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


Sunday, February 29, 2004

Summarise a Novel in 25 Words

Requiem for a Dream by Hubert Selby Jr.

Heroin and diet pills are all fun and games until someone loses an arm

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

Saturday, February 28, 2004

Japanese for Nerds

Learn Japanese the geeky way - consider it as a sort of functional programming language, with it's own API of nested functions that can be combined to form syntactically correct speech.

This article appeals to me on just so many levels.

Let's start off with one of the most basic Japanese words of all: na-i, which means "does not exist", pronounced "nigh". It's sort of like the "zero" in some Japanese-language version of abstract arithmetic. The cool thing about nai and all the other words in its whole class is that it is a complete sentence standing all by itself. It is not only a valid sentence but occurs all the time in everyday conversation.

How can that be? You have to say what does not exist, right? Well, in Japanese, you do not. Just think of the subject as a kind of optional parameter to the nai() function call. So what is the default, then? Whatever it needs to be. So nai could just as easily mean "there's nothing in the fridge" as "God does not exist."

Bonus points for reminding me about
Backus-Naur Form - a metasyntactical language that was the bane of my fucking life in second year Computer Science BSc.

Posted by: Stuart / 1:54 am ::link to this entry

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Norwegian comedian builds motor boat from pig carcass, engine

No, really. And not only, but also...

The group of entertainers have tried blowing up rats and hamsters with helium to make what they called 'organic balloons'. The animals exploded and the remains were plashed (sic) at the audience.

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

Monday, February 23, 2004

Fuck Everything, We're Doing Five Blades

Funniest Onion article in ages.

What part of this don't you understand? If two blades is good, and three blades is better, obviously five blades would make us the best fucking razor that ever existed. Comprende? We didn't claw our way to the top of the razor game by clinging to the two-blade industry standard. We got here by taking chances. Well, five blades is the biggest chance of all.

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

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Is it me...

Or does this sound like the plot of an unpublished Douglas Coupland novel?

Police in California have arrested a Canadian woman after her teenage son discovered from a website that he was allegedly abducted as a child.

Posted by: Stuart / 8:36 pm ::link to this entry

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

GODCHECKER : Your Guide To The Gods. Mythology with a twist!

Only Godchecker has all the Gods under one roof.
Our ever-expanding Holy Database aims to cover every known deity from all cultures and times.

Posted by: Stuart / 10:43 am ::link to this entry

Monday, February 16, 2004

Larry David's War

Larry David (of Curb your enthusiasm fame) on how, like Dubya, he enlisted in the National Guard duringthe Vietnam War.

Then in the summer we would go away to camp for two weeks. It felt more like three. I wondered if I'd ever see my parakeet again. We slept on cots and ate in the International House of Pancakes. I learned the first night that IHOP's not the place to order fish. When the two weeks were up, I came home a changed man. I would often burst into tears for no apparent reason and suffered recurring nightmares about drowning in blueberry syrup. If I hadn't been so strapped for cash, I would've sought the aid of a psychiatrist.

Posted by: Stuart / 4:08 pm ::link to this entry

Microsoft 'Monoculture'

Wired has a summary of the arguments concerning Dan Geer's assertation that Microsoft's dominance of the IT market creates a 'monoculture' which is vulnerable to a single trheat. The article contains several rebuttals to the theory (mostly from Microsoft, q'uelle surprise) but these ignore the facts of the matter. Every couple of weeks, some dingbat will release another email-born virus onto the Internet and Microsoft machines will roll over onto their backs, exposing their flabby underbellies in a desperate attampt to play with it. Linux/Unix/Mac boxes have vulnerabilities too, but they are different vulnerabilities. Obviously there are attacks that will bring down MS/*nix and Mac alike (such as denial of service onslaughts) but pretending that diversity isn't a useful trait is just silly.

