Saturday, October 12, 2002

THIS INTERACTIVE DEMO of optical illusions in light shading using computer graphics will enthrall you for, well, minutes.
Los Angeles Delis vs. New York Delis.
X10 POP-UP ADS are bad enough, but the latest ones are really infuriating in their historical illiteracy. Can someone explain to me how X10 cameras at the Watergate would've saved the Nixon presidency?
MAYOR BLOOMBERG boycotts the Columbus Day parade, the first mayor in memory to do so, when the organizers sue to keep him from inviting Lorraine Bracco from marching with him.
I'M SEEING OBJECTIONS TO THE plan to use an American military government to lead the transition in Iraq to democracy on the grounds of "colonialism."

My reaction: so what?

What's wrong with a little colonialism? Are people saying that the brown peoples of Iraq aren't worthy of Western-style democracy and freedoms?

I can't think of a better route to peace in the region than the installation of a peaceful freedom-loving Arab government in the Middle East to serve as an aspirational alternative to sharia.

And I would love to see any of these so-called opponents to colonialism speak out against Wahhabist colonialism in Europe or Afghanistan (or the repeated Arab desire to colonize Israel by force and commit genocide in the process). The failure to do so shows that the objection is not to colonialism but to the West and to democracy. It's frankly appalling and close to racist to see people complaining that a repressive and murderous dictatorship might get replaced by a democracy because the people leading the transition aren't the same skin color as the victims of the totalitarian regime.

Friday, October 11, 2002

MORE SCENES FROM THE future civil-liberties dystopia: As Japanese toilet manufacturers continue their well-known game of technological one-upmanship, Matsushita is eyeing the aging population with toilets that collect health data -- measuring body fat and blood presure, performing urinalysis and other tasks -- and transmit it over the Internet to doctors. Japanese civil libertarians are concerned that the data collected and disseminated by toilets will not have the same privacy protections as traditional medical records.

(This puts me in mind of another Japanese gadget that Jakob Nielsen wrote about last year -- an Internet-connected hot pot that alerts you when Grandma makes her tea each day, since you know that if she doesn't have her daily cuppa, there's probably some emergency happening.)
ANOTHER GAS-STATION SHOOTING in Virginia this morning, though a link to the sniper spree hasn't been established as yet. The WaPo report leads with confirmation direct from Gov. Warner himself -- none of those nickel-and-dime county police chiefs this time.

The police are on the lookout for a white Chevy Astro van and are going to great lengths to try to find it; check out the photo from a local TV station showing cops blocking off most of I-95 right by the split onto the Beltway. (The two signs are respectively pointing cars toward the west side of the Beltway ["Tysons Corner"] and the south side of the Beltway ["Baltimore" via 95/495].)

Thursday, October 10, 2002

THE WEBSITE FOR "The Future is Wild", a television series speculating about future evolution coming to the Animal Planet channel in January.
A TRASHY TORONTO TABLOID reports that D.C.-area locals have started to refer to the sniper as "The Tarot-Card Killer". I didn't know that we were doing that -- I thought we were still just saying "the sniper" -- but I'm willing to start using the new nickname if the rest of you are. Actually, I think "The Tarot Sniper" sounds even better, having a nice pulpy Robert Ludlum sort of sound to it, so maybe we can use our Blogosphere Power to try to popularize that one instead. Any other folks from greater D.C. care to comment?
THE NIGERIAN "ADVANCED FEE" SCAM, which in previous years has ramped up its technological level to embrace e-mail rather than postal mail and faxes, has taken another new technological step: West African scammers set up a Web site imitating that of a major British bank, using a domain name just like that of the real bank except with the word "the" stuck at the beginning. Reportely at least two Canadians lost more than $100,000. Those of you who are getting swamped with spam related to the scam and would like to know more about its history should check the Web site of the 419 Coalition, named for the portion of the Nigerian criminal code covering the scam.
MORE ON THE TAROT CARD: Reports I've heard this morning indicate that the reason the cops were upset that the tarot-card information was leaked to the media is because the writing on the tarot card included a warning not to talk to the press about the message; investigators had reportedly been hoping that the sniper might try to contact them again if they honored this request. See the WaPo report on the latest news, including the shooting north of Manassas last night.

Wednesday, October 09, 2002

I'VE ALREADY HEARD ONE cynic darkly hint that the shooting in Kuwait might be a bit of fakery similar to what some people claim about the Tonkin Gulf incident. That's an intriguing new angle that I haven't yet seen show up in the Guardipendent-style opinion pages, even though Fisk wrote a brief little bit about the shooting for today's Independent. (Give him time, give him time.) Fisk's main commentary today, on the other hand, asserts "that if Osama bin Laden ever acquired a nuclear weapon, he'd probably use it first on Saddam" -- obviously the case, since we can so clearly remember the passenger airliners being plunged into Baghdad's tallest skyscrapers, and the bombings of Iraqi embassies in Africa, and all that.

