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Home > Weblog w/e 22.6.2002


Saturday 22 June 2002, 22:30 BST
In the interests of keeping software licenses as simple as possible, Aaron Swartz suggests that they be written in haiku form:
MIT: take my code with you / and do whatever you want / but please don't blame me

LGPL: you can copy this / but make modified versions / free in source code form

GPL: if you use this code / you and your children's children / must make your source free

And (inevitably...)

RIAA: if you touch this file / my lawyers will come kill you / so kindly refrain
I think Microsoft would probably go for that last one too.

[Via Boing Boing]
Greenpeace now has a weblog. There's quite a bit more general cyberculture/geek linkage there than ecological stuff, which is no bad thing.

[Via Rebecca's Pocket]
Hang In There! A very appealing little picture. I'm not sure how that little guy ended up dangling like that...
In a small town in California... the subtext is becoming text.
I’m a 50 year old male and sitting watching a tv programme in which the camera lingers on the tight jeans of an attractive young American girl being heaved about by various attackers. I’m watching this with my daughters who are older than the girl in question. But then I find that I’m actually identifying with a bespectacled tweedy librarian and a bleached-blond fake cockney in leather. Dear Abby, do I have a problem?
Fortunately for Andy Sawyer, even serious academic types are allowed to write about Buffy now. He surveys a couple of recent critical reviews of the show, including Roz Kaveney's Reading The Vampire Slayer, which I thought was highly worthwhile.
Do vampires have anuses? #591 in an ongoing series entitled Questions You Never Thought You'd Want Answered.

[Via Pigs & Fishes]
Friday 21 June 2002, 23:40 BST
Why Smart People Can Be So Stupid. Robert J Sternberg reviews the literature in this vital field.
Only a few questions can be called basic to the human condition -- such as "What can we eat?" or "Who created us?" -- and lots of very smart people have been working on them for millennia. The "eating" thing, for instance, has been minutely parsed by agriculture, economics and the culinary arts (among other fields), while the question of origins has given us religion and several branches of the hard sciences. But there's at least one question -- as basic as any other in its topical relevance and its grounding in the ancient -- that human inquiry has only recently begun seriously to address. It was asked in caves, by people clad in mastodon-hide shifts, and chances are it crossed your mind this very day. "How," it goes, "can people be so stupid?" And who knows the answer, really? I don't -- do you?
The robots are plotting their escape. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

[Via MetaFilter]
Thursday 20 June 2002, 22:00 BST
Astronomy Picture of the Day has just turned seven years old. Anyone who has read this weblog for more than a couple of weeks will have noticed that I can't resist pointing out choice examples of eye candy from APOD. It's long been one of my daily reads, and the very fact that the site hasn't changed much over the years is a testament to the strength of the basic idea. It's simple, it'll work perfectly well in pretty much any web browser you care to point at it, and the content is compelling.

Which is my cue to point to yesterday's APOD, a very nice image of the Moon and Venus looking down on Geneva.

[APOD's 7th birthday noted via MetaFilter]
New Scientist reports that scientists have found that the public aren't very good at remembering TV adverts if those ads happen to be shown in the middle of TV programmes featuring sexual content.

Presumably the advertising industry will now join the National Viewers & Listeners Association in campaigning for less smut on TV.
Perl is Internet Yiddish according to Yoz Grahame. A fond tribute to the Swiss Army Chainsaw of programming languages.

[Via Boing Boing]
Cat Boxing! No comment required, I think.

[Via Davezilla]
Wednesday 19 June 2002, 23:25 BST
"I have no intention of paying a salary to someone who has ruined Italian soccer." Not that the Italians are bad losers or anything...
The Internet Society is applying to take over management of the .org registry. This would definitely be a Good Thing.

[Via Haddock.org]
Ben Hammersley has heard a horrifying rumour.
Robson & Jerome are being lined up to star in a re-vamped version of Arthur Conan Doyle's classic detective story. Sherlock will no longer sport his pipe and deerstalker. He will also have a girlfriend. Sean Bean is expected to play Moriaty.
This from the network which gave us Jeremy Brett's superb take on the role within the last decade. All they need to do now is announce that Holmes' girlfriend will be played by Denise Van Outen...
Human Behaviour.
Dear Dr. Schlechtekatz,

Our deepest apologies for not contacting you sooner. We need not remind you that our work must remain completely secret, and as a consequence of attempting to maintain our undercover status, we have been until now unable to post a letter on our progress here. It is quite to difficult to slip any missives into the outgoing mail without arousing suspicion, not to mention write legibly without the benefit of opposing thumbs, but we will try to correspond more regularly in future.
[Via Kate H, by email]
Tuesday 18 June 2002, 23:15 BST
David Blunkett has backed down, withdrawing the government's proposal to allow all sorts of public bodies access to records of our telephone and internet traffic.

