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Home > Weblog w/e 7.10.2000

Saturday 7 October 2000, 23:45 BST
One day, all houses will be wired this way. [Via User Friendly's Link Of The Day]
Rachel Alexander and Liz Clarke take an optimistic view of the advance of women's sport in the Olympics. They're right that as more women's sports gain Olympic status it can only have a positive effect on their visibility and the participation rates for those sports, but I think the view that seeing women with different body types held up as role models is a case of wishful thinking. Certainly during the Olympics female weightlifters get some positive press, but the real test will come six months or a year from now. Which female athlete will have a higher profile and more endorsement contracts: a 300lb weightlifter or a pole vaulter with a great ass? [Via PopPolitics Weblog]
Surely this isn't a real business. Would even Americans stoop to advertising this tasteless? [Via Metafilter]
The winners of this year's IgNobel Prizes have been announced. I think my favourite was the award for Psychology:
David Dunning of Cornell University and Justin Kreuger of the University of Illinois, for their modest report, "Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One's Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments." [Published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, vol. 77, no. 6, December 1999, pp. 1121-34.]
Thursday 5 October 2000, 21:05 BST
Al Gore's infamous comment that he "took the initiative in creating the Internet" has long since mutated into a claim that he "invented" the internet. Scott Rosenberg's latest piece in Salon reminds us why exactly this supposed "lie" has been harped upon by Gore's Republican rivals and net.libertarians alike: a lot of people would like to ignore the fact that the internet was created and sustained by government bodies long before the system was opened to commercial and private use.

Granted, no government would have been able to spare the money to fuel the explosive growth in internet use in the last decade, but it's equally true that no commercial body would have produced an open system like the internet in the first place, or fostered the non-commercial, cooperative ethos which has so far ensured that not even Microsoft or IBM can really control the internet. If the basic protocols and structure hadn't been put in place by government action, we'd have ended up with a dozen mutually incompatible systems, like Compuserve and Prodigy and AOL circa 1992.
Don't all rush at once, ladies. [Via User Friendly's Link Of The Day]
Wednesday 4 October 2000, 23:25 BST
Danny O'Brien writes in the Sunday Times that he's lived in a house without a television set for two years now. The most interesting effect of this is that in all this time he's been relying on the internet for news coverage. He's developed some interesting blindspots, but he's also found that some issues are covered in far more depth in mailing list discussions and on web sites set up by partisans on either side of, say, the BSE research debate, than they are in the occasional current affairs programmes he catches on tv.
It's bad enough that you can now download the new Vengaboys single as a mobile phone tone, but according to BBC News Online soon EMI will allow you to bring Phil Collins to your mobile phone. Yikes!
Is the Deja.com Usenet archive worth keeping alive? I'm torn: on the one hand the recent link-insertion saga and Deja.com's long-standing efforts to bury the Usenet content in ads to the point where some people have devised alternative interfaces so that you can just get at the archived content make me want to say to hell with them, but I must admit that a comprehensive Deja.com news archive would be really handy. Read the petition to save Deja.com from themselves, and make up your own mind whether it's worth supporting. [Via Metafilter]
The other day I mentioned an astonishing picture taken in the midst of a huge forest fire, and lamented the lack of a larger version of the image. My friend Kate has pointed out that the page I linked to now has a link to a larger version of the image: I can only think that either I was having a particularly confusing day, or else the link to the larger image was added later on. Either way, thanks to Kate for the tip.

The site which hosts the picture has more striking images: well worth a look.
Steven Johnson wonders whether MacOS X is the Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band of the digital generation. [Via Feed]
The Register is unimpressed that the government is to permit employers to monitor email usage without expressly requesting their permission. I find it hard to get worked up about this: if my employer pays for a computer and an internet connection, why should I be able to use those resources for my own purposes?

In a couple of weeks' time my office finally switches from Windows for Workgroups to Windows NT4, and as part of the upgrade we'll all be getting desktop external email and web access. I don't think my personal email is any business of my employer's, so the simplest means of keeping it that way is not to use my employer's facilities to access it.
Perpetual Bubblewrap. Bliss (assuming you have the Flash plugin installed). [Via Metafilter]
Tuesday 3 October 2000, 23:45 BST
Buffy The Vampire Slayer is one of the very best of the current crop of tv programmes regardless of genre, right up there with The Sopranos or Oz or The Cops. The New York Times has a good article (free registration required) spelling out exactly why the show is so much more than just another horror series. Fans have been saying this for ages, but it's good to see a mainstream publication admit it.

Anyone who thinks that this "ass-kicking female" genre is easy to pull off should read Salon's review of the pilot of James Cameron's new TV show, Dark Angel. Admittedly pilot episodes are usually a poor indication of a show's potential, particularly for science fiction or fantasy shows, because the writers have to cram in a lot of exposition to explain who their characters are and what they want and how the world around them works, but even taking that into account it sounds as if Cameron & Co have fallen into the trap of assuming that what's needed is lots of eye candy. Time will tell, and in fairness to Cameron he has written some very strong female leads in the past, but it sounds as if the Slayer could kick the Dark Angel's ass without breaking into a sweat. [Dark Angel article via Robot Wisdom]
Fox News reports that the Playstation 2's ability to play DVDs is attracting the interest of adult entertainment companies hoping to make use of the interactivity a game console allows to make their wares even more attractive. Naturally, this is proving controversial.

I wonder what sort of "force feedback" accessories they'll be selling to give customers that full-on interactive experience? [Via the null device]
Sunday 1 October 2000, 22:15 BST
Frequently Asked Questions, by Margaret Gray. [Via Guardian Weblog]
An otherwise worthwhile essay by Ira Nayman in spark-online on the Contentville scandal (whereby various academics and journalists discovered that their works were being sold through the Contentville site without their knowledge, having been sold on through third parties without the writers' knowledge, let alone permission) is rather spoiled then the author writes of his shock in discovering that,
The press would have you believe that the worst copyright infringement occurring on the Internet is by lone hackers sitting at their computers. However, corporate owned and controlled newspapers and television news organizations are hardly disinterested parties in this story. It may turn out that individual writers (which, potentially, could be anybody) have more to fear from people in suits trailing phalanxes of lawyers.
And this is news why, exactly?
Tanya Headon hates music in general, but she really, really hates Radiohead. And if I read one more article about how brave the band are to have basically abandoned everything that made The Bends worth listening to because Thom Yorke thought they were in a rut, I may just end up loathing them too. There's way too much reverence towards Radiohead in the air at the moment, just as there was for R.E.M. post-Automatic For The People.
Ruth Shalit writes in Salon about one very confused group of people: advertising executives trying to hitch their brands to the Olympic bandwagon. How can you grab people's attention without offending anyone or tainting the Olympic brand? What do you do when someone acts offended anyway? And how can you persuade potential customers that your brand embodies the Olympic values?

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