Blog: 2003-04

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Minor security issue with whatever software on some unknown user's host does a PROPFIND /instmsg/aliases/neil request to my workstation whenever I post email to a certain semi-public email list. I'm not necessarily supposed to know who's subscribed to the list, yet this automatic request their software makes to my workstation gives me the sender an IP address from which the organization, if not the particular individual, subscribing to the list can be discerned.

Periodic update of the Privoxy actions file.

Amusing: "Office workers give away passwords for a cheap pen," The Register, 17-Apr-2003

At least it's healthier than traditional club drugs:

Audi-Oh is a revolution in stimulation technology for men or women. Sound is converted into infinitely variable pulses of pleasure. Audi-Oh* can use ambient sound, like the music in your favorite club, [...]


A funny in the SRFI-19 reference test suite (assuming your Scheme treats all non-#f as true):

(if (cdr verbose) (cdr verbose) #f)

Niall Ferguson article is unabashedly pro-imperialism.

Yet economics alone cannot explain what motivated Machonochie or Bell. The imperial impulse arose from a complex of emotions: racial superiority, yes, but also evangelical zeal; profit, perhaps, but also a sincere belief that spreading "commerce, Christianity and civilization" was not just in Britain's interest but in the interests of her colonial subjects too.

—Niall Ferguson, "The Empire Slinks Back," New York Times Magazine, 27-Apr-2003 issue

Adapted the SRFI-19 reference implementation to interoperate with PLT MzScheme date and add a few other improvements.

For reasons that aren't entirely clear, someone moved Galeon2 from the Debian galeon2 package to galeon. This caused a regression of functionality, usability, and reliability. They've declined to reverse this change. This morning, I've posted 15 bug reports on regressions Galeon2 (1.3.x) has from Galeon 1.2.x. Separate from these bug reports about practical issues, my biggest objection is political: this forced migration from a functional and reliable Gnome1 app to an inferior Gnome2 app raises the question of whether and how Debian users will be forced to migrate to Gnome2, and then later to Microsoft .NET.

Unfortunate wording:

After Brady provided stark details of Sullivan's misconduct, most bishops changed their minds, noting their familiarity with sexual abuse of minors.

—Alan Cooperman, "One Diocese's Early Warning On Sex Abuse," Washington Post, 22-Apr-2003

Just got a Scheme-based monitor for an especially tricky Web site working, compared to which, most news sites will be trivial. Will soon release a new UriFrame version, and also Httper and some non-SXPath SXML query functions.

Unsanitized reports of war conduct that we don't see in mainstream US outlets.

An Arab Assessment of US Policy in the Middle East

I've just caught up on the email backlog, so if I haven't replied to you, then I probably didn't receive your email.

But a large crowd, three thousand people by the marines' estimates, quickly formed around the building. From there, the American and Iraqi version of events are completely different. Col. Andrew P. Frick, commander of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which began arriving here only two days ago, said men in the crowd began firing at the marines. The Americans withdrew into the building and continued to receive fire, he said. When they fired warning shots over the heads of people in the crowd, most of the Iraqis dispersed, he said. When shots continued to hit the governate, the marines decided anyone still in the area was hostile. "The marines said 'OK, the fight is on,'" Colonel Frick said. "And the marines returned accurate fire." Wounded Iraqis in the city's general hospital today gave a starkly different version of events. They said a controversial Iraqi opposition leader, Mishaan Al-Jabouri, started speaking to the crowd and hailing the arrival of American forces in Mosul. "They began throwing stones," said Fateh Tata Abed, a 32-year-old man shot in the chest and upper arm. "And the American forces started shooting at us."

—David Rohde, "Clash in Mosul Complicates Already Troubled U.S. Arrival," New York Times, 15-Apr-2003

At least some outlets picked up on the question of whether critical journalists were being targeted: FAIR Media Advisory, "Is Killing Part of Pentagon Press Policy?," 10-Apr-2003

People averse to nonconsensual photography might want to avoid Kendall Square on Monday:

Wherever you go on Monday, April 14th, bring your camera along and document the world around you - shower tiles, secret classroom yawns, the way the light hits the student center steps, eight straight hours of staring at an emacs buffer, whatever it is you see in your day. [...] "Oh it's such a lovely day outside, but since I'm trapped in this damn lab, I guess I'll take some pictures of people staring at oscilloscopes."

A Day In The Life Of MIT

Photo events like that can be fun; I'd just suggest that people not be shot without permission.

