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Home > Weblog w/e 2.12.2000

Saturday 2 December 2000, 23:55 GMT
The Florida recount as written by Mario Puzo.
Gordon Brown has announced that the British government will renounce its right to debt repayment from 41 of the world's poorest countries. Next time someone tries to tell you that there's no difference between Labour and the Tories (ie probably some time around next April, in the run-up to the General Election) ask them whether William Hague's government would have done that.
Yikes! A very, very scary picture. The same site had a fair number of equally strange images collected here. My favourite was this one. [Via Haddock Directory]
The good news is that MSNBC reports that a new version of Opera will be announced next week. The bad news is that according to the report Opera 5 for Windows will to be free, but ad-supported. I stopped using DigiGuide when they went over to an adware-based system, even though it was still a superb piece of software, and I'm afraid that unless I can download a version of Opera 5 which allows me to pay in advance for a version which doesn't include any spyware/adware in the initial installation I'll have to reconsider which browser I use. Opera is clearly a better browser than Netscape or Internet Explorer, but I won't have adware on my PC and that's that. [Via Techdirt]
Schrodinger's Cat. [Via Cafe Helix]
Airdisaster.com: probably not the site you'd want to visit just before taking a trip in an aeroplane. [Via Memepool]
This week's edition of NTK was very good indeed, and I suggest you go and read it in full right now. Three particularly worthwhile links: a nostalgia-fest for those of us old enough to remember 3D Ant Attack, a comparison of Microsith Windows NTie and Jedix, and some interesting facts about gravy.
Thursday 30 November 2000, 23:55 GMT
I haven't seen much of the BBC's popular science series Horizonover the last couple of seasons, but I made a point of whatching tonight's episode because the promotional spots said it was about supermassive black holes, and I'm always up for a reasonably non-technical look at the most singular objects in the known universe. I was hugely disappointed by what I saw. It's not that the topic wasn't worth 50 minutes-worth of TV: the story of the discovery that every galaxy has a huge black hole at its centre, and the gradual piecing together of an explanation for the way these objects affect galaxy formation, was fascinating and well worth the telling.

The trouble was that Horizon went way over the top in trying to make their chosen topic sound sexy and dangerous: black holes "lurked" in the centre of the galaxy - yes, even our own little old home galaxy, the Milky Way! - and they "fed on" nearby stars. Worse yet, the nearby Andromeda galaxy is going to collide with our galaxy one day and Earth might be thrown out into the depths of intergalactic space or even dragged inbetween the two galaxies' black holes and turned to a cinder. All exciting stuff, and the programme went overboard in making its point, with spectacular images of galaxies exploding and black holes sucking up surrounding stars.

The trouble is, supermassive black holes don't actually lurk behind every star, waiting to pounce on unsuspecting planets: the supermassive black hole at the centre of the galaxy is around 27,000 light years away from us - that's 255,264,883,798,176,000km away! For that matter, the collision between the Andromeda galaxy and the Milky Way which is liable to lead to the destruction of Earth is due to take place 2 billion years from now - not exactly a pressing concern (unless you're a Pierson's Puppeteer, at any rate). I found the attempt to sensationalise the topic deeply depressing: am I just remembering past seasons of Horizon as if through rose-tinted specs? Was it always this crass and superficial?
Now McDonalds give you that little bit extra with your box of chicken wings. Yikes! You simply must see the picture that accompanies the article. [Via Metafilter]
Salon recounts the frantic efforts of musicians uploading their music to MP3.com to make a mark on the site's Top 40 so they can start earning some cash. As Miles Copeland used to delight in pointing out when he managed The Police, despite the noise made by warm-n-fuzzy lefties like Sting the music business is one of the most intensely competitive, commercial, profit-oriented industries there is. Free distribution via the internet doesn't seem to have done much to change that if this story is anything to go by. So much for it being "all about the music"...
Wednesday 29 November 2000, 22:05 GMT
The first chapter of No Logo, Naomi Klein's meticulously researched, penetrating analysis of the rise of the superbrand and global consumer capitalism, is up at the Guardian's BooksUnlimited site. You owe it to yourself to go and read it. Now. [Via linkmachinego]
The Onion is on top form this week.
This explains a lot about the state of the world. [Via Metafilter]
Salon gives the first episode of the American remake of Queer As Folk what amounts to a rave review. More evidence (see also The Sopranos, Oz, Farscape, Buffy The Vampire Slayer) that the smaller networks and cable stations networks are the source of most of what's best in US TV nowadays. Whether the US version of QaF matches up to the Channel 4 version is a whole different question, obviously.
What not to do if you should find a penguin looking lost on a Brazilian beach. Who knew? [Via the null device]
IGN FilmForce has a wide-ranging, often very funny, interview with Terry Gilliam. He talks about everything from his late-60s experiences in LA to (of course) his up-and-down relationship with the major studios. [Via the null device]
Allen Barra has unearthed the perfect description of Anna Kournikova, the tennis "superstar" who still hasn't actually managed to win anything but endorsment deals. [Via Salon]
Tuesday 28 November 2000, 23:55 GMT
Suck's take on Deja.com's problems in turning Usenet into a revenue stream.
Barbie Bondage. [Via /matt]
Telling a story with road signs. [Via Foaf]
Salon reports that Arnold Schwartzenegger has been talking about his political ambitions. Given the prospect of a successful run for the Governorship of California, perhaps he could follow in the footsteps of the last former actor to take up office in Sacramento? There's a minor problem about not being born in the USA, but you wouldn't expect Arnie to let a minor detail like that get in the way:
"Well, you'd have to redo the Constitution," he says, "but they've had so many amendments that it's not really a problem."
Perhaps after President Arnie had served two terms we'd see a campaign to repeal the 22nd Amendment, so President Arnie could declare that "I'll Be Back."
"Is Jeeves gay?" Why not ask him...
ROFL! [Via The Guardian]
Monday 27 November 2000, 23:25 GMT
The Wombles as gay icons? [Via the null device]
The most striking Astronomy Picture of the Day in months. By a long chalk. [Via Robot Wisdom]
Salon has a good interview with veteran director Philip Kaufman about his next film, Quills, a biography of the Marquis de Sade. I like Kaufman's work very much - The Right Stuff is one of my favourite films, a near-perfect adaptation of a very, very good book - so I was interested to read a decent interview with him. However, I'm slightly worried about his next project, a biopic of Liberace.

It's not the subject matter that worries me, so much as the hint at the end of the interview that he'd like his friend Robin Williams to play the lead. The mind boggles at the thought of the damage Williams could do given a part like that...
Is there some Linux code in recent versions of Windows? Nicholas Petreley has heard a rumour that there might be, and that that's why recent versions of Windows are more stable. It'd be interesting if this turned out to be true, since it would mean that in the wake of the introduction of MacOS X (which is essentially a Unix system with a MacOS emulator and a natty Mac-style interface) the two major desktop operating systems are being assimilated by the Borg, sorry, the Penguin. [Via the null device]

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