January 2008

I don’t think much of Amazon’s supposedly-targeted advertising emails, or “spam” as I call them. It’s annoying enough that they keep sending me emails pushing their products: I know what Amazon sells, don’t call me, I’ll call you. But what really gets me is emails like the following:

Dear Amazon.com Customer,

Because you’ve bought Mangas, you might like to know you can download free shows from Amazon’s huge new anime store and save up to 30% on seasons. Watch them tonight on your PC or TiVo box.

Mangas? I’ve never bought a manga video in my life, not from Amazon, not from anyone.

And in fact, while I am very interested in purchasing videos by download for watching on my PC, Amazon isn’t interested in selling them to me. They know where I live, so I don’t know why they keep trying to sell me something that they have no intention of providing.


I recently came across this post that briefly discussed the loss of life in the trenches of World War One:

1.4 million French killed in WWI, of a population of 39 million.  3.6% of the total population, and mostly young men.  Fewer than 1 million U.S. soldiers have been killed in all wars in our history and that includes Confederate soldiers.

I had never quite realised just how badly France had suffered in WW1. I’ve frequently been critical of France’s spiteful ill-treatment of Germany after the war, treatment which probably contributed more than anything else to WW2. But, considering the blood they shed to defend their homes, with more than one in ten people killed or wounded, I’m more understanding of them being such poor winners.

I still think they were wrong to do so, but their actions are more understandable.

France had 11% of its people killed or wounded; Austro-Hungary 10%; Germany 9%; Great Britain 8%; Italy nearly 6% and even Australia about 5%.

Not that I’m particularly in a hurry to see the extinction of Homo sap (a.k.a. Pan narrans), but there is something absolutely fascinating about the idea of human beings disappearing from the planet. It isn’t necessary to think that we’re some sort of “cancer” or “virus” to wonder what would happen if humanity disappeared. Watching New York city turning into wilderness in I Am Legend was thrilling, scary and poignant all at once.

That makes the History Channel’s documentary Life After People something worth watching, if you can find it.

I don’t know the context behind this interview with Harlan Ellison. From everything I’ve heard about him, I doubt that it has anything to do with the current writers strike, but I could be wrong.

I missed this when it happened, but it’s never too late for a bit of schadenfreude: SCO was deregistered on December 27th. Couldn’t happen to a more deserving company.

This is what happens when your flagship product is a great big steaming pile of manure, and instead of fixing it, you try to bluff on a great big hand of nothing by claiming that IBM stole your precious, precious software and put it into Linux. It might take a while, but even Microsoft’s money won’t save you.

Here’s their share price five-year chart:


(Click for larger image.)

If you were one of the gullible fools who bought into their story in late 2003, wouldn’t you be feeling silly about now?

Here are a couple of links to short but interesting blog posts:

Mudge from Balderdash writes about bogeymen:

The early fears of the cold war, right after the Soviets acquired atomic weapons, and in the era of the “hordes” of Chinese crossing the border in Korea, were hysterical.  The hysterics led to McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee.  It led to personal bomb shelters in the early sixties.  […]  Gradually, although the Soviets remained rather belligerent, the hysteria subsided.

The post-9/11 era is similar.  The hysteria is, as largely in the 50s, Republican generated and it is greedily ingested by those unfamiliar with cognitive procedures.  The enemy is now the great undifferentiated bulk that is Islam.  And how inconvenient it is that the bogeyman is not a singular horror, but a mixture of Arab, Pakistani, Irani, Turkish (who, of course, get a pass) and (let’s not forget the largest Islamic nation) Indonesian nationalities that practice two, historically incompatible forms of Islam.  As a result, rather than focusing on the small, radical Wahabi sect exemplified by Osama bin Laden, which is too small to generate an appropriate hysterical response, the Bushies have expanded it to all of Islam, most of which is not radicalized against Western civilization. 

And he also talks about the concept of “The Great Wall Of Intellect“, that people — well, okay, he names George W. Bush, but it applies equally to many others — can put their ideas and thoughts behind a wall, proof against any external influences.

I’m not sure that actually applies to Dubyah. He seems to be awfully incurious about, well, everything, but as President he has to have opinions on many things. Unfortunately, he’s ended up surrounded by neo-cons, despite not being one himself. (Or at least, he didn’t start off as one.) Dick Cheney in particular has been known as “the Co-President” for the extraordinary level of influence he’s had in getting Dubyah to swallow Dick’s opinions whole.

Regardless of where the Junior President is getting his ideas from, he’s certainly open to external influence: anybody who flipflops as often as he does can’t be entirely closed-minded.

Just think, if not for Karl Rove and the neo-cons, Dubyah could have been known for nothing more than being the Party President, spending most of his time on holiday at his ranch or entertaining friends in the Whitehouse. Somehow I doubt that the country would be worse off after eight years of inattention.

At the risk of being hit by vast waves of comment spam, I’ve disabled moderation on this blog. Now anyone can comment, provided that their comment passes WordPress’ automatic spam detectors.

Brave or fool-hardy? Time will tell.

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