Now it's time again for Poetry Minute:

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream — and not make dreams your master,
If you can think — and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings — nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And — which is more — you'll be a Man, my son!

        —Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936), "If"

Dave Farber posted some of my comments on PDF and media formats. Please pardon my poor Saturday-morning proofreading.

If Mr. Moore believes there's any chance the right-wing extremists behind the Bush administration will be smacked down in the near future, I think he's wildly optimistic.

On behalf of our producers Kathleen Glynn and Michael Donovan (from Canada), I would like to thank the Academy for this award. I have invited the other Documentary nominees on stage with me. They are here in solidarity because we like non-fiction. We like non-fiction because we live in fictitious times. We live in a time where fictitious election results give us a fictitious president. We are now fighting a war for fictitious reasons. Whether it's the fiction of duct tape or the fictitious 'Orange Alerts,' we are against this war, Mr. Bush. Shame on you, Mr. Bush, shame on you. And, whenever you've got the Pope and the Dixie Chicks against you, your time is up.

Michael Moore

The risks of 176-page RFCs:

4. If the message uses the media type "multipart/byteranges", and the ransfer-length [sic] is not otherwise specified, then this self-elimiting [sic] media type defines the transfer-length. This media type UST [sic] NOT be used unless the sender knows that the recipient can arse [sic!] it; the presence in a request of a Range header with ultiple [sic] byte-range specifiers from a 1.1 client implies that the lient [sic] can parse multipart/byteranges responses.

IETF RFC 2616, page 34

(What if the media type can't be arsed?)

In addition to intentionally bombing a residential neighborhood yesterday (reportedly on a tip Hussein was there), it looks like we might have also intentionally attacked the journalists of both Al Jazeera and Abu Dhabi. Jane Perlez, "Al Jazeera Reporter Killed in Blast," New York Times, 8-Apr-2003

An email received yesterday reminds us that the planet hasn't yet been conquered by American pop culture:

Subject: privoxy action file - genuine ??
Date: Sun, 6 Apr 2003 10:41:53 +0100

# $Id: web5.el,v 1.6467 2014/09/05 00:09:49 user Exp $
#     "Today, we're secretly replacing the tracking images normally 
served here
#      with Privy transparent pixel.  Let's see if anyone notices."
# This is a sample Privoxy actions file by Neil W. Van Dyke (at least 
99% by

I downloaded your privoxy action file and was disturbed by the comment 
as above.
Is your file still valid or has it been tampered with.
Newcastle upon Tyne UK

Harper's Weekly Review is well-written, as usual, but this bit caught my eye:

Workers at a Russian marriage agency said interest in finding American bridegrooms was declining because American men are "boring cold Martians with dead eyes."

—Roger D. Hodge, Harper's Weekly Review, 1-Apr-2003

Compare and contrast and Russia even delivers; Canada is just plain off-limits. There is no

Two must-read Harper's articles: (1) Jeffrey Sharlet, "Jesus Plus Nothing: Undercover among America's secret theocrats"; (2) Joy Gordon, "Cool War: Economic sanctions as a weapon of mass destruction."

Three snapshots from Cambridgeport early this morning: class warfare, a Cantabrigian Texan, and a more typically redneck vehicle. The flare off the window edge is real, and funny. (I wish the entire first photo could be shrunk to 800x600 without making the text unreadable.)

Half-jokingly: more evidence that US society is doomed:

John Lewis Gaddis, a professor of history at Yale, agreed, saying: "These are the kids of Reagan. When I lecture on Reagan, the kids love him. Their parents are horrified and appalled."

—Kate Zernike, "Professors Protest as Students Debate," New York Times, 5-Apr-2003

But in the heat of a firefight, both men conceded, when the calculus often warps, a shot not taken in one set of circumstances may suddenly present itself as a life-or-death necessity. "We dropped a few civilians," Sergeant Schrumpf said, "but what do you do?" To illustrate, the sergeant offered a pair of examples from earlier in the week. "There was one Iraqi soldier, and 25 women and children," he said, "I didn't take the shot." But more than once, Sergeant Schrumpf said, he faced a different choice: one Iraqi soldier standing among two or three civilians. He recalled one such incident, in which he and other men in his unit opened fire. He recalled watching one of the women standing near the Iraqi soldier go down. "I'm sorry," the sergeant said. "But the chick was in the way."

—Dexter Filkins, "Either Take a Shot or Take a Chance," New York Times, 28-Mar-2003

Bill Davidson, A Warmonger Explains War to a Peacenik

Snapshot version 0.2 of UriFrame.

Earlier to... 2003-03

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