Over in the Grauniad, meanwhile, there's a commentary so sensible that I'm still wondering if it's just that arid British irony at work again. (We can forgive the erroneous reference to Wal-Mart as a "supermarket chain"; this is a mistake commonly made by Brits ever since Wal-Mart bought one of their big supermarkets a while ago.)
JIM HENLEY OF UNQUALIFIED OFFERINGS discovered that Seanbaby has an archive of those Hostess snack ads that turned all your favorite comic-book heroes into shamless shills. Huzzah! By the way, the cover of the latest Betty and Veronica digest magazine at the supermarket across the street from my office shows Veronica on a two-person Segway driven by her chauffer. (However, out of all the things I've seen in the checkout line of the supermarket across the street recently, nothing can hold a candle to the cover story in last week's Weekly World News.)

Hey, Captain Spaulding -- how's about a comic-book nickname for our man Henley?
HOW DO YOU KEEP gabby coworkers from bothering you when you're trying to get something done? The WSJ's "Cubicle Culture" column says the products on offer now -- including color-coded blocks and folding cardboard cubicle doors -- still aren't as reliable as you might hope. (Green pyramids and red cubes, sure, but what about the blue diamonds and purple horseshoes?)

In other news from the world of good and bad manners, Barbara M. over at has been looking at the latest "Bridezilla" tale making the e-mail rounds, and also provides a link to the highly entertaining Etiquette Hell page.
SPEAKING OF THE tarot card angle: A caller to the radio show I was listening to this morning, saying he was an ex-Marine, claimed that snipers in Vietnam used to leave playing cards (usually the Ace of Spades) behind as a calling card after a kill. I think he said they'd write their unit number on the card as well. Digging around the Web for some corroboration, I found an old newsletter that contains this aside on page 12:
Interesting piece of religious symbolism that could be used somewhere: the "Ace of Spades". As a small group fear tactic, the hunter/killer teams used to pin an ace of spades onto the chief they'd just killed.
Might be just a coincidence, but seemed interesting enough to pass along.
CHARLES JOHNSON, CALL YOUR OFFICE. Captain Spaulding links to an ancient episode of The Lucy Show, but the interesting part of the link is the mysterious pop-up ad for...wait for it!...Saudi Arabia! With images of green doves, the pop-up, titled "The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia - allies against terrorism", invites people to sign up for a mailing list and visit I imagine the only reason we haven't seen this pop-up sooner is that the newspapers have refused them? A shame, because I can't think of any way to alienate the American people faster than to blizzard them with pop-up ads. I suppose my real annoyance with pop-up ads is the decrepit memory features of Windows, and how opening and closing the new windows permanently sucks memory away, causing computer crashes and unnecessary reboots. I know, I know, get a Mac.
Quoting law enforcement sources, WUSA television reported that detectives who recovered a shell casing in woods near Monday's shooting, when a 13-year old boy was badly wounded, found a Tarot card known as the "Death Card" with a message scrawled on the back that read: "Dear Policeman, I am God."

"I am not going to talk about the investigation. I will not talk about the investigation, I will not put people in harm's way so that people can have good sound bites," Police Chief Charles Moose of Montgomery County, Maryland, told local television on Wednesday.

WUSA said Prince George County police declined comment on any evidence that might have been located. Contacted about the report, a police spokesman told Reuters that she could not confirm it.

But Moose reacted angrily when asked about the alleged message, saying he was disappointed at his own team.

"I would like to think that anything about the investigation would be run through me and released by me," the frustrated police chief said.

"Someone in the team, someone on the law enforcement community has done something I find very inappropriate. It indicates that I don't have control of the team," Moose added.
When will police learn that "I am disappointed that someone on the team has leaked this information" is a confirmation, and defeats the purpose of refusing to confirm the information? WaPo coverage; WashTimes missed the tarot card angle. Good news from the Post is that police are deeming "frivolous" attempts by "psychics" to help them.

Tuesday, October 08, 2002

THE PRIOR-ART-O-MATIC says, "Max Power is like a normal teddybear, but it doesn't always work." Yeah, you're telling me.
CINDERELLA'S FRIEND DINAH IS back with Part 3 of "Idiotarianism and its Metaphors". This week, Dinah looks at comparisons of Israelis to Nazis. If you missed the first two metaphors, they were The Third World as Monastery and The Third World as Safari Park.
THE WAPO'S FEATURES SECTION sicced its Elite Thumbsucker Squad on the spree-sniper story and came up with two pieces today: one bit of armchair evolutionary behaviorism on how we're going to get used to this the way we've gotten used to everything else bad, and another article trying to nail down just what variety of multiple-killer we've got ourselves here. Meanwhile, a couple of Metro-section reporters managed to profile the poor kid who was shot yesterday while still not identifying him by name.

Update: Corrected the first link.

Sunday, October 06, 2002

DADDY CHAPMAN IS seeking opinions from any American lawyers out there.
ASIAN REGIONAL ECONOMIC cooperation pushed by Malaysia's prime minister: takes from newspapers in Malaysia and Singapore among others.
I USUALLY HATE IT when I get a song stuck in my head forever, but right now my brain is stuck on Shaggy's "Oh Carolina", a song I adore. Why can't it be this way more often?
CRAZY FINNS AND THEIR homemade computer in a VCR case...
SOME WHITE SOUTH AFRICANS are still clinging to apartheid by listening to a far-right radio station that boasts of not hiring any black employees (which is illegal). Like white supremacists here in the U.S., they are trying to co-opt leftish language by looking for their own "homeland" and "self-determination".