The Null Device
An international master criminal to rival Jon Johansen, the 15-year-old Lex Luthor of Norway, has cracked the Microsoft Reader "eBook" copy-protection system, and apparently released a program, including source code, for removing copy-denial from books, allowing them to be converted to HTML or other formats. Dan Jackson claims that the software is legal under the Berne Convention, though should probably avoid flights entering US airspace anyway. (via Charlie's Diary)
A researcher at the University of Hertfordshire (though it doesn't say which faculty he's attached to) claims that luck is a real phenomenon; there are "lucky" and "unlucky" people, and the former differ from the latter by having a more positive outlook on life. As such, Richard Wiseman has been running a "luck school" to teach people how to be more lucky, and claims an 80% success rate.
Of course, if that's too simple for you, you could always send money to "Bob" and request him to tilt the Luck Plane favourably for you.
A list of overhyped and underreported news stories for 2002. Overhyped are things like Iraq's weapons of mass destruction/speculative terrorist links; and the list of underreported stories is telling:
White House Propaganda:
Majority of Americans Are Not Fooled:
Revitalized U.S. and World Peace Movement:
Afghanistan: And if we're to instigate "regime change" and democracy in Iraq, how about looking at the country where we promised exactly the same thing only a year ago? Afghan democracy American-style has been a disaster, with a puppet regime in Kabul and new U.N. offices sucking up the foreign aid, while women suffer just as much and Afghanistan remains impoverished and terrorized by many of the same warlords, who are committing many of the same crimes that turned the wretched country into the killing fields during the Northern Alliance's first reign of terror. And those warlords are being funded with U.S. dollars, via the Pentagon, who's been paying them to hunt the Taliban. Oh, and it was a record harvest for poppies this year.
White House Power Grab: Occasional flurries, like Dick Cheney's noisy refusal to release information on who wrote his energy policy, made the news. But on endless fronts, this White House and its Congressional allies have reserved for themselves an unthinkable array of powers -- everything from keeping details of legislation secret until the last moment to imprisoning Americans without charges or counsel on nothing more than the President's say. A full list of the ways in which our unelected president is becoming emperor would be useful. We're still waiting.
(Meme of the day: Bush Jr. as the second Emperor of the United States, only 120 years late.)
Bush's Foxes, Our Henhouses: Turns out our emperor put a stop to the revolving door between corporate America and the White House -- by appointing people who never used the door, and never stopped working for the industries they came from. Particularly at the Undersecretary level, almost every conceivable segment of America's corporate economy now has a friend on the inside looking for ways to maximize its profits. Food safety, media ownership, land use, bankruptcy law, tort reform, pollution, tax law, anti-trust protection, and on, and on. Any one of these is a scandal. Three are a trend. Several dozen and you've got a looting spree of historic proportions.
Via Richard's blog, a USENET rant on why XML is evil. It meanders a bit, in the classic crackpot sense (the extension of the metaphor of XML as a bad child into a reference to diaper fetishism, segueing into a digression on why Americans like big breasts, is but one example), but I must say I agree somewhat with the sentiment; to whit, XML is useful as a markup language for text, but putting everything in XML (as some are advocating) is just silly. For one, for most things, there is too much syntactic overhead compared with other formats, and the idea seems to suffer from the Microsoft Fallacy (i.e., the assumption that clock cycles are too cheap to care about and may be squandered at will).
(I was thinking recently of the data format for a project I've been working on (more info on that later), and was toying with making it XML-based; after all, everybody else is doing it, aren't they? Though I'll probably make it some sort of Python-like pseudocode notation, or something otherwise lighter.)
Via the Smoking Gun, the best mugshots of 2002. No celebrities here, just an endless procession of bad haircut, criminal dress sense and goofy expressions. Enjoy. (via Jim)
Rampaging redneck philosopher Jim Goad (of "Answer Me!" fame) on his time in the porn industry in Portland, Oregon, and the searing contempt he developed for the hypocritical polite fiction of "sex-positive" culture, and indeed anything else associated with the porn industry:
By and large, porn is stupid. Bad shitrock and bad haircuts and bad childhoods and bad, bad, bad taste. Its all a joke, told at its own expense. Pornography is little more than "Reality TV" without clothes.