The Null Device

2001/9/19

Now this is doovy: Periodical Historical Atlas of Europe, with political boundaries, states/regions, cities and such every hundred years from 1CE to 1700CE (with 1800 and 1900 being worked on). And if you like it enough, you can buy a high-resolution CD-ROM of it. (via Found)

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An interesting report on conscription law in Australia, which suggests that the Howard government did commission a study of whether conscription would be viable for increasing troop numbers in East Timor, and concluded that it wouldn't be. Mind you, WW3 (and an increased Liberal majority in the Senate) could well change this. However, Australian conscientious objection law is (currently) more liberal than in the US.

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During its coverage of the terrorist attacks, FOX News in the US showed a message advertising something called "National Mental Health Assistance", and giving a phone number belonging to the Church of Scientology. The message has been withdrawn after concerns were voiced by Psychlo psychiatric groups. Scientology opposes the discipline of psychiatry, instead preferring to go to the real core of the problem, and dealing with the ghosts of dead aliens or something like that.

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Parking Nazisinspectors in Southend have come under fire for wearing Nazi-like SS insignia on their lapels. The badges in question contain the postal code for Southend, which happens to be "SS". In response to complaints, the Southend Council will change the badges.

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With the cyber-liberties movement's eyes focussed on cryptography bans and a new focus on national security above all else, the SSSCA looks set to sail through Congress, all but unopposed. The SSSCA is, of course, the bill which makes copy control mechanisms mandatory in all digital devices, and makes manufacturers of copy-controlled systems exempt from antitrust laws (essentially guaranteeing a monopoly to Bush campaign donor Microsoft). And once it's law in the US, it will affect the rest of the world. Even if it's overturned five years later, the damage will be irreparable, with the probable extinction of non-trivial free software on widely-available platforms and the "de-commoditisation" of Internet protocols. If you're in the US, call your congressperson -- for your only hope for a future!

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Alas, it appears that the USB audio box I have been playing with doesn't work perfectly with my Mac, as it's an older Mac with an add-on USB card, and it doesn't like that. It works sometimes, though goes silent at other times (probably due to unavoidable extension conflicts). Hopefully they'll fix that sometime soon.

(And while Linux sort of groks it, it is impossible to actually change its configuration from Linux (including mixer settings), making it not particularly useful there.)

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Conspiracy theory of the day: Russia's Pravda reckons that Fidel Castro was really pissed off about the WTC bombing -- because now he won't be the first to strike at America, Or was he?

in 1983, Castro ordered Cuban MiG 23 pilots to program their computers to attack targets in Florida. Among the selected targets was the Turkey Point nuclear plant, which Castro said had the potential of producing a nuclear disaster larger than Chernobyl. According to Gen. del Pino, Castro's words were: "I don't have nuclear bombs, but I can produce a nuclear explosion." The plan included the possibility of suicide attacks, crashing Cuban planes against American nuclear plants and targets in Washington D.C.
Undoubtedly, the suicide bombers were familiar with the structure of the buildings, and knew exactly where to crash their planes to cause maximum structural damage. Short of a computer simulation model, only a close inspection of the WTC towers, or to a building with similar characteristics, would have allowed them to discover the weak points in the building's structure. Did Fidel Castro bring with him some of his highly trained army demolition engineers to study the structure of the Petronas towers?

Though, given that the author compares Castro to Hitler, I suspect that he may have a slight chip on his shoulder.

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An interesting comment on Plastic, speculating on how a war would affect popular culture. Basically, during war, escapism and propaganda become dominant, with dystopian sci-fi/serial-killer films and gothic rap-metal likely to be replaced with feel-good light comedies and syrupy torch songs, alternating with rousingly black-and-white propaganda and stirring patriotic anthems (picture Celine Dion singing God Bless America across the airwaves on heavy rotation; yes, I know she's Canadian, but so's most of the US entertainment industry), and anything edgy and uneasy would not be well received (does this mean that Radiohead's career will come to an end?). In short, the Top 40 of tomorrow will be your grandkids' ironic retro kitsch.

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Another idea for preventing hijackings, without the added cost of Israeli-style armed air marshals: letting armed police fly for free. It could work, you know; if there is an armed out-of-uniform cop on the plane, a hijacking is much more likely to fail; if there might be (and who's to say there isn't?), the odds of success may be sufficiently reduced to make suicide attacks less desirable. (Do you still get the 72 virgins in the afterlife if you're gunned down harmlessly in the aisle, and if that was the most likely outcome?) Though armed air marshals (or at least flight staff trained in hand-to-hand combat) could still be a good idea.

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A new study has shown that cigarettes may have antidepressant-like effects among those prone to depression, which goes some way towards explaining why smoking is so common among depressive people (not to mention shedding light on the study which showed that, in the US, almost half of all cigarettes are smoked by the mentally ill.)

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