Ripping Yarns...
Thrilling adventures at the frontiers of pop culture

"The very finest selections from Mr Berners-Lee's Electric Interweb, hand picked and presented for the more discerning browser."


Complaints and compliments to Stuart Houghton


Friday, October 31, 2003

Not sure why I want this...

...but I do.

Posted by: Stuart / 4:37 pm ::link to this entry

MS Google? Say it ain't so!

According to the NY Times [free reg required] Google has been in discussions with Microsoft about the possibility of a buyout.

This is about the worst news possible, I think. All the great things about Google - clean interface; adwords; innovative features; platform independence, etc. - are surely the first things that MS would jettison as they rebranded The Worlds Greatest Search Engine and slapped a load of MS-Passport/.NET/corporate bias 'features' in place.

Posted by: Stuart / 3:10 pm ::link to this entry

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Hunt the Boeing!

Interesting 9/11 conspiracy theory site that asks 'What happened to the Boeing that hit the Pentagon?'

Posted by: Stuart / 5:37 pm ::link to this entry

Flash Planetarium

Nice flash based planetarium.

Posted by: Stuart / 5:22 pm ::link to this entry

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

The Dark Art of Interrogation

Long, fascinating article on torture/coercion/interrogation.

CIA psychologists have tried to develop an underlying theory for interrogation—namely, that the coercive methods induce a gradual "regression" of personality. But the theory is not convincing. Interrogation simply backs a man into a corner. It forces difficult choices, and dangles illusory avenues of escape.

Posted by: Stuart / 3:09 pm ::link to this entry

Declassified CIA Interrogation Manual

The "KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation" manual does more than simply outline various psychological and physical torture tactics: it demonstrates a real-world application of the CIA's mind control research and offers clues on the agency's role in human rights abuses around the world.

Posted by: Stuart / 12:27 pm ::link to this entry

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

GM microorganisms found in Japanese sandwiches

TOKYO — Subway Japan Inc, the Japanese affiliate of the major U.S. sandwich chain Subway Restaurants, on Friday stopped selling sandwiches after its import dealer found that the bread dough had contained an enzyme derived from unauthorized genetically-modified microorganisms.

Posted by: Stuart / 4:29 pm ::link to this entry

Eric Idle blogs his way around America

Eric Idle has a tour diary up on to document his Greedy Bastard Tour.

I think of Mike setting out on his great journeys. Well mine won't be so bold. Around North America in Eighty Days. He's probably in Pakistan eating dog with an Oxford educated goat-herder and part-time weapons dealer, while I am headed for an executive class seat on Air Canada, but chaque a son gout, as the French say when looking at English food. I still feel somewhat nervous encroaching on the Palin territory of writing a travel diary based on a journey and perhaps I should avoid the whole coffee table book concept. Perhaps I can skip straight to the dining table book and produce a book so large eight people can have dinner on it. I want to avoid any unpleasant sense of stealing Michael's thunder, though it is true, I reason, that all the Pythons' have been involved in documentaries: Jonesy walked half way to Jerusalem in crusader armour holding a spear, Gilliam is the heroic subject of a classic documentary about the non - making of a movie, and even Cleesy went to Madagascar to invade the privacy of the lemurs. So this must be a Python thing. What is this urge to probe and examine by ex-comedians? Are they tired of dressing up as women? Surely not.

Posted by: Stuart / 12:43 pm ::link to this entry

Monday, October 27, 2003

Canadian takes World Rock, Paper, Scissors title

The winner, who netted $3,825, was Toronto's Rob Krueger, a member of the "Legion of the Red Fist" team. He took the lofty title of World RPS Champion with a combination of rock-paper-paper, defeating his opponent's three rocks.

Posted by: Stuart / 5:28 pm ::link to this entry

Pentagon wants 'mini-nukes' to fight terrorists

Apparently the current "cumbersome Cold War-style weapons are no longer appropriate in an era when one superpower is dealing with a number of terrorist threats and smaller, hostile states. Enemies of the United States can gamble on them never being used."

So... some dingbats at the Pentagon have suggested making 'low-yield' nuclear weapons that, because of their (perceived) lower collateral damage, are more likely to be used and are thus a more credible deterrent.

The mayor of Hiroshima, Tadatoshi Akiba, expressed his concern this month that "the policy of the United States has now shifted towards something that will be used".

No shit.