The first I heard of this was when I caught this evening's Channel 4 News halfway through Jon Snow's interview with a very uncomfortable Home Secretary. No doubt the eventual revisions to the proposals will demand careful scrutiny, but for now it's very much to the government's credit that they didn't try to push the Statutory Instrument through anyway.
Crash and Yearn.
An unemployed Italian man from Turin has been charged with fraud, harassment and damage to property after allegedly orchestrating at least 500 car crashes in a doomed effort to meet young women.
Now read on.

[Via the null device]
James Lileks relates the story of Jasper.
I’ll never forget the day we brought [Lileks' daughter, Gnat] home; Jasper was disconsolate. I’ve never heard a dog cry, but cry he did - long gasping sobs of immeasurable sadness. He followed us up the stairs - no! No! No! No! Take it back! His position ever since has been tolerance, and if he doesn’t express a great deal of devotion it’s because he’s not that kind of dog. You won’t find him at my feet in the study, looking up with slavish amazement. He’s a remarkably self-contained dog, and sometimes I think the relationship between us is like the one between an enlisted man who’s seen a few battles and a lieutenant fresh out of ROTC. I outrank him, but that doesn’t mean he thinks I’m smarter.

Of course I am, but there doesn’t seem to be many opportunity to prove it - at least in a way he’d understand. I don’t hear what he hears. I don’t smell what he smells. I refuse to acknowledge the threat the mailman poses. He works for an idiot.
After two episodes, I can safely say that I'm going to like Six Feet Under. I quite liked the feature-length pilot, but I felt it went on about twenty minutes longer than the story required, and the spoof ads aimed at funeral directors were more of a jarring gimmick than a telling commentary on the western way of dying.

Last night's second episode was much better. The spoof ads were gone, and the story actually went somewhere. The performances of the various family members were uniformly excellent (as, in fairness, was the case in the pilot episode) and I foresee interesting times for Nate as he finds himself tied to the family business whether he likes it or not. Six Feet Under isn't quite up there with Oz (which is about to start, so I'll post this update now rather than ramble on), but it's several steps above most of the drama we see from the BBC and ITV.
Monday 17 June 2002, 23:00 BST
Giles, old chap, is that really you?

[Via Found]
The Home Office has postponed the vote on the extensions to the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act because it wants to dispel some "misunderstandings."

According to the story, David Blunkett may be considering a couple of amendments. The idea that only officers at chief executive level will be permitted to apply for access to traffic information is a step in the right direction, though I note that the report says this is with reference to "confidential telephone records" - does this mean that internet access information won't be covered by such restrictions? I couldn't find any reference to this in other stories on the subject, so it's unclear whether this wording is a reflection of the BBC story's emphasis on access to telephone records. I'm afraid the second amendment mentioned, the suggestion that agencies will only request information that is directly relevant to their jurisdiction is utterly pointless. Are the social security investigators really only going to ask for records of telephone conversations with potential employers of a person claiming benefits? (And if they do, how will the mobile phone company know which calls fall into that category? How will an ISP know which of the list of email addresses it's asked to supply is relevant to an inquiry by the Food Standards Agency into a slaughterhouse which is breaching food safety regulations?). Aren't the agencies much more likely to ask for details of all records and then figure out for themselves which ones might be of interest?

For all that, it's extremely good news that the government has delayed the vote on this matter. This gives time more for everyone who has an interest in this matter to visit Stand and find out more, or even to Fax Your MP and tell him or her what you think of the government's proposals.