Posted by: Stuart / 12:14 pm ::link to this entry

Friday, February 13, 2004

Using viruses as nanowire factories

Scientists persuade viruses to assist in the manufacture of nanowire as well as other inorganic materials with magnetic or semiconducting properties.

Peptides are inserted into a virus cell, causing the cell to attract zinc sulphide or cadmium sulphide which crystallises into nanowire. The virus is then burned away, leaving the complete nanowire in its place.

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

Tube Gossip

The Man Who Fell Asleep presents a weekly update of oddness overheard on the tube.

"I hate the muppets. I always thought Sesame Street was far superior."

Posted by: Stuart / 10:29 am ::link to this entry

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Evil, twisted Miyazaki fans

Some die-hard fans of Hiyao Miyazaki's My Neighbour Totoro have compiled a lists of uses for Totoro's that have, well, died hard.

Posted by: Stuart / 5:13 pm ::link to this entry

The Simpsons Movie

Dear Matt Groening, please do your level best to prevent this from sucking. Yours sincerely, The Entire World.

Posted by: Stuart / 1:32 pm ::link to this entry

Monday, February 09, 2004

Joyously corporate quotage

As has been reported by almost every blog in the Blogosphere, an American Airlines pilot decided to chat to his passengers about religion and asked all Christians on board to evangelize to the non-believers. What I liked was this marvellous example of corporate language-monging as reported by the BBC news site. :

"It falls along the lines of a personal level of sharing that may not be appropriate for one of our employees to do while on the job"

Posted by: Stuart / 5:14 pm ::link to this entry

Gay Penguins

Gay Penguins. That is all.

Posted by: Stuart / 1:33 pm ::link to this entry

Friday, February 06, 2004

Computing Science: Can't Get No Satisfaction

An apparently interesting article on NP-Complete computing problems (i.e. intrinsically hard problems that are difficult to solve via programming) that I am filing here for later skimming.

Posted by: Stuart / 12:41 am ::link to this entry

Wednesday, February 04, 2004


Swarms of simple robots that self-organise using ant-like algorithms.

Posted by: Stuart / 11:08 pm ::link to this entry

IDs and the illusion of security

Bruce Schneier has written another terrifyingly rational and sober demolition of the myth of security through ID controls.

Posted by: Stuart / 4:50 pm ::link to this entry

Swearing - a brief table of severity

In response to John Lydon's jungle sweariness on I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here the Guardian offers this table of rude words, ranked by number of complaints.

Posted by: Stuart / 4:38 pm ::link to this entry

Ray Bradbury's literary parlor game

In Ray Bradbury's Farenheit 451 the great books of the past are protected from the totalitarian censors by the 'Book People' who memorize their contents.

Berenson was so fascinated that at lunch one day at I Totti he said, "Why not a sequel to 'Fahrenheit 451' in which all the great books are remembered by the Wilderness People and are finally reprinted from memory. What then?

"Wouldn't it be," he continued, "that all would be misremembered, none would come forth in their original garb? Wouldn't they be longer, shorter, taller, fatter, disfigured, or more beautiful?

"Instead of angels in the alcove, might they be gargoyles off the roof?"

I was so fired by Berenson's suggestion that I wrote an outline, thinking, Oh God, if only I had the genius to know some of the really great books of history and rewrite them, pretending to be my future Book People, trying to recall the details of an incredible literature.

I never did this.

But coming upon my note and remembering Berenson 50 years later I thought, Why not outline Berenson's idea and urge my readers to follow and do the same

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

TThe Origins of Occidentalism

Interesting essay on various attacks on 'The West', exactly who 'The West' represents and a more sober than usual analysis of the 'They Hate Our Freedom!' rhetoric.

Posted by: Stuart / 3:23 pm ::link to this entry

Monday, February 02, 2004

A Shower of Bastards and an Aarmory of AardvarksA List of collective nouns by subject from the Wikipedia.

Posted by: Stuart / 11:26 pm ::link to this entry

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