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Saturday 19 January 2002, 23:55 GMT
X-Ray Milky Way. Still more eye candy from Astronomy Picture of the Day.
Over at Wherever You Are, Vaughan draws our attention to this profound statement from Miss Alabama:
"I would not live forever because we should not live forever, because if we were supposed to live forever then we would live forever, but we cannot live forever, which is why I would not live forever."
Er, yeah...
A novel approach to the problem of curing politicians of their addiction to standardised testing in schools. No doubt if this proposal was ever enacted it would produce some very interesting results. It'd be even more fun to see a certain US politician who made it into office before this idea was proposed - I think we all know who I'm thinking of here - take an exam which purports to measure intelligence. [Via Rebecca's Pocket]
What Is "A Bastard?" Kris has the answer.
Basil Brushless. Brrrr. [Via Rens stuff 'n' nonsense]
Heterosexual Fashion Advice.
Things Men need To Know About Style
  1. Yes, Homer Simpson is funny - but not on your tie.
  2. Only consider tucking your jumper into your jeans if you're a vicar.
  3. Getting your girlfriend to iron your jeans is unacceptable. Ironing them yourself is evidence of an unsound mind.
  4. Cowboy boots - NO!!!
  5. Pointy lace-up shoes make women retch.
There's much more where that came from. [Via Scalloblog - see entry for 16 January 2002]
Friday 18 January 2002, 23:50 GMT
The Mother Of All Typos? [Via the null device]
Nonsense rules at Football Association. Last September. Earls Colne Reserves were beating Wimpole 2000 by a score of 18-1 in an amateur cup match, so referee Brian Savill turned round and scored one for Wimpole. Players and spectators alike greeted the gesture in the spirit it was intended. Essex County Football Association complained, so the FA suspended Savill for seven weeks, leading him to resign in disgust.

It's good to see the English tradition of bureaucracy winning out over common sense is still alive and well. [Via [parallax view]]
Thursday 17 January 2002, 23:05 GMT
I was going to comment on a recent article by Dan Gillmor suggesting that the excellence of search engines means that registering a memorable domain name is much less important than it once was. As it happens, before I got round to it Tom over at plasticbag.org did a first rate job of explaining why Gillmor is wrong.

I'd add one further point: this is all very nice, but it's a very web-centric solution. Won't we continue to need domain names for lots of other purposes? Won't it help if our email addresses bear some relation to our domain names?
Attractive and unique koala bear fashion accessories. Probably not what you were expecting. [Via dutchbint.org]
Coming Attractions.
  • Wallace & Gromit are about to return, free to download on the web.
  • Edge of Darkness: The Movie will update the story for the 21st century. I'm not sure this is such a great idea. Can they really better the performances of Bob Peck and Joe Don Baker?
[Wallace & Gromit news via Boing Boing, Edge of Darkness news via I Love Everything]
Wednesday 16 January 2002, 22:25 GMT
The Osbournes. Fly-on-the-wall documentaries are pretty humdrum in the wake of Big Brother, but this could be different. It's the story of a family. Ozzy Osbourne's family.

Said his wife Sharon: "I just thought America needed to see what a normal family was really like." Well, for some values of the term "normal" at any rate... [Via blogjam]
Facial Hair. Damn, they're on to us! [Via Wibbly Weblog]
Bob Cringely reckons Steve Jobs and Bill Gates have very different ideas of what constitutes success.
It Started Down Below. Davezilla relates the tale of the cannibal hamster.
The strike lasted approximately fifteen minutes. Hunger overtook the hapless beast and he knew what he had to do. An act so unspeakable that his human overlords would be forced to recognize him once and for all as a thinking, rational being. With a problem.
Tuesday 15 January 2002, 23:40 GMT
How I was Politically Educated by The Prisoner, by Megan Shaw Prelinger. You could pick many worse shows to warp your political views as a teenager. (God alone knows what, say, Footballers' Wives will do for your political development!) [Via charlie's Journal]
I saw a very puzzling report on Channel 4 News this evening. Civil servant Suma Chakrabati has just been appointed as Permanent Secretary (that's to say, the administrative head) of the Department of International Development. His appointment has been criticised by the Tories because he's agreed a contract which says he'll work a 5 day, 40 hour week and be allowed to work from home every other Friday. The Conservative shadow of Chakrabati's boss says that the taxpayer won't get value for money from Chakrabati and it's inappropriate for someone in a "top job" to work such short hours.

I really don't see the cause for comment here. It seems to me that staff at all levels should be encouraged to work more flexibly, in the interests of finding a balance between work and family life. How is the traditional culture of long working hours ever going to change otherwise? If a man can't do his job on 40 hours a week, is it because he's unable to delegate, or is it just that the job needs splitting in two? Or is it some macho competitive thing?