Of course, it stands to reason that the development of easily portable, 'clean' nuclear weapons suitable for taking out small areas will definitely reduce the possibility of terrorist attack. I mean, terrorists would never be able to get hold of any technology that 'we' use like ex-soviet nukes, biochemical weapons or, erm,
passenger aircraft, now would they?

Posted by: Stuart / 2:29 pm ::link to this entry

Sunday, October 26, 2003

Airport security loses it over farting toy dog

A novelty toy dog that farts as it bends over has sparked a major security alert at Norfolk airport, Virginia.

Armed security staff sprang into action after something in the dog's "wind breaking" mechanism apparently registered as the high explosive TNT on their sensitive equipment.

Posted by: Stuart / 5:15 pm ::link to this entry

Friday, October 24, 2003

The Ten Geekiest Hobbies

Complete with 'Public Humiliation' and 'Damage to Sex Life' percentage ratings!

Posted by: Stuart / 11:03 am ::link to this entry

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Mold Dogs

You've heard of bomb dogs? Drug dogs? Arson dogs?
Now, Man's Best Friend is the latest weapon in the war on mold.

I really wish I was making this stuff up...

Posted by: Stuart / 5:35 pm ::link to this entry

Ninja Olympics!

Battling it out in such events as Walking on Water, Moat Wall Climbing, Moat Wall Diving, Water Spider River Crossings and Star Throwing, combatants took part in the All Japan Ninja Championships.

Posted by: Stuart / 2:07 pm ::link to this entry

Outside The Inboxs

A whole album of songs inspired by spam. Includes 'Urgent Business Relationship', 'Do You Measure Up?' and many, many more.

Posted by: Stuart / 1:53 pm ::link to this entry

Control Arms: Million Faces Petition

Control Arms is a joint campaign organised by Oxfam, Amnesty International and IANSA with the aim of persuading governments to regulate the arms trade. On way they hope to do this is the Million Faces Petition - a visual petition that will be presented to the UN in 2004. If you want to 'sign' th epetition, click the link above for further details.

I had my photo done at work, and it was only after it was taken that I thought 'Hmm, maybe having that photo of the Unabomber behind me wasn't such a great idea after all...'

Posted by: Stuart / 1:26 pm ::link to this entry

New review on ASCII Monkey

The AM RSS feed is broken at the moment, but I have just put up a review of Mark Leyner's The Tetherballs Of Bougainville.

Posted by: Stuart / 11:07 am ::link to this entry

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

The Picture Of Everything

Amazing, incredibly detailed drawing of.. everything.

Posted by: Stuart / 5:55 pm ::link to this entry

MS attempts anti iTunes FUD

Nice article in The Register about how Microsoft are trying to convince users that their proprietary, restrictive DRM music solution is better than Apple's proprietary, restrictive DRM music solution.

Posted by: Stuart / 4:32 pm ::link to this entry

Monday, October 20, 2003

Calvin and Hobbes Resurrection Site

Great fan site about a Boy and his Tiger, or a Tiger and his Boy. If you've never read Calvin & Hobbes, you should - it is simply one of the greatest comic strips ever written.

Posted by: Stuart / 12:11 pm ::link to this entry

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Bush to announce War On Irony

"Bush told his senior aides Tuesday that he "didn't want to see any stories" quoting unnamed administration officials in the media anymore, and that if he did, there would be consequences, said a senior administration official who asked that his name not be used."


Posted by: Stuart / 4:37 pm ::link to this entry

Kids today don't know they're born, etc.

Electronic Gaming Monthly gets a load of kids to play the classic arcade games of their parent's youth.

On Space Invaders...
EGM: How long could you play this game before you got bored?

Sheldon: About 15 minutes.

Andrew: If you take it on the road and play it on your cell phone, then you might play it pretty long.

Nico: There's nothing else to do.

Andrew: Except look at nature.

EGM: Would you rather play this or play outside?

Andrew: Outside.

Nico: This game needs a super bomb or something.

Tim: This is nothing compared to Grand Theft Auto III, because you can't steal a taxi cab, pick up somebody, then drive into the ocean with him.

Kirk: And you can't pick up an AK-47 and go kill—hey, those aliens on the top row, you use them in EGM for stuff.

EGM: Yeah, we use them to end our articles. They do kinda look like they're from Space Invaders, don't they?

Tim: They're going to sue you.

Kirk: I'm sure everyone who made this game is dead by now.

Posted by: Stuart / 3:05 pm ::link to this entry

But can you dance to it?

Click the link above, go on... click it. CLICK IT!

Posted by: Stuart / 2:50 pm ::link to this entry

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Compass Phone points to Mecca

LG Electronics has launched a mobile phone with an integrated compass that is being targetted to the Middle Eastern market.

