a tale of the blind leading the blind.

When BBC journalists discovered documents related to building a nuclear device in recently liberated Al-Qaeda strongholds, they took the documents at face value. It’s probably safe to assume that Al-Qaeda also thought that they were in possession of some dangerous documents.

In fact, the documents were an obviously humourous satirical piece from The Journal of Irreproducible Results.

Presumably, some Bin Laden crony thought he could get all the info he needed by simply typing "How to build an atom bomb" into Google.

I find it somehow reassuring to know that Al-Qaeda would be stupid enough to accept the satire as real but it’s very disconcerting to think that the BBC would also be that dim.

Monday, November 19th, 2001

Photoshop: It's All the Rage

This article at Wired is all about Photoshop. Specifically, it’s all about the popularity of "Photoshopping" images for fun, satire or spite.

They link to a lot of different sites that regularly highlight Photoshopped images. But they missed the absolute best and most imaginative use of Adobe’s imaging software:

Photoshop tennis.

Sunday, November 18th, 2001

RSS fever

Time for some more geek talk. I’ve been spending the day playing with RSS feeds on my little portal (again). I was spurred on by an encouraging email I got from Prentiss Riddle, who keeps a great weblog.

He’s been doing some nifty things with RSS and he’s not the only one. Derek Powazek is so smitten with RSS that he’s decided to ditch his fancy DHTML interface in favour of a more straightforward headline aggregator.

It’s funny: I decided to ditch the fancy DHTML version of adactio in favour of this plain look a while back.

Great minds think alike. Now if only I had a website as brilliant as {fray}

Saturday, November 17th, 2001

The ugly world of PCs

Jessica and I got plenty of exercise today. We walked to the far end of town to look at the wares at PCworld.

Our mission was to find a halfway nice looking PC and monitor. We needn’t have bothered.

Jessica is thinking of getting a desktop computer. Right now, she’s using a laptop (a lovely Sony Viao) but for reasons of ergonomics and file backups, a proper PC might be in order.

The problem is that it’s going to sit in our living room/bedroom and there isn’t all that much room to spare. That’s why we were mostly looking at flat screen monitors.

The overall verdict, though, was "Ewww, ugly!" to most of the stuff on display.

I didn’t think about the looks much when I got my machine, but now I’m really grateful that I’ve got an iMac sitting in front of me. Unfortunately, because of the software she uses, Jessica is probably locked in to using a PC.

Why, oh why are PC towers and monitors so darned ugly? Have you ever met anyone who’s favourite colour is beige?

Thursday, November 15th, 2001

Wil, Wesley and the Web

Wesley Crusher was a character in Star Trek: The Next Generation. The character is generally regarded as being the most annoying, obnoxious member of the Enterprise crew.

Wesley was played by Wil Wheaton.

In contrast to the character he played, Wil is courteous, funny and an all-round nice guy.

How do I know? Wil keeps a weblog.

Unlike most "celebrity" websites, this one is honest and down-to-earth. It turns out that Wil is quite the geek - he was interviewed recently for Slashdot and there’s a whole Fark category dedicated to him now.

I emailed him recently to ask if there was an RSS feed of his blog. He (promptly) wrote back and said there wasn’t but he was working on it.

So, I was very pleased for him when I heard that Wil will appear in the next Star Trek movie. Hopefully, it will be a chance to properly wrap up the character of Wesley.

I’m not the only one spreading the good word: Wil’s website was down for a while after being flooded with traffic from Slashdot, Fark and Metafilter.

Tuesday, November 13th, 2001

Drunken rock star assaulted aircraft crew, court told

Peter Buck has been known to behave a bit oddly in the past (he spent most of 1995 getting drunk in his dressing gown). Still, I always thought he was something of a gentle giant at heart.

According to a witness at his air-rage trial, he’s far more eccentric than I’ve been giving him credit for:

"The court heard he became stuck between two seats before he was pulled free, while he also managed to cover himself and the cabin services manager with a tub full of sticky yoghurt."

"Buck mistook the hostess trolley for a CD player as he drunkenly tried to insert a disc into it and also overturned the trolley, sending a pile of crockery, honey, cereals and milk flying across the floor. "

Can you imagine what the cleaning staff on that airplane must have thought?