The only troubling aspect of this story for me is that Chakrabati, as a senior public servant who had been selected for a top job, probably had a lot more room to negotiate than did someone lower down the civil service scale, who might simply be told "take it or leave it" when the standard contract was offered. I trust that Chakrabati will take steps to ensure that his department's staff will enjoy same flexibility in working hours he does, and that he'll frown on middle managers who try to create a culture of long work hours.
X-Ray Milky Way. More eye candy from Astronomy Picture of the Day.
This picture cries out for a suitable caption.
Monday 14 January 2002, 22:35 GMT
Having a bad day? Blame Someone Else. [Via dutchbint.org]
Every virus outbreak is followed by news reports solemnly claiming that this latest virus cost X million dollars. It turns out that - surprise, surprise - nobody can figure out how these figures are arrived at. [Via Boing Boing]
Over at I Must..., Patti tells the tale of the Chicken Game she and her sister play. Me, I rather like her sister's latest entry in the game.
Welcome to Slate UK. Only, we're not going to actually put up a separate site. And please don't tell our journalists' bosses that they're moonlighting. Could they be any more hesitant? [Via Haddock.org]
ActiveECG. Monitor your cardiac rhythms while updating your PDA's diary. Presumably once the Handspring Treo PDA/GSM phone comes out they'll add a software module to have it call an ambulance for you. [Via Off On A Tangent]
Sunday 13 January 2002, 23:15 GMT
You've probably heard about the two Seattle residents who have already started lining up to see Star Wars Episode 2: Attack of the Clones, even though the film doesn't open until May. They've declared that this is an attempt to "capture the art of waiting" as opposed to, say, deeply sad. Two things you may not have known:
  • They don't even know whether the film will show at the cinema they're waiting outside, and nor does the management.
  • They've had a visit from some strippers.
[Seattle Times story via Looka!, strippers story via Davezilla]
101 Things You Do Not Want Your System Administrator To Say. [Via /usr/bin/girl]
Return of the Strike. Donald Macintyre reminds us that despite a rash of industrial disputes, Britain is a long way from a return to the Winter of Discontent.

What makes the rail dispute so frustrating is that ministers are expected to come up with solutions when, technically, they still have no direct control over Railtrack or the franchisees. It might have been better had Stephen Byers been a touch more radical and just renationalised the whole damn industry again. Not that nationalisation is an answer in itself, but it would at least have given him the power to restructure things properly. If he's going to get the blame for the state of the railways come 2005/6, he might as well at least have had the chance to really bang heads together in the meantime. [Via Grayblog]
A couple of years ago, Alison Brooks posted a rather wonderful set of extracts from versions of The Lord of the Rings by alternate authors to soc.history.what-if. For example, here's Raymond Chandler's take on Gandalf's meeting with Frodo about the power of the One Ring:
"Frodo Baggins?" said the old man in the doorway, rain dripping from his oversized hat with all the ease of a dwarf burrowing after gold.
"That's the name on the door. Guess I'm gullible enough to believe what it says about me."
The old man came in a dripped water on the earth floor. Added a touch of class, so I didn't complain.
"Frodo, you've got a problem."
"I pay my taxes, and I'm clean with the Rangers. What's my problem?"
"Bilbo shafted you with that heirloom. Gold ring? Gold ringer, more like."
"A dud, huh. Can't say I'm surprised."
"If it was a dud, you wouldn't have a problem. Your problem is that this little heirloom has a history, a history with a pearl-handled stiletto in the back. It goes back all the way through the biggest string of mugs you find as wallpaper on Minas Tirith's finest. Goes all the way back to Night-Time Sauron....."
Among the other writers recruited to the task: Ian Fleming, P G Wodehouse, Bernard Cornwell, George MacDonald Fraser and ... er ... Gene Roddenberry:
"The Halflings, cap'n, they will na take the strain"
"Strider, we've got to get out of this snow. Legolas, did you get a reading on that creature?"
"Fascinating, Captain. It appears to be an unknown creature that lurks in the pool waiting for passing strangers. Ecologically implausible, captain."
"Do you know what it is?"
"I believe I said it was unknown, Dr Gimli. Logically, if I knew what it was, then it wouldn't be unknown."
"Cap'n, we're in some sort of temporal warp, stretching and deforming the plot. The snow should take place a day before our encounter with this beastie."
"Captain, what are we going to do."
"Boromir, put on that red armour."....
[Via rec.arts.sf.written]

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