Posted by: Stuart / 4:23 pm ::link to this entry

Kazaa effectively tells users 'start looking for a new P2P service'

The world's most popular song-swapping network, Kazaa, has thrown its weight behind a plan to start billing song swappers for their music downloads.

The proposal, which could finally end the days of the free lunch for millions of music fans, has been put to big US record labels at the same time as a new legitimate version of the former file-swapping giant Napster is launched in the US.

The idea is to phase in a billing mechanism for peer to peer networks, such as Kazaa and Morpheus, that allow users to copy music directly from each other's hard drives.

Gosh, that is so going to work - just like when Napster started charging and we all signed up immediately and.. oh, wait.

Posted by: Stuart / 1:45 pm ::link to this entry

Monday, October 13, 2003

US Army tries Astroturf campaign

As US public opinion turns against the handling of Post-GWII Iraq, it looks like the armed forces are trying an Astroturf (i.e. like grassroots, only fake) propaganda campaign to win over a few hearts and minds.

Newspaper editors have received letters from US servicemen recounting just how well things are going over in Iraq:

The five-paragraph letter talks about the soldiers' efforts to re-establish police and fire departments, and build water and sewer plants in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, where the unit is based.

"The quality of life and security for the citizens has been largely restored, and we are a large part of why that has happened," the letter reads.

It describes people waving at passing troops and children running up to shake their hands and say thank you.

Trouble is, all the letters have near-identical wording and when questioned about it the soldiers who apparently wrte them claim they have never seen them before.

Posted by: Stuart / 1:31 pm ::link to this entry

Keanu Reeves as John Constantine?

This might be old news, but it looks as though a) there is a film version of Hellblazer and b) he will say Whoah! rather too much.

Some of the still on this site look interesting, although the conceptual artwork for what appears to be a sodding Batmobile doesn't exactly inspire confidence. Nor does the proposed PG-13 rating - have these people actually read the comic?

On t'other hand, Tilda Swinton as Gabriel could be interesting.

Posted by: Stuart / 12:37 pm ::link to this entry

Suspected Penis Snatcher Beaten to Death

Well, you would be rather displeased with him, to say the least.

Posted by: Stuart / 11:06 am ::link to this entry

Friday, October 10, 2003

Moving from Linux to Windows

Slashdot's Robin 'Roblimo' Miller documents his excursion into Windows XP after six years of using Linux... and is less than impressed.

First, a question: What's up with all this "Ctrl C" and Ctrl V" copy/paste stuff? In almost all Linux programs, when I want to copy a block of text (or a graphic or whatever) I just highlight the original, then click both mouse buttons (or the middle button if I have a 3-button mouse) where I want to paste it.


It seems Windows, unlike most commercial Linux distributions, doesn't come with office and other productivity software. You need to buy or otherwise obtain and install your own. Luckily I had a StarOffice CD around that had both the Linux and Windows versions on it, so I slapped that CD in the drive and had myself an office suite in just a few minutes.


Those of you who haven't tried this Explorer thing probably think I'm lying about this, but I'm not. Seriously, your only choices when you open a new page in Explorer are to either replace the page you're looking at or to open a new browser window. You can't line up a whole row of pages from Salon or NewsForge or Slashdot or whatever publication you read daily and click from one to the other, starting with the one that loaded first and moving on to new pages as they load and display.

Those Microsoft people need to get on the stick with Explorer. This lack of tabbed browsing is simply not acceptable. There is no good excuse in this day and age for distributing a browser that doesn't have this fine feature. Explorer simply won't be ready for the desktop until it has it.

Another problem I noticed with Explorer is something called "popup ads." Apparently a lot of Web sites have these things and something related called "popunders" that also open browser windows you don't ask to open. Apparently many Explorer users dislike this feature so much that they are willing to pay for software to shut it off. Why people will pay to have Explorer's popup feature shut off instead of simply downloading free Mozilla and clicking on a couple of little boxes to decide what they will allow Web servers to do to their browser windows escapes me. Mozilla is just as easy to install on Windows as it is on Linux (and once again, in the Windows version no 'root' password is needed).

Posted by: Stuart / 5:20 pm ::link to this entry

A Linux Distro for Barbie?

Mattel’s Chief Software Architect, Maury Cesterino, explains.