[Via Haddock.org]
Michael Apted's Married In America is a companion piece to his Seven Up series of longitudinal documentaries. I doubt the series will last as long as his earlier work (next up, Forty-Nine Up), but it's still an interesting proposition, and a useful antidote to sensationalist reality TV.
The erudite Teresa Nielsen Hayden passes on an interesting snippet which explains the roots of the word "editor":
Any New York writer would be fascinated to learn that our word editor can be traced back to the Colosseum. The Latin editor was the head of a gladiatorial school, whose job it was to decide whether a wounded fighter should live or die. Lurking in the sidelines of the arena, the editor gave thumbs-up or -down on purely financial grounds--whether it was worth it to nurse the man back to health in the gladiatorial hospital, or to let him perish like a dog. But the role was too popular to leave to a minor figure. The life-and-death power was later given to the emperor--who, to curry favor, deferred to the masses.
Bear in mind that like her husband Patrick (who writes the excellent Electrolite), Teresa is a professional editor.
Sunday 16 June 2002, 20:55 BST
Dog or Towel? (NB/- scroll down to entry for 12 June 2002.)

[Via Anita's LOL]
Is Scooby-Doo going to be any good? My initial low expectations were raised by Andrew O'Hehir, writing in Salon:
Prinze has never been more enjoyable than as Fred, ascot-sporting leader of the now disbanded Mystery Inc., who has left his Teen Beat cover-boy past behind and is now a motivational speaker (and the author of the book "Fred on Fred"). Beautiful Daphne (Gellar) has taken martial arts training in preparation for some Buffy-esque ass-kicking, although she still wears all-magenta outfits accessorized with seven matching pieces of luggage. Velma (Linda Cardellini, doing her best to impersonate Janeane Garofalo, who I guess was fractionally too old or too talented for this role) works at NASA. And of course, of course, Shaggy (Matthew Lillard) and Scooby are still best pals, living at the beach in the gang's psychedelic painted van, with smoke billowing through the sunroof. (They're grilling eggplant burgers, silly!)

Some actors are destined for certain roles. Olivier, Hamlet. Marlon Brando, Stanley Kowalski. Don Johnson, Nash Bridges. Lillard, who stole the show as the dudealicious villain in the original "Scream" and has saved various crappy movies, from "She's All That" to "Thir13een Ghosts," from being completely unwatchable, is Norville "Shaggy" Rogers. He has the inadequate facial hair, the scratchy, adenoidal voice, the permanently bewildered doofus expression. He has the "Zoinks!" Lillard is able to play the dumbest scripts with a conviction that lends them at least the appearance of meaning. During a scene late in the film when he's trying to rescue a blissfully unaware Scooby from being sacrificed by some kind of monster cannibal Tiki-god cult, Lillard's disquisition on friendship felt so sincere it brought tears to my eyes.
But then Roger Ebert came along, wielding a bucket of cold water:
I pray, dear readers, that you not send me mail explaining the genius of "Scooby-Doo" and attacking me for being ill-prepared to write this review. I have already turned myself in. Not only am I ill-prepared to review the movie, but I venture to guess that anyone who is not literally a member of a "Scooby-Doo" fan club would be equally incapable. This movie exists in a closed universe, and the rest of us are aliens. The Internet was invented so that you can find someone else's review of "Scooby-Doo."

Start surfing.
The trouble is, I have a feeling that Kevin Smith's brief scene featuring a faux-Scooby Gang in Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back wrung about as much humour from the "Scooby Gang with live actors" scenario as one could hope for. That scene lasted about five minutes, but the film will last an hour and a half. I've got a bad feeling about this...

[Roger Ebert review via Amygdala]
What We're Doing When We Blog, by Meg Hourihan. A concise, perceptive analysis of what makes a weblog different from other forms of self-publishing online.

Unfortunately, it would appear that according to Meg's definition this page doesn't qualify as a weblog, as it:
  1. Lacks permanent links to entries;
  2. Lacks timestamps on individual posts, which encourage readers to think of the weblog as a real-time conversation;
  3. Provides no opportunity for feedback on individual posts;
  4. Is updated only once a day.
Point i. will be addressed when I finally get round to redesigning the site (though I'm currently planning to provide a single permalink for each day, rather than links to individual entries), but there's little chance of changes to the rest. Oh well, I suppose I'll have to come up with another designation for version 2 of Sore Eyes.

[Via Kottke]
Jupiter's Rings Revealed. A spectacular view of an eclipse of the Sun by Jupiter, as seen from the Galileo probe.
Over at Making Light, Teresa Nielsen Hayden points out a wonderful online image gallery of photos from Smithsonian Magazine. There are any number of exquisite images, but my favourites are Peter Menzel's Tim Burton-esque flaming goth and Christian Ziegler's procession of ants.

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