Halberds to slash Brits with

Sometimes you read a news item about something so propesterously stupid, you wonder how the people that the protagonists belong to have so far managed to escape all of Darwin’s traps.

I won’t name and shame here, if only because the other day I read such a news item about the Dutch: apparently, the city of Amsterdam has allowed tour guides to arm themselves with real halberds in order to attack rowdy British tourists and drug addicts.

The guides in question were giving tours of the seedier parts of town in historical costumes, wearing fake halberds made of wood. Their permit specifically states that the halberds may not be used as a weapon or a deterrent.

Suuuuuure! Let me have that Uzi that I need as a … a prop! That’s right, a prop!

(Source: Het Parool (Dutch).)

Dear sirs and other assorted animals

People want to believe that their car is special, individual. When I was working the lot at the used car place, we used to keep a car out back and we would shove dead pigeons under the hood. Dead pigeons, man. That car was waiting for the perfect customer, a little old lady with a wicker purse. We convinced her the car ate pigeons. She was thrilled. We sold haunted cars, cursed cars. We sold cars that made you lucky in love. We sold cars that famous people had spat on.

(From an application letter to Toyota.)

As Goldfinger said: “Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, and third time it’s enemy action.”

Well, this is the second time someone refers me to Joey Comeau’s fake job application letters, but I am a lazy git, so I already declare enemy action. By which, of course, I mean writing this entry.

Here’s some more, from a letter to Microsoft:

You have billions of dollars, and I will spend as much of it as I can. I don’t know what I will spend it on, and that’s part of the point. Tomorrow I’ll wake up and I’ll want to fund robotics research to make prettier butterflies that land on the fingers of children. I’ll want to give the world another credible Loch Ness Monster sighting, another downed UFO in the desert, another moon landing.

Tomorrow I’ll wake up certain that money can make the world into the best kind of theme park, where nobody knows they’re being had, where the suspension of disbelief is reinforced by seeing everything on the news at night. The news at night should have more smiling faces.

Let’s hope Joey will never ever get a job.

(Via Clancy’s.)

My Reading List (A Science-fictiony Christmas)

On May 2, 2103, Elwood Caswell walked rapidly down Broadway with a loaded revolver hidden in his coat pocket. He didn’t want to use the weapon, but feared he might anyhow. This was a justifiable assumption, for Caswell was a homicidal maniac.

Thus begins Robert Sheckley’s Bad Medicine. On December 9, one of the few authors present in Project Gutenberg with copyrighted works, Sheckley passed away at age 77 in Poughkeepsie, USA. The New York Times says in its obituary of Sheckley that he “is considered one of science fiction’s seminal humorists, and a precursor to Douglas Adams”; but “a better comparison might be to Kafka, a fabulist who could never understand why his friends didn’t laugh when he read his stories to them”.

Speaking of lineages: the other day I saw someone observe that Terry Pratchett “must surely have read, and enjoyed, the Kai Lung books by Ernest Bramah“. I am fairly new to Pratchett, but have read enough to feel that checking out Bramah may be worthwhile.

The connection between Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams is of course that of both has been said that they admire(d) P.G. Wodehouse. Adams discovered Sheckley and Wodehouse after he had started his Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy trilogy, and claimed that the Wodehouse influence must have been immediate when writing The Restaurant at the End of the Galaxy.

(Also posted at Teleread.)


I don’t think I ever quite got the blogroll concept; the list of links you see in the sidebar of this page are blogs that I try and read daily.

Some of the other sites that I visit from time to time:

Slashdot competitors Webwereld (Dutch), Heise (German) and The Register. Heise is probably the best of these four, but I rarely read it. I used to read Webwereld almost every day, but a recent site overhaul made it a much worse place to be.

GIMP people: Tigert and Carol.

For Teleread I try and keep track of what’s happening at Digibieb (Dutch), the digital library of the town of Oss, and the Digital Media Europe news site (not a blog).

Hill Street Blues

As a young teenager I loved Hill Street Blues, and as an older teenager St. Elsewhere even more so. Seeing afternoon reruns nowadays the shows look seriously dated. But still, now and again I catch a glimpse of what I liked so much.