Monday, November 12th, 2001


I spent most of today making tweaks and changes to my little portal.

I also updated the galleries so you can now view journal illustrations all together in one place.

I also did some laundry.

Apart from the laundry, these weren’t particularly urgent tasks. The truth is that I’m procrastinating.

I *should* be diligently learning how to write nifty Flash actionscripts. I’m making a website for the band and, partly as an exercise for myself, I want to do it in Flash.

This always happens when I’m faced with a big project - I spend a lot of time thinking about what I’m going to do but I always put off actually getting down to work. It was the same with The Session, my first time approaching heavy database work.

Actually, thinking about it, that worked out really well and it was certainly good that I planned everything out.

Still, I’ve got that feeling of guilt that comes with knowing I should be doing something. I need more self-discipline.

Sunday, November 11th, 2001


Some more geeky stuff:

Ever since Derek Powazek started doing something with his RSS feeds, I’ve been looking around at what kind of up-to-date headlines are out there.

I’ve put together a little portal for myself. It grabs headlines from RSS feeds from news sites and weblogs. It also displays one random webcam picture - I’ll add to to the list of cams whenever I come across a good one.

I think I’m starting to "get" this whole XML/RSS/RDF syndication thing.

On a completely unrelated note:

The journal entry before this one (which you should see directly below this) is blank, as you may have noticed.

This is deliberate. The time of the entry is the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. It was at this time in 1918 that the armistice was signed. The blank journal entry is my moment of silence.

This year, veteran’s day and armistice day coincide. For that reason, today is a day to remember all those who have fallen in combat, but especially those who died in the first world war*.

*except the generals and field marshalls on both sides whose incompetence in that war caused so much misery - they can rot in hell.

Weblogs.Com: Recently Changed Weblogs

This is really only of interest to the geeky amongst you. I’ve been messing around with my custom made blogging application.

Basically, every time I write a new entry here, a new XML file is made on the fly, the journal page here gets updated and so does the RSS file (which will be useful for something, I’m sure).

Now I’ve added an extra little feature. Every time I add a new entry, a site that tracks recently changed weblogs gets pinged with a notification.

It’s a nifty site if, like me, you’re a voracious reader of blogs. I like the immediacy of seeing other people’s thoughts appearing in rapid succession.

Friday, November 9th, 2001

Kaese Spaetzle

Catherine, our drummer, is coming over tomorrow night. Chris and Karin are going to cook up some kaese spaetzle.

It sure was yummy last time.

kaese spaetzle

Satellite on a shoestring going strong

Nasa could learn a thing or two from the U.S. Naval Academy Alumni Association. One month after the clever folks in Maryland launched a satellite built for just $50,000 (instead of the originally anticipated $1,000,000), the satellite shows no sign of degrading.

"After a month in orbit, a satellite built by Naval Academy midshipmen with off-the-shelf parts from Radio Shack is exceeding all expectations, sending and receiving messages from ham radio users around the world."

Wednesday, November 7th, 2001

Apple Renderings

This is fun: a page of speculative designs for future Macs.

Speaking of Apple, I’m still waiting for my ticket to the MacExpo. I applied online and apparently a free ticket is winging its way to me.

It’s less than two weeks to the Expo though, so I’m starting to get slightly worried that they just give a "You’ll get a ticket in the mail" message to anyone who fills out the form on their website.

Tuesday, November 6th, 2001

Bonfire night

Last night was bonfire night. In England, November 5th is celebrated in rhyme:

"Remember, remember the fifth of November…"

Why? Well, a few centuries ago, Guy Fawkes (a catholic) tried to blow up the houses of parliment.

The official line is that every year we celebrate his failure, but I think a lot of people actually celebrate his audicity. They still burn an effigy of him on a bonfire, though.

In the town of Lewes, which is very near to Brighton, they go one better. They burn an effigy of the pope.

In fact, in Lewes, they go completey bonfire mad and build huge pyres on every hilltop. They then have torchlight processions to the pyres where they chant "Burn him, burn him".

I was there last night with Jessica and Karin. We missed most of the processions but we saw one of the bonfires and we were treated to a great fireworks display.

