The Null Device


An anti-pigeon programme involving trained hawks in a New York park has been suspended after one of the hawks swooped down and seized a chihuahua. As the owner of a cat who considers chihuahuas to be prey, I find this amusing. (via jwz)

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A Canadian company has developed a pheromone spray which instills fear in rivals. The spray contains androstenone, a male hormone signalling dominance, and causes the wearer's opponents to "subconsciously feel fear, intimidation and submission". It is aimed at athletes seeking an advantage in sporting competitions; however, as the street finds its own uses for things*, one can imagine non-athletic applications for it. Riot police, ticket inspectors, skinheads and football hooligans could all find uses for it, for example; meanwhile, high-pressure businessmen could wear it to "psych out" their rivals. And perhaps some adherent of the "chicks dig jerks" school of sexual relations will even apply it to picking up women.

And speaking of women, I wonder whether androsterone would be as effective when worn by a woman. If the rumour about female MPs in Britain having testosterone implants to better compete in the territorial sparring ground of Parliament is true, that could be an entire market in itself.

* aside: perhaps this statement should be referred to as Gibson's Law or something?

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Over the time I've been writing in this blog, I've become aware of two different philosophies of what a blog is for:

  1. A blog is a chronological list of links to articles/sites on the web viewed by its compiler (that is, quite literally, their "web log")
  2. A blog is a chronological list of short pieces containing commentary or opinion, and often linking to the subject being commented on

Blogs started out as (a), a sort of shared hotlist in chronological order, with minimal commentary. Gradually, the human instinct for self-expression (or, if you will, the tendency of memes to reproduce themselves at every possible opportunity) won out and blogs expanded into longer entries, with more analysis, commentary, opinion, personal prejudice and/or miscellaneous rambling. The requirement for each blog entry to be a link to a URL on the web gradually fell by the wayside, with many blogs being indistinguishable from journals, chronologically-arranged photo albums or a combination thereof.

Anyway, while writing in this blog, I became aware of a tension between these two uses. Is this blog a chronological record of sites I've seen, or a place to write in? If I link to every Grauniad article and SourceForge project of interest, it will drown out the actual content in the blog, and the signal-to-noise ratio will deteriorate. However, to maintain a blog worth reading, only a fraction of the things I look at and find interesting get blogged.

Consequently, I have just added a new section: the linklog. This is what it sounds like, a chronological list of links to URLs. There's no commentary (other than the title), and less editorial honing than in the main blog proper; I'll post articles to it as I see them, without taking the time to comment on them; though later the links may be used in longer entries in the main blog.

The linklog is now visible in the sidebar of the blog page. There is no user comments facility there, nor will there be (if you wish to comment on any of these links, mention it in your own blog; there are several sites which allow you to keep a blog quite cheaply if not for free).

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A US toy company has released a George W. Bush action figure. The Elite Force Aviator George W. Bush figure depicts the Leader of the Free World in naval aviator uniform, modelled exactly on the one he wore on his heroic landing on an aircraft carrier off the Californian coast. (via jwz)

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Because it's Soft Target Day today: True fact: as well as the weblog meetup, Melbourne has the third largest Goth Meetup in the world, behind only Toronto and Houston. (Houston? Not New Orleans or Seattle or some place?). Come along and you can hope to meet cool, interesting people like the following:

I am a child of the grave. Interested to meet you... *In My shallow grave in hell My soul and I are one*
hey u goths out there! my name is Sandra and i am 13, i am getting a nose ring and my mum wont let me get a lip ring but wen i get 1 im gonna get a chain and connect it 2 my ear. that pic isnt me but i wish it waz.
Hi all, I'm Laura, a 14 year old Goth and live in Mentone, Melbourne, Australia. I'm anxious to meet other Goths like myself, and hopefully a Goth boi. One of my favourite movies is Queen Of The Damned, and I love the taste of blood, yum yum! :P

I know, taking the piss out of goths is (to steal a phrase from P.J. O'Rourke) like hunting dairy cows with a high-powered rifle and sniper scope. Though it's better to go goth clubbing than baby seal clubbing, I say.

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Silicone-enhanced pop puppet Britney Spears may soon have her own TV talk show. Funny, that; some time ago I speculated that, in 2015 or so, "Britney" would be the highest-rating talk show in America. Jennifer Lopez is also planning one, which sounds like it could well be Ali G without the irony.

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A Spiked article on the epiphenomenon of people putting off "growing up"; from twenty- and thirty-somethings dressing as candy-raver kids, collecting stuffed toys and retro playthings and reliving an idealised second-time-around adolescence at institutions like "School Disco", to "boomerang kids" moving back in with their aging parents.

The reinterpretation of personal commitment as a risk represents a health warning to anyone foolish enough to desire passionate engagement. The equation of love with risk is fuelled by a tendency to accommodate to the problems experienced by adults in their relationships. One pragmatic response to this state of affairs is to declare that the expectations that we have of intimate relationships is unrealistic. 'Be careful, you may get hurt' is a message that reflects the temper of our times. The anxieties that surround relationships have encouraged many adults to avoid or at least to postpone thinking about making a commitment to others.

Meanwhile, those who do move out of home are largely choosing to live alone, rather than in de-facto relationships:

The rise of the singleton appears to be a global phenomenon, impacting on industrial societies throughout the world. Back in 1950, about three per cent of the population of Europe and North America lived alone. Since that time, virtually every industrial country has seen a massive rise in the number of single-person households. In Britain, seven million adults live alone - three times as many as 40 years ago. The 2002 edition of Social Trends estimated that by 2020, one-person households will constitute 40 percent of the total number of households.

(I lived with my parents (in Ferntree Gully the outer darkness) until my mid-20s, using the money I saved to buy music gear, CDs imported books and other extravagances. Then I fled the suburbs, and (other than a brief stint in a sharehouse), have been living by myself. I have yet to meet anyone I fancy enough to want to live with (let alone buy real estate with). I guess this trend means that I'm not weird, just ahead of the curve.)

Some are saying that "extended adolescence" lasts until one turns 35; though if you're over that age, fear not, as you have another 10 years of "middlescence". (And once the hip GenX "middlescents" reach 45, they'll surely come up with another term for 45-to-55s who spend their lives at play.) And TV shows and movies are idealising being young or young-at-heart; being grown-up (at least in a sincere sense) is unhip.

Though is that really so pathological? Should people move out of home at 18, get married and have children in their early 20s, get a serious job, wear their hair at an appropriate length and spend their money on paying off the 5-bedroom suburban dream home as God/Nature/John Howard intended, rather than on PlayStations and backpacking trips to Thailand and Hello Kitty knickknacks and iPods and CDs and Cooper Minis and futurephones and ironic Dangerfield argyle jumpers? Or is the traditional definition of adulthood itself unnatural, a construct of the Industrial Revolution/the Victorian Era/the Calvinist work ethic?

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