"If Barbie were a career-focused woman working in the IT industry in 2003, she would support open standards," he says. "She would be seeking out free and open-source alternatives to current proprietary solutions, saving her company tens of thousands of dollars on management headaches associated with tracking software licenses and preparing for BSA audits. She would be looking at deploying Linux clients on the desktop and Linux servers in the back office. She wouldn't be willing to sacrifice power for features, and she would demand a system that is stable, secure, and easily configurable."

"Barbie would also be tired of Microsoft's licensing bullshit," he added.

Posted by: Stuart / 2:20 pm ::link to this entry

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Vatican: condoms don't stop Aids

This is one of the most sickeningly evil things I have heard about in a while - the Catholic church has adopted the official line that condoms have little holes in them and will allow the HIV virus to pass through.

In Lwak, near Lake Victoria, the director of an Aids testing centre says he cannot distribute condoms because of church opposition. Gordon Wambi told the programme: "Some priests have even been saying that condoms are laced with HIV/Aids."

Posted by: Stuart / 11:13 am ::link to this entry

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Magnatune - a record label that encourages downloading

It must say something about the state of the Music Industry Vs. File Sharers debate that Magnatune's motto is 'We're not evil'.

"We call it "try before you buy." It's the shareware model applied to music.

Listen to hundreds of MP3'd albums from our artists. Or try our genre-based radio stations.

If you like what you hear, buy our music online for as little as $5 an album or license our music for commercial use. Artists get a full 50% of the purchase price. And unlike most record labels, our artists keep the rights to their music. Founded by musicians, for musicians. No major label connections. We are not evil."

Posted by: Stuart / 1:29 pm ::link to this entry

Press the ANY key

The Straight Dope has a short article on the purpose of iobscure keys like SCROLL LOCK.

Posted by: Stuart / 11:12 am ::link to this entry

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Blainewatch: Jerry Sadowitz gives the game away

Jerry Sadowitz has a good rant about David Blaine's box-squatting antics in the Guardian. He also lets slip what he thinks iare the actual mechanics of the trick - don't click the link unless you want to know how it is done.

"Interestingly, Blaine's hero, Harry Houdini, was also a failed magician who turned to escapology to get the attention he didn't deserve. But at least Houdini moved in his stunts. Personally, I'd be more impressed to see Blaine survive 44 days in Easterhouse, Glasgow WITHOUT the benefit of a box."

Posted by: Stuart / 2:27 pm ::link to this entry

Signs and Wonders

Collection of 'comedy' signs outside churches. There is a church in Liverpool that uses this kind of thing a lot - some are clever, some are lame 'topical' jokes ('Satan is the weakest link, goodbye' etc.)

Posted by: Stuart / 1:00 pm ::link to this entry

Monday, October 06, 2003

The Scout Walker Kama Sutra

How sad/great is this?

Posted by: Stuart / 2:10 pm ::link to this entry

RIAA Radar Indie 100

The Top 100 albums from non-RIAA artists.

Posted by: Stuart / 2:05 pm ::link to this entry

Linux vs. Windows Viruses

After my little rant about poor reporting of Windows security problems it was nice to see The Register publish this piece about Windows vs. Linux & Mac OSX.

Posted by: Stuart / 12:15 pm ::link to this entry

Friday, October 03, 2003

Janeane Garofalo on speaking out against the war, etc.

What people need to know is there is no Hollywood “black list.” There was one in McCarthy times and I know we’re reliving neo-McCarthyism now, but there’s only one way to get yourself blacklisted in Hollywood: get old and get fat. Nobody gives a shit what your politics are. There is no bad publicity in entertainment—all people in entertainment understand is, your name has been mentioned a lot.

Posted by: Stuart / 3:00 pm ::link to this entry

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Speeding up speech via digital editing (reg. required)

'Micro-editing' is being used to increase the speed of spoken information to allow people to absorb it more quickly.

Some users compared it to going back to dial-up Internet access after experiencing broadband. "I cannot stand to listen at 1.0," said Mr. Earle of Brigham Young. Mr. Galbraith of Penn State agrees. "Once you go faster, you just can't go back to real time," he said.

Posted by: Stuart / 4:09 pm ::link to this entry

LL Cool J Vs Chuck D on File Sharing

Got a letter from the RIAA the other day. Opened it, read it - it said they were suckers.

Posted by: Stuart / 1:09 pm ::link to this entry

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

How to make miniature sweetcorn cobs

'Mad' Angie Scarr, miniaturist extraordinaire, presents a step-by-step guide to making tiny, tiny clay corn-on-the-cobs.

Posted by: Stuart / 12:24 pm ::link to this entry

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