Here are some pictures.

Monday, November 5th, 2001

My new scarf

Despite the warmest October since records began, I’m not going to let the nice weather fool me.

It may be a lovely, sunny day today but things are going to get a lot colder, mark my words.

In a pre-emptive strike against the bitterness of winter, Jessica has made me a lovely, warm scarf. She’s quite the knitter, these days.

Here’s Jessica modelling her own creation:

Jessica with scarf

The world outside my window

It’s another lovely day in Brighton.

My window

Sunday, November 4th, 2001

Levitated Daily Source : flash 5 open source modules

This is the kind of site where I can literally spend hours: Levitated Daily Source.

It’s a collection of stupendously beautiful, superbly programmed Flash modules based around naturally occuring patterns.

Best of all, all the modules are open source and offered up for free.

Set aside some time, go there, and relax for a few hours.

Saturday, November 3rd, 2001

School says Bible permits smacking

The debate surrounding corporal punishment has flared up again here in England.

Corporal punishment is outlawed in schools. But now, a group of private "Christian" schools wants to be allowed to beat children.

Their justification? Why, it’s all in the Bible, of course! You know, that stuff about sparing the rod and spoiling the child.

I’m reminded of that line from The Merchant Of Venice:

"The devil can cite scripture for his own purpose".

Now, I’m not denying that the bible says these things. But whenever the bible is used to justify some course of action, nobody ever mentions a fairly obvious counterpoint: the Bible is full of s**t.

I’m not trying to be deliberately inflammatory, here. The Bible is also full of some great advice (and oodles of gratuitous sex and violence). But, it is (particularly in the Old Testament) full of s**t.

As an example of why the Bible is not a very good book to quote from when you need justification for your actions, take a look at this rebuttal to Dr. Laura Schlessinger’s citation of Leviticus 18:22.

Friday, November 2nd, 2001

The Brick Testament

Now, this is what the Internet was made for: Bible stories in Lego form.

This isn’t a parody. The site is run by The Rev. Brendan Powell Smith.

I love the disclaimer at the bottom:

"This site is in no way sponsored authorized or endorsed by the LEGO company"

Never mind what God might think of it, just keep those lawyers at bay.

Movie industry dealt DVD-cracking blow

This is good news. The infamous DeCSS code is protected under free speech.

In other words, you can now post a line of Perl on your website or wear it on a t-shirt without being arrested.

"The movie industry’s "statutory right to protect its economically valuable trade secret is not an interest that is ‘more fundamental’ than the First Amendment right to freedom of speech," the judges wrote. Nor is it "on equal footing with the national security interests and other vital governmental interests that have previously been found insufficient to justify a prior restraint.""

Giant Sand

The Giant Sand concert was lots of fun.

Before the gig, Jessica and I cooked up a kitchen full of tex-mex goodies. Catherine, Chris and Karin all partook of the munchables and we got into the spirit of things.

The concert was being held, quite literally, at the end of our street (and our street isn’t very long). So we strolled out the front door, walked a few steps and we were there.

A band called Lazarus Clamp (from Leicester, I think) were playing when we arrived. They were quite good - reminded me a bit of The Go-Betweens.

Next up was an American band called Noah John. They were great; good countrified fun that got the audience nicely warmed up.

Then Giant Sand came on and did there thing.

I’ve seen them twice before so I knew to expect the unexpected. They played some songs, jammed around and generally made lots of noise. This time, they had a trumpet player and a fiddle player with them (as well as the two French backing singers they had last time I saw them in Freiburg).

Everyone had a good time, Howe Gelb included. They seem to like Brighton:

"Nice beach. That’s some odd sand you’ve got there… very large."

Here are some pictures of the concert.

Thursday, November 1st, 2001

One month

It’s the first of November and I’ve been writing my thoughts in this journal for exactly one month now.

I think it’s been pretty good so far. I’m quite enjoying it.

I’ve been doing some fiddling with my homemade Content Management System to add an image uploading facility. I’ll put it to use once I have a nice image to show off.

Until then, I’m off to enjoy this beautiful sunny day and look forward to a concert tonight by Giant Sand.