The Null Device


Video Toaster, the classic Amiga video-editing system, has been released to the open-source community. Mind you, since what made it so useful is dependent on the Amiga's video chipset, it's more a historical curio than anything else.

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New York Bloggers organise a gathering at a trendy restaurant; the management ejected the entire group. So the bloggers googlebombed the restaurant.

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Well, Australians will soon be driving oversized SUVs on the right-hand side of the road, at least metaphorically speaking; The Howard government signs free-trade agreement with US. The issues of local TV content and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme have been ironed out, at least to the satisfaction of our wise leaders, though Australia's sugar industry has been sacrificed. Oh, and we're also committed to extending our copyright terms, adopting draconian paracopyright/scarcity-preservation laws and remodelling our patent/trademark law on the US model. (I wonder if we'll get US fair use provisions in the deal, or whether having an iPod full of ripped MP3s will remain a crime in Australia.) Though at least the Yanks don't get to force their genetically-modified foods into our markets, as some lefties were alleging they would; it looks like most of the direst predictions have been headed off, if you believe the Government's press release; then again, the full text of the agreement is secret, so maybe not.

The Greens said tariff abolition on manufactured goods would cost thousands of Australian jobs while many farmers would be saddled with US tariffs for a generation or more. Quarantine standards would be downgraded, Americans would be able to circumvent investment rules and American drug companies would get the opportunity to override the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme that provides cheap drugs to Australians, the Greens said.

Howard has affected a retroactive tough-negotiator stance, saying that he was on the verge of telling the Americans where to stick their FTA. Meanwhile, Latham has said that Labor may block the FTA in the Senate. Which probably won't happen, leaving the Greens as the voice in the wilderness yet again.

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I caught a train to Flinders St. yesterday evening. Sitting across the aisle from me on the train was a pudgy teenager attired in hip-hop thugwear (Fubu sneakers, a Slim Shady athletic shirt, and the obligatory baseball cap). In one hand he had a can of spray paint, which could be considered fairly typical. In the other, however, he had a translucent plastic bag, the insides of which were spray-painted gold. This he would put to his mouth from time to time and suck on it. As the train approached Flinders St., and the electronic voice on the PA announced this for the second time. Chromeboy rasped in a cracked, high-pitched voice, like a chain-smoking castrato: "yeah, yeah, shut da fuck up."

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Good news: the Earth can, and did, recover from global warming. So we can rest assured that, 150,000 years after the impending mass extinction of humanity and most other life, everything will be back to normal.

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Al-Qaeda (whatever that really is) now has a new weapon in its jihad against America: rap music; more precisely, a militant Islamic rap group from Britain calling themselves the Soul Salah Crew, and whose song "Dirty Kuffar", is a hit throughout the Islamosphere:

The song starts with images of US marines in Iraq cheering as one of them shoots a wounded Iraqi lying on the floor. At the end of the video, it features shots of the hijacked planes flying into the Twin Towers with sounds of the rappers laughing. There is then a list of 56 countries they claim have been the 'victims of American aggression' since 1945.
Excerpt from 'Dirty Kuffar':
Peace to Hamas and the Hizbollah
OBL [bin-Laden] pulled me like a shiny star
Like the way we destroyed them two towers ha-ha
The minister Tony Blair, there my dirty Kuffar
The one Mr Bush, there my dirty Kuffar...
Throw them on the fire

Mohammed al-Massari, the Islamic extremist leader and former Saudi dissident whose website is promoting the song, denies that it is an encitement to terrorist attacks against the West, claiming that the lyrics are only metaphorical. Meanwhile, the authorities are investigating the video.

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OKCupid is another on-line matchmaking site/web-toy for people who enjoy filling in surveys. As the theory goes, you fill in a survey, get a personality type (one of those four-element ones, like the Myers-Briggs or the Spark personality test, only more bootywhang-oriented). Then, to build up your profile by answering random questions from a database; the more you have, in theory, the more "accurate" your matches with strangers online will be.

The questions were mostly submitted by users, so about half of them are poorly-designed to the point of uselessness; many of them one could answer either way depending on context, or consist of inadequate choices ("a) techno; b) trance; c) house; d) I don't like electronic music"), or are US-centric ("Do you have an ambition to visit all 50 states before you die?", "Should the death penalty be abolished?"). Then there are the questions, like "do you think extraterrestrials are watching us?", for which any answer other than skipping it asserts much the same thing (i.e., in this case, a certainty of belief about the unknowable). More interesting are the ones which betray their authors' assumptions: false dichotomies ("Is human life more important than the environment?", which suggests the naïve technocratic worldview of someone raised in a veal pen on a diet of corporate television), straw-men ("Are all human actions fundamentally controlled by a biological desire to survive and reproduce?"; a caricature of evolutionary psychology as seen by someone vehemently opposed to it on ideological grounds), and leading questions ("Do animals have souls like humans do?"). A number of them seem to come from a curious world where modern science is considered with suspicion ("Do you believe in dinosaurs?", "Should creationism and evolution be taught alonside each other?")

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