For instance, Frank Furillo has no time to talk to his ex-wife Fay, who wants to share her joy of having found out the baby she is expecting is going to be a girl. Then tough, hard desk-sergeant Phil Esterhaus, who has all the time in the world, and who also wants to be seen as the thinking empath, steps in and asks her all the right questions to enable her to share that joy. It has that insincerity in it that grown-ups have, and the lack of shame in showing it that seems like the lack of shame children have through inexperience, but is of course quite the opposite: lack of shame despite experience.

Either Esterhaus is tough, or he is touchy-feely. One of them is an act. And Fay knows it, because she plays the same game for pretty much the entire series. (Which is why she is one of those rare characters that you love to hate. Name some more in the comments please.)

I am probably not explaining it right, but it brought back some way of looking at the world that I lost somewhere while growing up, and could not even remember until something like Hill Street Blues reruns came along.

And what I liked back then about that scene was that grown-ups (embodied by the show’s writers) were capable of seeing that they were acting the way they were.

God, too, recommends Firefox

After one of the two head-rabbis of Israel admitted to using the Firefox webbrowser over Satan’s Internet Explorer, because it “keeps out the schmutz”, and almost all of New York admitted to same, now God has been discovered to give a glowing recommendation.

Source: Köllner Stadt-Anzeiger

To the left in the picture is the variable star V838 Monocerotis, to the right the Firefox logo. Skeptics may point out that the image of the V838 is much older than the design of the Firefox logo, and that it merely took the light of the former a long time to reach earth, and to them I would like to say: Pfrllt! Go back to masturbating!

Next up: Bill Gates getting wedgies from Invisible Man.

(Via Sargasso. Skeptics will take a break from their physical excertions to tell me that this is old news. As if I look like I care.)

Sans Famille

If you are one of my Dutch readers and would like to help out proofreading for Project Gutenberg, there is now a little project doing the rounds that seems to fit these dark, cold days just nicely: “Alleen op de Wereld” by Hector Malot is currently being processed by Project Gutenberg’s Distributed Proofreaders. Anyone can sign up and correct a page or two.

If you don’t know Alleen op de Wereld (original title: Sans Famille), it is the story of the orphan Remi, who gets bought by the owner of a dog troop, Signor Vitalis. The small troop visit villages in the French countryside where they perform sketches with the dogs as actors. Then Vitalis dies and Remi is left alone with his dogs, with nowhere to go…

(Yes, boohoohoo, now go and proofread.)

The Right likes Microsoft

The Sargasso blog has tested it, and it turns out that people who read right-wing blogs have a slight preference for using Microsoft’s Internet Explorer web browser (Dutch), whereas the visitors of left wing blogs are split 50/50 on the whole browser issue.

Of course the methodology used is entirely unsound, as opposed to a recent survey held by video blog Rocketboom, which found out that everybody uses Firefox. The trick to statistical validity: have a good-looking blond chick present the data, and I will believe anything. Anything, I tells you!

Both items found through Ini Kim, who has quit his maternity leave, and is now blogging again. Marriage/fatherhood apparently does wondrous things to one’s hormonal balance, as Ini is the only one who manages to make somewhat lucid statements (Dutch) about Rocketboom’s “research”: if the survey proves anything, it is that regular people now understand the internet to the point that “they understand questions about it and are able to formulate a coherent answer”.

Barbie v. Barby death match

Google results for Barbie: “Activities and games for girls online!”, “Servers are busy”, “Mattel”, and “Our toys”.

Google results for Barby: “Barby porno”, “מועדון הבארבי”, “Barby is bad”, “Girl guides and girl scouts everywhere” and “der bezaubernden Stadt an der Elbe-Saale-Mündung”.

Just so that 30th century archeologists know.

Low-tech web bookmarking solution using browser-based situational knowledge

[slice of Yoho the Blog]

Do you, if you need to scroll a long web page up and back down, for instance because you need to look up the bloke’s name to decide whether it was Weinberg or Weinberger, select part of the text to remember where you were?

Because I do.

(Undoubtedly this is illegal in some countries, like the Directory Traversal Attack.)