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Stalinist Propaganda Posters

One of my favorite Christmas presents this year was a set of vintage Polish propaganda poster calendars from my mother, who found them on sale on a visit to Warsaw last month. My mother was born a year before the war ended, and remembers crying when Stalin died in 1953, so some of these posters bring back a lot of memories for her. To judge by her reaction…


Distributed Search Engines

I promised a post a few days ago about distributed search engines, but I\'ve been dilly-dallying about it. It\'s the holidays, we\'re all full of turkey and cookies.

In my earlier post, I fretted about how Google and other centralized search services like it had become a bottleneck to finding information online, and could therefore become a tempting target in the drive to regulate ( and…


The Colorblind James Experience

I drove three hundred and fifty miles today, from Polish Christmas in Maine to American New Year in Connecticut, and a good hundred of those miles were made sweeter by the Colorblind James Experience. I am at a loss to describe the band in a way that would do it justice – it is a kind of motown jazz sextet by way of circus sideshow – but I can guarantee that you've not heard anything like it.…


Nuclear Wallpaper

I have been holed up with some strange and compelling Cold-War era books on arms control, and on a whim decided to look some of the topics up on the web. In the process, I discovered a fascinating website where you can scare yourself silly about proliferation, learn a lot about how nuclear weapons work, and get some 12.25.2002

Nuclear Tidbit

My fascination with the arms race pays off - did you know that the B-side to Bill Halley's "Rock around the Clock" was a post-nuclear apocalypse sex fantasy called "Thirteen women and only one man"? No, really.…


We Don't Know What We're Doing

I am in Maine for Christmas, far from the madding crowd (or its Vermont equivalent), and I feel vaguely silly writing a serious post about agribusiness. One of the many infuriating things about modern industrial farming is that it makes you feel like a crank just for writing about it. You start out citing facts, and pretty soon you feel like you are out in la-la land. But that’s because all…


Popdex Treachery

Anil and others have already pointed out that Popdex demonstrates the sincerest form of flattery, both in design and in name. But there's yet another reason to be annoyed by the site.

For the past few weeks, I've seen the same IP address come up in my log stats w…


Hello John Ashcroft!

A troubling article today in the New York Times:

The Bush administration is planning to propose requiring Internet service providers to help build a centralized system to enable broad monitoring of the Internet and, potentially, surveillance of its users.

You knew it was only a matter of tim…



Darker and darker today: Megnut reports that our government is busy trying to convince the Third World that condom use is a bad thing.…


Don't Trust Google

Many people have been writing about Google this week - either in response to the Newsweek cover story, or to the recent Wired artic…


Dictator Architects

A crazy article in today's New York Times about totalitarian hijinks and the new "Mother of All Battles" mosque in Baghdad:

First, the minarets.

The outer four, each 140 feet high, were built to resemble the barrels of Kalashnikov rifles, pointing skyward. The inner four, each 120 feet hi…


Blog Categorization

I got invited into an interesting discussion today - the topic is blog categorization - given a set of weblogs ( or blog posts ), how to label them as belonging to a certain topic, and presumably make it possible to search by category, etc. etc.

Much of the 12.13.2002

Sex In Shanghai

Are you a dusty old fetishist interested in Asian women, medical fantasies, and the delights that only a lover of a certain age can offer? And are you are interested in all three together - finding a mature older Asian woman to be your “doctor”? [ I can’t wait to see what Google searches this post will bring in ]. While I’m sure there are a hundred porn sites that will cater to your whim (I a…


It's Always Christmas In Wuhan

There is a lot to love about Wuhan.

First, you’ve never heard of it, and when you go there, you are likely to be the only foreigner around. How often does that happen anymore in the big cities of this world? Make no mistake - Wuhan isn’t a backwater, it’s a bustling, gigantic city full of busy people, with lots to see and do. It just happens that you’re the only white boy around, is …



I can't resist posting this quote, lifted from the sig file of a Perl developer named Brent Dax:

Wire telegraph is a kind of a very, very long cat. You pull his tail in New York and his head is meowing in Los Angeles. And radio operates exactly the same way. The only difference is that there is no cat.

—Albert Einstein (explaining radio)…


To Build A Fire

Today we have a freeze-out! The furnace is wheezing downstairs, unable to light itself, and through the wires I hear from my colleagues that the heating system has died back at the office as well.

Outside air temperature, as of 9:30 AM: three degrees.

Must... not... sleep...…


A Tour of Chongqing

As a college junior, I spent a semester living in Paris, occupying a prim little room in the 15th arrondissement. My French landlady—the widow of a Hungarian nobleman—was a decorous older woman with a complete collection of green Michelin guides to the various provinces of France. Apart from the famous restaurant ratings, the Michelin people put out an imposing series of travel guides to the…



Please note that of December 1, 2002, the following are no longer allowed:

1. Use of the double colon. ( :: ) anywhere outside of Perl source code.

2. failure to capitalize and use 12.04.2002

On Haggling

The Art of the Deal

What I learned on my Chinese vacation: if you are very shy, you will suffer torments trying to buy things. There is no such thing as being inconspicuous - you are a walking giant wallet.

I have always been a terrible shy shopper, easily spooked by salespeople and terrified at the idea of being helped, so don't think I don't sympathize. But I was lucky i…


China Ahead

One of the promises I made to myself before going to China was that there would be no pathetic wandering around Chinese cities looking to get online. It turns out that getting online from China is easy as pie, but a promise is a promise, and so I'm left with a backlog of foreign-travel posts. At least I'm in good company.

I ask both regular readers…

Greatest Hits

The Alameda-Weehawken Burrito Tunnel
The story of America's most awesome infrastructure project.

Argentina on Two Steaks A Day
Eating the happiest cows in the world

Scott and Scurvy
Why did 19th century explorers forget the simple cure for scurvy?

No Evidence of Disease
A cancer story with an unfortunate complication.

Controlled Tango Into Terrain
Trying to learn how to dance in Argentina

Dabblers and Blowhards
Calling out Paul Graham for a silly essay about painting

Attacked By Thugs
Warsaw police hijinks

Dating Without Kundera
Practical alternatives to the Slavic Dave Matthews

A Rocket To Nowhere
A Space Shuttle rant

Best Practices For Time Travelers
The story of John Titor, visitor from the future

100 Years Of Turbulence
The Wright Brothers and the harmful effects of patent law

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